By: Brittney Hogan
Join a State Council they said, it will be fun. You know what, they were right! As a person with a disability it is sometimes easier to say no to opportunities that are new, but I am sure glad I said yes to this one!
I joined the North Dakota Statewide Independent Living Council (SILC) in May of 2014. At that time, I was living on Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and working part-time. This was the first time in my life attending a meeting like this and I was so afraid I would not know what to do. Who is this Robert guy with all his “rules of order”? Do I have to talk? What if I look out of place? These were the questions running through my mind as I went to my first meeting.
I will admit, I was completely lost after the first day. There were so many acronyms being used that I had no idea what they were talking about most of the meeting. I didn’t let that scare me away though and by my third or fourth meeting that year, I felt like I was catching on to what we were there to do. What is the ND Statewide Independent Living Council you are probably wondering? This council is a governor appointed council made up of people with disabilities and the directors from our four Centers for Independent Living in North Dakota. The mission is to lead the independent Living network by developing resources and advocating for full community participation of North Dakotan's with disabilities. Now, three years later and with a lot of meetings under my belt, I am so proud to say I am the current Chair for our Council. This has given me the opportunity to represent our Council this year at two national conferences. Just this past month, I attended the Association for Rural Independent Living’s (APRIL) conference in Spokane, Washington. It is so empowering to be able to attend a conference with people with all varieties of disabilities in one room. This year there was over 400 people with disabilities in attendance, including over 120 youth with disabilities at their youth conference. This conference consisted of break-out sessions on topics for helping people with disabilities live independent lives in our communities, inspiring keynote speakers, and a lot of networking opportunities with other rural centers and councils. I am so grateful for the opportunities I have been given since joining the ND SILC and also for Independence Inc. for sponsoring me to attend the conference in Spokane. As a person with a disability myself, there is nothing more empowering than getting to help other people with disabilities have the same opportunities to grow!