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People First: We train, inform and support

by Joe Meadours

I joined People First because I saw many of my peers were not getting treated right.

People First allows me to speak loud and use my voice in a way that lets people know who I am. It is summed up in our mission statement and our vision. After generations of being invisible we have joined together, with our own voice to inspire and educate each other “peer to peer” throughout the state, to start People First chapters. We train, inform and support all people with developmental disabilities to help our peers learn to:

· speak up for themselves;

· know their rights & responsibilities;

· make decisions and solve problems.

Joe Meadours

Joe Meadours

We stand together in unity to take our rightful place in the world.

People First is the oldest and best known self-advocacy organization run by and for people with developmental disabilities in the world. People First and the Disability Rights movement had its roots in the other civil rights movements of the 1960s and 70s. All these groups wanted the same thing, to be treated with respect and to have equal rights with other citizens.

People First of California envisions all people with disabilities will have the opportunity to gain empowerment through unity and respect for each other.

I am the People First self-advocacy trainer in California and coordinator for the California Memorial Project. We held our 11th annual Remembrance Day on Sept. 16 at a number of facilities and cemeteries around the state.

At 1:55 p.m., there was a statewide moment of silence to honor those who died unrecognized at state hospitals and developmental centers. By giving respect to people with developmental and mental disabilities who have died unrecognized, we are honoring all of us.

Let’s close down the three state developmental centers around the state. We believe we should shut them down and put more people and resources into the community.

My full name is Joseph Paul Meadours. I was born in Selma, Ala., in 1967 to Ruthann and Thomas Meadours. I have three brothers. James lives in Texas and Douglas and Thomas live in Oklahoma. My sister, Helen Ann, passed away. I talk to James almost every day or we chat on Facebook. I graduated from high school in Broken Arrow, Okla., in 1987. I joined People First in Oklahoma in 1993. I was president of my state chapter in the mid-1990s. Today I am treasurer of the local chapter in Sacramento. We have 25 members and meet on the first Saturday of every month.

I am also a board member of The Arc, the largest national community-based organization advocating for and serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families.

I also work to promote the Lanterman Coalition, which consists of the 14 major stakeholders in California’s community based developmental services system. Membership in the coalition requires a commitment.

For fun, I love go to the mall and sporting events, especially baseball. My favorite teams are the Chicago Cubs and Chicago Bears.

My favorite all-time movie is Philadelphia with Tom Hanks. My favorite TV shows are Law & Order Criminal Intent and Criminal Minds. I love Italian food.

My friends would say my best quality is my sense of humor.

Self-advocate Joe Meadours serves on the board of directors of The Arc, based in Washington, D.C.

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