Grounded in our past, building a brighter future

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Special message from Lori Becker, COO

You learn a lot about yourself during a time of crisis.

The COVID-19 pandemic taught all of us at Starkloff Disability Institute how to connect in a new way; a pivot to fully inclusive virtual programming grew our community exponentially, connecting us with people across the U.S. and beyond.

After the deaths of George Floyd, Brionna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and so many others, urgent demands for justice and equity for Black Americans galvanized us once more. A shared history of living in the same country, but under a different set of rules, has always linked the Black community and the Disability community. We stand in solidarity with each other and continue working for an equitable, inclusive future for all.

As we celebrated the 30th anniversary of the ADA, the time was ripe for us to reclaim our history as Disability Rights advocates. The time was right, but more than that, the message was right. We talked with the stars of Crip Camp, we explored the intersections of identity in Black Disabled Lives Matter panel discussions and dove into the history of disability representation in the media. These programs and talks led by people with disabilities about their basic human rights; their desires to live independent, equal lives, proudly and happily; were the most popular programs we have ever produced.

Teaching Disability Studies – examining the social, political, cultural, and economic factors that define disability – was one of SDI’s founding programs in 2003. Max Starkloff imbued the history and spirit of the movement he pioneered into the very fabric of our organization. We developed robust curricula spanning many subjects over the last 18 years, but our roots trace back to the most elemental foundations of Disability Rights teachings.

This year, in a time of continued uncertainty, we are tending to our roots to ensure future growth.

Knowing where we came from is the only way we can move forward together and build a future where everyone is welcome. To achieve this we are integrating more disability history and culture into all of our programs. So, whether we are convening architects for a conference on Universal Design; conducting corporate workshops at the Workforce, Workplace Disability Summit; helping students identify a great career; preparing college students for internships; or training professionals how to nail their next job interview; you can bet that everyone is going to learn something about our Disability Rights roots.

We are energized as we begin this New Year with renewed focus and expanding programs! We are adding a third Starkloff Career Academy class due to surging demand. Professionals with disabilities will have the opportunity to build the skills and confidence they need to advance their careers in the Spring, Summer or Fall sessions. Dream Big is adding a third week of virtual Career Camp this summer and hosting a new Career Club to continue exploring careers throughout the school year. Access U students are meeting monthly and will participate in our first-ever internship preparation boot camp for college students this summer. Our seventh Universal Design Summit (UDS7) will be a hybrid on-ground and online conference this fall, expanding the content and audience in exciting new ways.

Join us! There is room for everyone to volunteer and be a part of our work. Please reach out to me or Lisa Roberts, Event and Volunteer Coordinator, at lroberts@starkloff.org for more information.

Thank you for your continued support. Your belief in our mission makes all of this possible. Together we are carrying on the legacy of Max Starkloff and building a world that welcomes people with disabilities.

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