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California Department of Developmental Disabilities Consumer Advisory Committee

Sacramento, CA


As a statewide advisory group to the California Department of Developmental Services, Consumer Advisory Committee (CAC) members undertook their role with assorted backgrounds and limited experience with such influential responsibilities. Recognizing that successful self and peer advocacy are built on clear values and a shared mission, CAC members began to lay the groundwork for personal and systems change. They decided to be successful first as self-advocates to apply authentic experiences to guide peers and influence policy. Key to this transformation was recognition that community members with diverse abilities had limited participation in leadership positions or had been supported inadequately to do so.

The Path

Wanting to make a difference, the CAC first developed a vision for the advocacy efforts and learned about committee governance and system organization. The CAC initiated the development of a series of easy to use publications for statewide advocates about the Lanterman Act, how to “take charge” at team meetings and guide books that supported “Making My Own Choices.” These early publications led to developing a straightforward learning and transformation process called: Think-Plan-Do. Members used the field tested decision making steps to advance self-determination in their own lives then shared the strategies with advocates and service providers statewide to encourage people to “live the lives they wanted.” After meeting quarterly for several years with customized support, members became more fluent with disability issues, were included in policy discussions, included in state committees and more connected as peer advocates in their communities.

Discoveries and Outcomes

By building first on governance experience and developing their own capacities, CAC members promoted the importance of adaptations to complex information to ensure people with limited literacy skills can be active engaged decision makers at the state level and at their own team meetings. Their work reflected the fundamental right of all people to make decisions using understandable information on issues important to their lives and communities. Their work transformed the CAC from a group of self-advocates to able peer advocates who were included and connected in their communities across the state.

What We Did

BRC, in partnership with the CAC, created curricula, conducted trainings, developed adapted multi-media learning tools and promulgated best practices in individualized support services. Specializing in media, instruction and facilitation focused on universal access and utility, BRC assisted the DDS CAC with establishing standards of accommodation, best practice meeting organization and support that transformed both its membership and the expectations for leadership on the part of persons with developmental disabilities. Booklets and videos are available for viewing in the Library.