On a regular basis, we will be featuring stories about the remarkable people who make up the leadership of SANYS.  You'll see that they all share one thing in common - the courage to speak up! [caption id="attachment_2989" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Patsy Ginese Pasquale "Patsy" Ginese[/caption] Hi! I’m Pasquale Ginese, a fifty-eight year old married man. I learned self-advocacy as a child from my parents. When my parents were told by our school district that I didn’t belong in their school, my parents told the school district to say that to ME! Well, of course, the school district didn’t, and I went on to graduate from high school. When I was thirteen-years old, Mom passed away from a heart condition. It was a sad time in my life but a learning experience that showed me how precious life is. Dad later remarried and we moved. In the new family setting, I did not get along with my stepmother. We did not see eye to eye, so I moved to a group home. For the first time in years, I felt comfortable. One problem though - twenty people lived there! MY voice was not heard at first, but I persisted in asking to live with not so many people. Three years later, I moved into an apartment with three other men. What a difference! I met a woman named Lois and we began dating. We wanted to get married. We talked to friends, family, our support agency and staff, all who said - people with disabilities can't get married! We replied - yes we can!! Two years later we did. That was thirty years ago. I worked in a workshop for many years doing several jobs. I always encouraged people with developmental disabilities to speak up for themselves. One job I was doing was about to end and I felt that it was time to start looking for another job. While searching, I was offered a job with the Self-Advocacy Association of NYS and the AmeriCorps program they were doing. This required me to go all around the Hudson Valley Region and tell people about my life as a person with disabilities. I did this for two years and received a monthly stipend for my work. While doing this, I also served as president of Arc of Westchester’s Customer Services Committee. I also have served on Arc of Westchester’s Board of Directors and will do so until June 2016. Now I work as a Grassroots Presenter for SANYS and I’m also a mentor to the over 2000 people that Arc of Westchester serves. As we have aged, our needs changed and Lois and I spent two years advocating for a less restrictive setting for us to live in. Where we lived had only stairs and we both use walkers. We spoke to several people where we receive supports about changing where we live. We needed a more accessible apartment. I gave testimony twice on the need for people with disabilities to be in accessible living settings. We met with the local DDRO officials and were told we had to go through the Front Door to do Self Determination. During our meeting I said we needed to just move; no one wants to have something go wrong with Lois or me. Two months later we moved to a great accessible apartment. Another Self Advocacy victory!