Sometimes, all it takes is a single individual to inspire an entire community. This is the kind of person that brings people together to achieve a positive, enduring outcome. In other words, they are a catalyst for change.
Oscar Segal, one of the members of our community, is one such individual!
Oscar is on a mission to spread awareness about Supported Decision Making (SDM), an innovative tool which enables individuals with disabilities to make choices about their own lives with support from a team of people they choose. In August 2022, through advocacy and action from individuals like Oscar, New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed the Supported Decision-Making Agreement Bill, a tremendous step forward for our community. Oscar is committed to getting the word about SDM and encouraging other states and countries to follow suit.
Through SDM, an individual with disabilities can build a personal community of support, assigning a variety of people with differing responsibilities. Oscar, for example, has support from a multitude of people who assist him with decisions related to finances, Medicaid, work, and travel, among other things.
Oscar is an individual with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), but is fiercely independent. He is 26, has a thriving YouTube channel where he talks freely about I/DD, lives in his own apartment in The Bronx, and works at Shake Shack. Recently, we shared a story (among many) about The Oscar Show, which was selected for screening at The Arlington International Film Festival (AIFF) (see an interview with Oscar and the AIFF at the link!), The Hungarian Disability Film Festival, and Positive Exposure.
Oscar leads by example when it comes to SDM, and has created a large support system filled with family, friends, and experts helping him live the life he chooses. His activism and advocacy for SDM has garnered support far and wide, gaining institutional and public attention from legislators and activists. Through his advocacy, he hopes to build an even larger community, which he believes can spread across the globe in support of SDM.
As we speak, Oscar is working to have the SDM model adopted in New Jersey, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Oregon, Virginia, California and Louisiana, to name a few states. Once he’s done with the United States, Oscar plans to advocate for SDM to be adopted in other countries like Italy, Ecuador, Peru, Mexico, Brazil, Canada, Germany, and France. He’ll also be joining other CFS participants at Lobby Day in Albany in February to advocate for additional support for Direct Support Professionals (DSPs).
Oscar believes in the power of collaboration and has a talent for mobilizing the right people to make a difference, together. He is a premier example of the power of advocacy from credible voices and messengers. Through his efforts, the SDM model may soon become the norm for providing collective, communal, and integrative support to individuals with I/DD, while providing them with the autonomy to build their lives and achieve their dreams – the way they want to. If you are interested in learning more about Supported Decision Making and how you can participate, visit the SDMNY site.
We at CFS are so proud to be a part of Oscar’s advocacy efforts, and even more proud to be a part of his SDM community. You too can be an advocate for change. CFS offers opportunities to get involved and give back. If you want to join CFS’s advocacy efforts please visit our advocacy center on our website here, or attend some of our advocacy events.