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INCLUDEnyc Ambassador

July 16, 2021
Alma Parris-Cochrane
Community Voices
A woman and her family of adults and children sit at a table, sharing a meal at a large event. The woman smiles in a caring manner.

Through my journey with INCLUDEnyc, and all the vital resources I have received, I have also grown as an advocate for the disability community. I was born in the Caribbean where disclosing a disability was not common, so when I learned I had dyslexia, it made me want to learn how to fight for myself and my loved ones. Later, when I learned my daughter had dyslexia and autism I started advocating even more.

Quality programs and services for people with disabilities are hard to come by. Most people, like myself, would often rely on recommendations from friends or only have access to school-based support. When my cousin told me about a special education resource fair, I couldn’t wait to go. Turns out my cousin had referred me to the annual INCLUDEnyc Fair! It came at a time when I was in need of assistance for my grandchild who has autism and an intellectual disability, and whom I had just assumed custody of. I was overwhelmed with the concept of raising a child with disabilities, but once I attended the fair I felt ready to take on the world. At the INCLUDEnyc Fair, I asked a lot of questions, I learned a lot, and afterwards I had all kinds of flyers and information. Ten years later, I still love the INCLUDEnyc Fair, it’s my biggest thrill of the year!

I know that the staff at INCLUDEnyc are always ready to help, from providing guidance through tip sheets to helping understand IEPs page by page. INCLUDEnyc has even referred me to other organizations and legal representation. For example, I was able to contact pro bono lawyers on behalf of my granddaughter with ADHD. I often just call in to the Help Line to ask questions and to have someone to talk to like your educators, Neil or Ruth. Everywhere I go, everywhere I turn, INCLUDEnyc is always there!

As a result, I have become somewhat of an unofficial ambassador for INCLUDEnyc. A lot of people do not know what’s out there and it’s a darn shame that they don’t know that these resources exist. I have unintentionally become known as the disability services connector in my community, from my neighbors and friends, to my son-in-law. INCLUDEnyc is the first place I turn to whenever disability issues come up for myself and my community. Anybody coming to INCLUDEnyc will be in good hands.