Hello! My name is Danielle and I am an intern at QSAC’s headquarters in New York City in the Development Department. As a woman on the autism spectrum, I have overcome many things in my life and I am currently involved in getting a Consolidated Self-Directed Services plan through the Office of People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD). When I first graduated from high school, the thought of living alone never crossed my mind. I was living with my family and longed for more independence, but knew I would need help and resources from others. On my own, I worked with lawyers and self-advocates to establish my Social Security and Medicaid eligibility and researched and selected an appropriate supportive living situation. I learned about my rights and responsibilities as a person with autism.
After many years of living arrangements that were not ideal for me, I finally found something that was almost perfect for me: my own apartment in a nice neighborhood working with staff I liked. I had independence and financial freedom. After a few years of inconsistent staff and some frustration, I have decided to pursue a Consolidated Self-Directed Services plan so I can have more say in my everyday life. With this new plan, I will have the freedom to select my own support staff and choose how I spend my time and money.
Twenty years ago, this type of decision would not have been possible because these types of independent living services did not exist. I am very grateful that I have this decision to make. People with disabilities have choices and can make their own decisions! Even the wrong ones! Find out what services are appropriate and available for you or your loved one, because everyone deserves a fair shot at a happy and fulfilling life.
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Danielle Lazzara is a lifelong New Yorker who is an actively involved self-advocate who works to ensure that individuals with disabilities know their rights and have access to supportive services. She is an intern in QSAC’s Development Department through the JobPath employment training program (ETP).