The West Virginia Statewide Independent Living Council established the Independent Living Hall of Fame in 2002 to document the history and recognize the leaders of the independent living movement in West Virginia.
Induction into the Hall of Fame is considered the highest honor given to individuals contributing to the growth and efforts of the independent living movement and the disability community in our state. Inductees are individuals who have demonstrated an understanding of and commitment to the independent living philosophy and have contributed to a positive vision for the disability community in West Virginia. These are our role models, the people who have shaped our movement and led the way for the many who have joined their efforts and those who will join in the future.
This honor is not bestowed lightly. Inductees are exceptional individuals. Contact us if you would like to nominate an exceptional leader dedicated to the independent living philosophy.
Our first inductee is an individual who was one of the pioneers in the independent living movement in West Virginia and has been recognized nationally for her contributions to independent living and the rights of people with disabilities. She has been an advocate for people with disabilities all her life. She was one of the original staff members at the Huntington Center for Independent Living, the first CIL in West Virginia (now known as Mountain State Centers for Independent Living). She developed the peer-counseling program and coordinated the Transition Program for teenagers and young adults with disabilities.
She was an incredible role model and leader to the many individuals with disabilities for whom she was counselor, teacher, mentor, peer, and guide. She left the center to lead the advocacy efforts of the Developmental Disabilities Council. She was one of the founders of the Fair Shake Network and served as the coordinator for several years. She led the fight to close Colin Anderson Center, the last state institution for people with developmental disabilities in West Virginia and continues to monitor and advocate to ensure the individuals once incarcerated there receive the services and supports they need to be successful in the community.
She developed and coordinated the Partners in Policymaking (PIP) program in West Virginia. Through this program, she has been instrumental in the recruitment and development of many of the new leaders in the disability community. Nearly every board and council dealing with disability now has members who are graduates of PIP - the SILC has 7 current members, 2 nominated members, and 6 former members who are PIP graduates.
She helped author the legislation to close Colin Anderson Center, the Assistive Technology Revolving Loan Fund legislation, the Ron Yost Personal Assistance Services Act, the Independent Living Act, and others too numerous to name. She is one of the most successful leaders we have in our legislative efforts and is known and respected by both legislators and their staff, who often seek her input and guidance on disability issues.
She was the coordinator for West Virginia in the national effort to secure the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and every time I saw her in Justin Dart's presence, he kissed her hand. (This is where she will go from misty eyed to full blown crying so talk slow to give her time to compose) She will not accept discrimination or segregation of her brothers and sisters with disabilities. Neither will she accept them sitting back and waiting for someone else to advocate for their rights. She expects and empowers them to advocate for themselves and become part of the movement.
She has set a very high mark for the rest of us to aspire to. She is a tireless advocate, and she expects and motivates others to work just as hard as she does.
Ron Yost was a pioneer in the independent living movement in West Virginia. This individual was a member of the Fair Shake Network, the Structural Barriers Compliance Board, the West Virginia Jobs Campaign, and a charter member of the Mayor's Committee on People with Disabilities in Huntington, WV. He was a winner of the client of the Year Award from the WV Division of Rehabilitation Services. He developed the legislation, and was instrumental in its passage, to establish the WVDRS Attendant Care Program to provide attendant care services to enable people with disabilities to work and he worked on the legislation to close Colin Anderson Center, the last state institution for people with developmental disabilities in West Virginia.
He was an original staff member at the Huntington Center for Independent Living. He helped develop the programs, procedures, policies and practices, which were used as a model by the subsequent CILs in our state. He was a mentor and a role model for countless individuals with disabilities in his position at the center. He lived "independent living" and showed others how to do so as a counselor, teacher, colleague, and friend.
His influence changed many lives and helped move independent living forward in West Virginia. I am very sad to say that this gentleman passed away in January 1997, but I am proud to say his influence is still being felt today. Which is why the disability community, and several legislators were compelled to honor him by naming a new personal assistance services program after him in 1999 - the Ron Yost Personal Assistance Services Program.
Anne Weeks was born in WV but grew up in Ohio. She returned to WV in 1981 to help DRS apply for funding to establish the first center for independent living in the state. She worked for DRS as an independent living specialist, wrote the federal grant, worked with the board and staff of the Huntington Center for Independent Living to establish the policies and procedures, and is considered one of the founders. In her role with DRS, she helped the center through its first 2 directors before the board finally hired her for that job.
She made sure that the center was grounded in the independent living philosophy. She made sure staff and consumers had opportunities to learn and to be involved in advocacy. In 1988, she opened a second center in Beckley, WV. Both centers have worked tirelessly on the accessibility of their communities. The Huntington office and consumers even secured a judgment against the City of Huntington from the Department of Justice regarding curb cuts. The Beckley office has had great success getting improved sidewalk and curb cut accessibility. The staff in Huntington worked with the Mayor many years ago to establish the Mayor's Committee on People with Disabilities. When the center in Beckley opened, they worked with the Mayor there to establish a similar committee. Our inductee has never failed to support the advocacy activities of her staff and consumers and to make sure people could get where they needed to educate and advocate for disability rights.
Prior to the 1992 amendments to the Rehabilitation Act, there was no statewide independent living council. There was, instead, an independent living advisory council. The powers that be made sure she was never appointed to that council. But she went to all the meetings anyway. She knew and cared more about independent living than anybody in the state and she had to keep tabs on the council and what they were doing. After the 1992 amendments, the state was required to establish the Statewide Independent Living Council as a partner with equal power, not as an advisory council. She was not only appointed to the new SILC, but she also became the chairperson.
This was a very critical time when the SILC was figuring out what it was supposed to be and do and having her at the helm, as the guiding force, is the reason the SILC is the strong council it is today. She made sure that council members received excellent training on their responsibilities as a council and on what the Rehab Act said and required. She is the reason the SILC has staff and office space. She is the reason the SILC is a non-profit corporation. She is the reason we have a Disability Caucus.
In short, independent living in West Virginia would not be or look anything like it does today without her guidance, direction, and contributions to the movement.
David Stewart has served as a board member for a center for independent living, a community rehabilitation program, and the Statewide Independent Living Council. He is a strong advocate who understands and lives the independent living philosophy. He is a role model and mentor to advocates and others in the disability community.
He has volunteered countless hours of his time to monitor the Legislature and has been a key member of the grassroots disability movement in our state. He has worked on more issues than I can name and is recognized as an authority and resource on disability rights and issues that affect the lives of people with disabilities. He is an important part of the advocacy team at the Capitol and is respected and listened to. He is one of a handful of experts on the ADA and other disability rights laws and is a resource to the State ADA Coordinator, the legislature, the State Fire Marshall, the Human Rights Commission, and many other state agencies and public entities.
He is the person many of us turn to when we have a problem and is always ready with a solution. He is recognized on the state, regional, and national level as an advocate and as a resource. He is a leader, teacher, mentor, guide, and peer to many of us.
Ann McDaniel has been an advocate for the civil rights of people with disabilities for the past 30 years.
She is recognized and respected by policymakers, lawmakers and people with disabilities for her work on the Ron Yost Personal Assistance Service Act, the legislation that put the WV SILC into state code and established a line item in the State Budget for independent living services, the Disability History Week legislation and many other bills that affect the lives of people with disabilities.
She is a great friend and a mentor to other advocates and professionals who work on disability issues on the state and national level.
She is a member of the American Association of People with Disabilities, the National Council on Independent Living, the Behavioral Health Advisory Council to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, the WV Olmstead Advisory Council, the Ron Yost Personal Assistance Services Board, the Hartley/Medley Advocacy program Advisory Committee, the WV Self Determination Initiative and the Fair Shake Network.
She has a Masters degree in home economics from Marshall University and a Bachelor of Arts in Vocational Home Economics from Marshall University.
She began her career in the independent living movement when she was hired to be a Skills Trainer for the Huntington Center for Independent Living. She was promoted to Skills Training Supervisor and eventually was promoted to the vice president of Programs.
In 1996, she became the Director of the WV Statewide Independent Living Council and along with her many accomplishments in that position, she directed the implementation of the first WV Disability Caucus in 1997 and successful Caucuses in 1998, 2000, 2002, 2004, the first WV Youth Disability Caucus in 2005 and is currently working on the 2015 Disability Youth Caucus.
She served as the Secretary and Region 3 SILC representation on the SILC Subcommittee of the National Council on Independent Living and on the NCIL conference planning committee. She was elected to represent Region III on the NCIL Board and currently serves as the Secretary on the NCIL Board.
Jan Derry has served as a strong advocate for people with disabilities for many years. She understands and lives the independent living philosophy. She is a role model and mentor to advocates and others in the disability community. She has overcome seemly insurmountable odds in her personal life - going from life in an institution to being the professional, independent woman she is today.
She was tasked with spinning off her center for independent living from a case management agency to become a free-standing CIL. She accomplished this by seeking the advice of independent living experts in West Virginia and around the nation. It was not an easy task. Her CIL had a "case management" mindset and was not a true CIL. But she took it on with dedication to the independent living philosophy and has turned her center into a strong, advocacy-based CIL.
She has been a member of the SILC for many years and has served as Chairperson. She is dedicated to developing new leaders and was invaluable to the 2005 Youth Disability Caucus. She is a leader, teacher, mentor, guide, and peer to many of us.
Kevin Ervin broke barriers in both his personal and professional life. He "escaped" from an institution and went on to receive a bachelor's degree and two master's degrees from West Virginia University.
He served on many boards and committees though he found spending time in meetings very frustrating and was more interested in DOING SOMETHING. He dedicated his life to people with disabilities and the disability rights movement. He found his niche working at a center for independent living as an advocate for people with disabilities and was the organizer of ADAPT WV.
He often made the statement that if he was given the opportunity to be able to walk, he would not take it. He would rather be sitting in his wheelchair. People with disabilities were his people. It was personal to him. He didn't have the patience to wait for the wheels and cogs of the "system" to slowly make change. It was too urgent. He knew too many people whose lives were at stake. So, he did whatever he had to do to help people with disabilities achieve independence - even taking people into his own home until supports could be put in place for them to live in their own homes. Even when he could not afford it - when it was inconvenient - when he had to put himself at risk.
Ken had no fear as long as he was doing something positive and good for his brothers and sisters with disabilities. He would take on any challenge to help and protect them. He understood, lived and breathed the independent living philosophy before he ever knew a name for it.
Sadly, Ken passed away in 2007. He is greatly missed in all our lives. Ken's widow, Darla Ervin, accepted the award on his behalf.
Georgetta Stevens has worked at a center for independent living longer than anyone else in West Virginia. She has dedicated her life to independent living and to people with disabilities. Her compassion, caring, and dedication to fairness make her a natural advocate for the people with disabilities served by her center.
She has been through all the evolutions, problems, and successes her center has experienced. She has seen dozens of staff come and go - developing affection for most and lifelong friendships with many.
She began as the secretary at the very first center for independent living in West Virginia on October 1, 1981. Her attention to detail, passion for what is right, and compassion for both staff and the people they serve led to increased responsibilities and recognition.
She currently the Vice President for Corporate Operations. She is the youngest of four sisters who have all had careers helping others - Kathy, Ellen and Brenda.
She has been a rudder to keep Mountain State Centers for Independent Living on its true course. She has been the conscience of the staff and most particularly of her boss, Anne Weeks. She is the only original staff member of a center for independent living to still be working at that center.
Larry Paxton has worked in the independent living movement since 1983. He is a prime example of how a person with a disability can overcome any obstacle and be very successful in the workplace.
He began his IL career as a counselor, later becoming executive director, and has a passion for the rights of people with disabilities. In his efforts to affect systems change, he took the WV Lottery Commission to court for allowing lottery tickets to be sold in locations that were not accessible - and he won. The court ruled that the Commission must ensure lottery ticket outlets are accessible to people with disabilities.
He is caring and compassionate - and is a role model for other people with disabilities who want to make a difference and contribute to society. As Executive Director of the Appalachian Center for Independent Living, he developed a program to assist people with disabilities making the transition from institutions and family settings into the community which has received national recognition.
Larry is a determined, passionate, and caring individual.
Mark Derry is an activist whose actions - to create a world where he, and others with disabilities can live and thrive independently - should be emulated by everyone with a disability who shares this goal. He is also an advocate, with a strong voice on behalf of people with disabilities who perhaps are unable to speak for themselves.
He is as independent as they come, stubbornly doing things he probably shouldn't, and it isn't just about whether he can get into a building or access a service - it's about whether all his brothers and sisters with disabilities can get into buildings and access services. It is about what we can do in the future to achieve the highest level of independence and inclusion for people with disabilities. It is about what each of us can do now, today, this minute. His role as a "motivator" cannot be overstated. No one leaves a presentation, training, or lecture he presents without a greater desire to go out and save the world! His ability to translate independent living into language understandable by both people and politicians, his depth of knowledge, his commitment is all as good as it gets.
He spends long hours in his truck driving from the "hollers" to the Capitol, to DC to talk to community groups, advocates, and government committees about disability rights. His expertise about the ADA and accessibility have earned him a national reputation - but it is not what he has done nationally that makes him worthy of this particular award. It is what he has done for all West Virginians with disabilities who strive for independence and for all who work in the disability rights field.
If you look under "Access" or "ADA" in corporate and government "Rolodexes" you will probably find Mark Derry's business card. He is a leader, educator, advocate, and a valued member of the Independent Living Movement in West Virginia.
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