When I was 21, as a woman without an Intellectual Disability (ID), I graduated from the University of New Mexico with a Liberal Art degree, married the man of my dreams, got a fancy job in marketing, bought a house and two new cars. I could drink at bars or home, I went on vacation, I bought amazing shoes, and and I moved about how ever I pleased. 21 was a banner year for me.
When my sister-in-law was 21, as a woman with an Intellectual Disability (ID), she exited high school with a “certificate of completion” and not a diploma. Her parents, though diligent about her care, had somehow missed putting her on the DD Waiver Waitlist until she was 20. So, when she exited high school, there was virtually nowhere for her to go. My in-laws own a farm near Los Lunas, so staying home kept her largely alone and isolated. A few days a week she traveled into Albuquerque with her parents to attend limited programs. She can’t drive because of epilepsy and the transportation in ABQ for people with disabilities is minimal and does not exist outside of the metro area. My in-laws owned a small auto shop and from time to time, when I would stop by to drop my car off for an oil change, I would see her bored and asleep in the lobby of the auto shop.
It took 6 years for her allocation to come up on the DD waiver. The entire family struggled. At one point, my in-laws self funded her to go to a special program in Roswell designed for adults with Intellectual Disabilities to get a certificate in a work discipline. Luckily for her, my in-laws put away education bonds when each of their children were born. They cashed them out and funded her to go. The program changed her life. She lived in a dorm with other disabled and non-disabled women. She has always been a fiery woman but her peers would not tolerate that so she put herself in anger management classes. She got her certificate in child care, despite many people saying no one would hire her because she wouldn’t be safe or able.
At 26, she got her waiver and was finally able to get her own apartment in Albuquerque and find the job of her dreams working at a child care facility. She has worked there for 12 years, never misses a day, and is an asset to her employer. Today she lives with her fiancé. They have friends, order pizzas, move about freely, and fight a little less with their parents.
I’m the generation that says: WE WANT MORE FOR OUR PEERS!
The New Mexico Developmental Disabilities Waiver is vital for improving the lives of adults with Intellectual/ Developmental Disabilities. Please contact your state representatives today and ask them to pass HB 107.