Iowa Advocacy Connection | 2019, Issue 2

Issue 22, 5/24/2019

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Anthony Kennedy Shriver founded Best Buddies in 1989 after noticing the unjustified lack of opportunities for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) to socialize with nondisabled peers. BestBuddies of Iowa (BBIA) programs empower these disenfranchised individuals in three ways in Iowa: to form meaningful friendships with peers, to improve self-advocacy and communication skills and to secure high-quality jobs in integrated settings. The IDD community that Best Buddies serves includes but is not limited to people with Down syndrome, autism, Fragile X, Williams syndrome, cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury and other undiagnosed disabilities. Internationally, Best Buddies is the largest organization dedicated to ending the social, physical and economic isolation of the 200 million individuals with IDD.

Many students with IDD spend their formative years feeling isolated and alone. In Iowa, it is estimated that 65% spend most of their day separated from their peers. Studies also indicate that these students are three times as likely to be bullied as their nondisabled peers. through our school friendship chapters, we break down the isolation barriers and foster the growth of a peer support system. One-to-one interactions provide opportunities for students to learn valuable social skills from their typical peers. For these young individuals with disabilities, developing friendships is critical to a successful transition out of school and into the working world and community life, where our new Jobs Program will help to continue support for individuals with IDD throughout their lives.

BBIA operates with a state director, operations coordinator, program manager of volunteers and program manager of mission expansion. Upon the opening of the Best Buddies Jobs Program later in 2019, we will also have an employment manager. Additionally, our organization operates with a volunteer board of 17 self-advocates, family members and professionals. As a self-funded group, Best Buddies Iowa relies on fundraising, donations, community support and special events to support our programs.

Over the past 30 years, BBLC has inspired thousands of leaders to be Best Buddies advocates and to bring about social change in their communities as a once-in-a-lifetime experience uniting Best Buddies leaders, volunteers and community advocates from around the globe. Upwards of 400 Best Buddies staff, nearly 125 volunteers and more than 30 guest speakers will be present at the event celebrating the organization’s 30th anniversary. Conference attendees will gain knowledge in order to effectively advocate for a common cause while discovering the importance of their decisions, responsibilities and energy.

Our programs empower the numerous abilities of individuals with IDD by helping them form meaningful friendships with their peers; secure successful jobs; live independently; improve public speaking, self-advocacy and communication skills; and feel valued by society. Today, Best Buddies’ nine formal programs — Elementary Schools, Middle Schools, High Schools, Colleges, Citizens, e-Buddies, Jobs, Ambassadors, Promoters and Inclusive Living — engage participants in each of the 50 states and in 53 countries, positively impacting the lives of more than 1.2 million people with and without disabilities around the world.

Celebrating its 30-year anniversary, Best Buddies will continue to advocate, support and provide information for individuals with IDD, their families and all Iowans in the years to come. For more information about the Best Buddies programs offered in Iowa, please visit, or follow us on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram at @bestbuddiesia.

Questions? Contact Best Buddies Iowa at (515) 282-6518 or


Best Buddies



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On Tuesday, April 30, 2019, Drake University’s Disability Action and Awareness Community partnered with Iowans with Disabilities in Action and the Iowa Developmental Disabilities Council to offer a free showing of “Intelligent Lives,” a film by Dan Habib, on the University campus. This 70-minute feature film traced the lives of three individuals living with cognitive disabilities and their journey to self-sufficiency. This event was free and open to the public and offered an opportunity for parents or family members, direct support professionals or caregivers, and persons living with a disability to come together in a relaxed atmosphere.

The evening continued with a focused discussion among peers and the community regarding inclusivity and resources available in our area for those living with developmental disabilities.
Important takeaways from the film, said by attendees, included: “There is a need for more conversation about the options students living with developmental disabilities have for higher education and inclusion.” “The film demonstrated person-centered planning with natural supports.” “Early intervention is key for individuals with developmental disabilities.” “Intellectual competency testing is far outdated.”

David Mitchell, IVRS administrator, attended the screening and had a few things to say regarding mandatory I.Q. testing for those with developmental disabilities as it relates to his work. “I.Q. tests don't tell the full story. In vocational rehab, we do require labels for diagnosis, and many programs require it for eligibility and funding purposes, but it does not necessarily correlate as an indicator for success (in any way you want to define it), independence or employment outcome,” said Mitchell. He went on to note, “They spoke openly regarding their joys and challenges, especially in dealing with external factors such as education, human services and professional resources. Many of the families had children not yet old enough to be accessing vocational rehabilitation services, but the need was clear for high expectations and the availability of resources to provide a belief in employment and independence. Parents did not want to hear ‘can't, won't, not possible.’ Instead, parents were open to hearing ‘opportunities, possibilities, expectations and steps on the journey.’

“Intelligent Lives” will live on through Iowans with Disabilities in Action, who will add it to the State Sweep movement beginning Summer 2019. ID Action is hitting the road and will visit all 99 counties in Iowa over the next two years. Unfortunately, state-level organizations are perceived as inaccessible to those living with disabilities outside the Des Moines area. The organization is determined to change that perception by visiting communities throughout Iowa to increase awareness of how individuals with disabilities and partners can rely on the organization to achieve their goals.

Over the last 16 years, Iowans with Disabilities in Action has developed a wide variety of resources and information to help Iowans become more engaged and effective advocates for change. These resources are free and available to anyone who is interested. Iowans with Disabilities in Action continually develops and creates new resources based on the needs of Iowans. The organization’s goal is to come away from each visit with a better sense of what living in various communities is like with a disability — the good and the bad — and what resources individuals may need to live as independently as possible.

Questions? Please find out more by visiting, or email us at

 Intelligent Lives Screening

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Attention: Exhibitors! We have started planning for our 2019 Make Your Mark! Conference taking place in Coralville, Iowa. The Iowans with Disabilities in Action Make Your Mark! Conference is targeted at Iowans with disabilities who want to be more involved in advocacy at a local, state or federal level. While we anticipate parents and family members, caregivers and direct support staff, service providers and others affected by disability will attend the conference, the primary target audience is Iowans with disabilities.

Here are a few reasons why you should choose to exhibit with us: Connect with more than 100 individuals with disabilities, direct service providers and family members. You will be listed in the conference program and on the registration website. One complimentary registration and one discounted registration will be included. You will be visited by attendees during four 30-minute exhibit breaks, and you will have an hour and a half of exhibition time during registration.

Here are the exhibit booth costs: $75.00 for a self-employed individual with a disability, $175.00 for a nonprofit organization and $300.00 for a for-profit organization. Interested in being a sponsor? We offer a variety of sponsorship opportunities, all of which include exhibiting space! Sponsorship packages range from $1,000-$4,500 and include the following (depending upon price level of sponsorship package): Two complimentary conference registrations, recognition as a kickoff reception sponsor, linked logo on all e-communications and more.

Registration will open July 1. Visit for more information. Limited exhibitor space will be available.



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Advocating for Change Day took place April 10, 2019. This event provides tips and strategies for the best ways to contact your legislators while you are at the Capitol and after you head back home. It also aims to increase your comfort level when communicating with lawmakers in Iowa. We had a successful turn-out this year!

At the Capitol, constituents met with their legislators and other elected officials. Throughout the day, constituents witnessed the legislative process in action by attending committee meetings or watching a debate from the galleries (when the Senate and/or House are in session). We had roughly 170 register to attend this past April!

Again, if you need to look up your legislators, visit the infoNET website and click on “Take Action.” You will be taken to the Grassroots Action Center where you can look up who your legislators are. You can even email them directly from this page.

Questions? Email us at


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The Iowa DD Council has openings they would like to fill with Iowans who have a developmental disability. The DD Council promotes the development of a coordinated system of services and supports that provide opportunities for people with developmental disabilities to be independent, productive and included in their communities.

They do this with activities that:
• Influence changes to laws, policies and attitudes that affect supports and services used by Iowans with developmental disabilities.
• Build the ability of Iowans with disabilities to make choices and have control over their lives and/or build the capacity of communities to create welcoming accommodations for people with developmental disabilities.
• Assist Iowans with developmental disabilities to be advocates and leaders involved in the decision-making processes that affect them.

If you are over age 18, have a developmental disability and are interested in disability-related issues, we encourage you to apply. Go to: DD Council Website.

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