Ripples 3/22/17

from Patty Kowalchukripples-3 Values into Action – New Jersey Managing Director

Recently, I had the great fortune of getting away for a few days to attend ski races. Part of that trip enabled me some time to ski, and I had the terrific luck of skiing with parents who I’d known for a long time but never really did anything with – we exchanged smiles and pleasantries in the lodges along the way, but that was it…until this weekend. I skied with a small group of parents who are all much better skiers than I, and skiing with them gave me confidence and brought my game up a notch. Imagine that? Last time we will ever be in that particular grouping (my son graduates this year and will be off to college – with any luck), but it was some sort of synchronicity that made the pieces come together this time. It was great. I hope you find your meaningful connections, which are seemingly inexplicable, this week!

Click here for this week’s Ripple.

Children with Disabilities Must Retain Equal Access to Education

by: Jeremy EinbinderNJCDD l ogo

It’s well established that the rights of people with disabilities can be heavily tied to public policy and government activity.  People with disabilities, who continue to be at risk of discrimination and exclusion, must not be forgotten.  One of the most fundamental ways in which people can adequately participate in society is through education.  It is sometimes forgotten, however, that not everyone learns in the same way or using the same methods.  Of course, education, whether formal or informal, is valuable in all forms.

Luckily, society and the government have largely recognized the right of people with disabilities to learn.  However, it is a delicate right that must be protected at all costs, as the ideological views of any given administration may lessen or outright destroy it if the public is not vigilant.  Prior to the passage of the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA), it was common for children with any variety of disabilities to be deemed “unteachable”.  Thankfully, this is no longer the case, at least not in any official capacity.

That is why it was especially disappointing when, during the recent confirmation hearing of US Dept. of Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, it was clear that she either believed that the enforcement of the IDEA should be enforced on a state-by-state level, or even worse, that she was not aware that the law even exists.  This kind of passive ignorance is not a good indication that the educational rights of children with disabilities will be protected in the coming years.

This raises an important point about the status of disabled people in the education system.  It may not be allowed for a school district to officially exclude someone from enrollment on the basis of disability, but regulations can remain unenforced if those overseeing the system don’t care to enforce them.  If the appointment of a US Secretary of Education who has never taught in or even attended a public school is any indication, it is not a stretch to worry whether the IDEA will be as protected as it once was.

One of the most important aspects of the IDEA is the mandate of the right to free and public education for children with disabilities.  In essence, a public school district is not allowed to refuse a student with a disability.  Every effort must be made to ensure that every child has an equal opportunity to learn.  School districts must also ensure that students with disabilities be integrated with their typically developing peers, in a provision known as “least restrictive access”.  Children with disabilities, the IDEA mandates, must not be prevented from learning alongside typically developing children, and must still retain the rights to their individualized education.

Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) specify that if a child has a disability and needs special education services because of their disability, a plan must be laid out which accounts for accommodations that the child needs in order to be adequately educated.  This is written by the child’s parents, teachers, and a variety of experts in the field of education.  All to ensure that a disabled child’s education is adjusted to their needs.

Despite all of this, there is one crucial circumstance on which the rights of children with disabilities hinge: Public schools must be thoroughly funded and well-monitored.  Secretary DeVos, however, is a prominent advocate of defunding public schooling in favor of an increase of private schooling instead.  She, and many people who agree with this viewpoint, refer to this as “school choice”.  The fact that there are some instances of sub-par public schooling in America is answered by Ms. DeVos and others with proposals to increase private and charter schools across the country.  Granted, there are aspects of the public education system in America that are problematic.  But the solution is not to weaken them.

The glaring problem with Ms. DeVos’s ideas is that private schools would not be required to abide by the standards of free and equal access to education for children with disabilities.  They would not be required to build IEPs, nor would they be required to ensure that children with disabilities learn alongside their typically developing peers.  In fact, it is entirely possible that a private school without the necessary investments set aside to ensure accommodations for students with disabilities may choose to not admit such students at all if they are viewed as too “burdensome”.

The families of children with disabilities tend to have less disposable income than the average American family, so not only would cuts to public education hurt them the most, but could very well make many students with disabilities once again “unteachable”.

Theoretical access to a basic right is useless if someone cannot afford it, or if no one makes sure it is carried out correctly.  There are problems in the funding of public schooling in America.  But the problems in education won’t go away by making public schooling less available.  In order for education to be a truly universal right, every effort must be made to make sure funding is equally distributed.  To strive for a fair and equal society, public education must be maintained.

Making it more difficult for children with disabilities to learn among their peers will only further marginalize them.  Strong and comprehensive public education suited to their needs can liberate them.  And that which can liberate the most vulnerable in society can liberate society as a whole.

Editor’s Note:  As with all contributions to the Disability in Focus blog, expressed opinions are not necessarily those of the Council’s membership. The NJCDD welcomes active conversations around issues important to people with developmental disabilities in New Jersey. We hope you’ll join the conversation in the “Comments” section below.

Ripples 3/1/17

from Patty Kowalchukripples-3 Values into Action – New Jersey Managing Director

Here in NJ, we are faced with lots of challenges as we grow, change, and evolve in an ever changing system. It’s good to be reminded that struggles are part of the journey. Do yourself a favor and read this week’s ripple – it’s an attitude changer!

Click here for this week’s Ripple.

Meet the Policymakers with Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno

Governor Kim Guadagno addressed members at a Meet the Policymakers event last month during the Chamber of Commerce of Southern NJ luncheon.

Heather Cooper, Resource & Development Director from Values into Action, NJ attended the event.


Lt. Gov

Ripples 2/22/17

from Patty Kowalchuk
Values into Action – NJ, Managing Directorripples-3

When I was a kid, I asked a lot of questions. I have a memory of my grandmother asking me why I was asking her so many questions (how’s that for irony?) I also remember my mother demanding to know why I always had to ask so many questions (perhaps even more ironic). Looking back as an adult, it’s likely that at least some of their pushback to my questions must have been because they didn’t have the answers, or perhaps they did and didn’t want to talk about it, or perhaps there was a “need to know” basis where I was on the outside looking in. Whatever the case, I certainly trust that their responses (questions) were coming from a loving place and that they were not trying to be unkind. This week’s ripple talks about the importance of questions and that not all questions have immediate answers. Maybe some questions never get answered. When they get asked, however, they lead to growth. Enjoy!

Click here to read this week’s Ripples.

Community Mural Project

We’re excited to share that a mural created by Values Into Action, along with the Burlington, NJ community, is on display through the end of December at the Library Company of Burlington. The mural project theme is “What community means to you in a picture.”

Burlington library mural

Great job to all the wonderful artists who participated in this project!

If you can, stop by and see the mural for yourself.  Click here for library location, hours, etc. 



Kim Campbell: A Noteworthy New Jerseyan

David Cooper, Heather Cooper, and Patty Kowalchuk of Values Into Action New Jersey would like to acknowledge Kim Campbell as a Noteworthy New Jerseyan!


Kim Campbell started with Values Into Action in New Jersey last May, having never done support coordination before and also, coming from another state and its own service delivery system.  Nonetheless, Kim brought a sense of commitment to our values and a strong sense of social justice to her new role.  Kim has a unique perspective, a willingness to learn, and a tireless effort to provide support for families.  Her passion for the individuals she supports is what drives her to go over and above the call of duty.  Less than a year into the work, she continues to rise to the occasion when challenging circumstances present themselves.  She doesn’t get bogged down by the challenges but instead embraces them as an opportunity to learn more.  Kim remains positive and is a benefit to the families that she supports.   She is also a benefit to the NJ team – while soft spoken and generally reserved, Kim doesn’t hesitate to speak up when she has something to share and is always up for a team building opportunity.
Having Kim on the NJ team has paid off, and we are thankful she is part of it!

Art in Action

Values into Action NJ “Made their Mark” at the 45th annual Wood Street Fair in the home town office of Burlington City, NJ.
 Mural photo
We enjoyed engaging the community in mural art project that will be displayed locally in the upcoming month. The community “left their mark” using various media and materials to add a creative splash of energy to what will become a Mural composed of all the drawings from many people that were at the fair. Values NJ participated in partnership with artist Zina Umyn from Eureka Arts.
Hanging on the wall above the mural is the “RIDING THE WAVE” painting completed by Values into Action NJ staff as a team
experience also with Zina Umyn.
Using arts as a way to experience community is something we all can enjoy!
Heather Cooper
Service Director
Values, NJ

Values into Action NJ “Made their Mark”

Values into Action NJ “Made their Mark” at the 45th annual Wood Street Fair in the home town office of Burlington City, NJ.
Values NJ participated in partnership with Artist, Zina Umyn from Eureka Arts.Made their Mark
We enjoyed engaging the community in mural art project that will be displayed locally in the upcoming month. The community “left their mark” using various media and materials to add a creative splash of energy to what will become a Mural composed of all the drawings from many people that were at the fair. We look forward to sharing the pictures of the final piece in the upcoming weeks.
Heather Cooper
Service Director
Values, NJ

Values Into Action NJ Sponsors Disability Awareness Training

Values Into Action NJ and Niagara University are excited to introduce the First Responders Disability Awareness Training (FR-DAT) program to the state’s first responders.

Niagara Disability Training article

The ability to respond to individuals with disabilities has posed varying challenges to emergency responders across the country. High profile cases have exposed the need for more involved awareness and education regarding the characteristics and challenges some individuals pose. As the population increases and more individuals are active in the community, the need to ensure accurate and appropriate response is critical.

Endorsed by the New York State Office of Fire Prevention and control and NYS DOH EMS, this program provides valuable information and resources while introducing NU’s comprehensive Train-the-Trainer program. Currently being conducted in New York and Arkansas, FRDAT is the only program in the nation that covers ALL disabilities that may challenge emergency responders and allows the department to own the customized curriculum and conduct the program per their training schedule. For more information and to access training evaluation summaries, visit our website at

“All in all, I was very glad that I signed up for this training. I also believe that when I bring this info back to my department, and other local departments, that my EMS peers will also feel the same benefits and growth from this knowledge. I was also appreciative of all the talking points which are included.” - Mary Mott East Hampton Village (NY) Ambulance Certified Instructor Coordinator

“Props to NU for putting together a wonderful and comprehensive course and resource guide for us to use and implement in the field.” – Emanuel Caras Scarsdale (NY) Firefighter/EMS

Dozens of first responders attended the first training held at Middlesex Co. Fire Academy June 9th. The presentation was conducted by NU FRDAT’s Project Director David Whalen. Dave has been training a multitude of service providers and first responders in disability awareness for the past 11 years and has been working in the field of disability service/education since 1986.


Values Into Action looks forward to another “Train the Trainer” session in October.

This project is funded by the New Jersey Council on Developmental Disabilities.