Our Voices Count

MVLE’s Self-Advocacy Council

Purpose of the Council:

(1) To increase communication from individuals to staff, peers, MVLE management, Board of Trustees, the community, and employers and government.

(2) To influence constructive change in the employment of MVLE individuals with MVLE and with area employers.

(3) To equip individuals to be self-advocates and to enlist the support of resources to become more effective advocates.

The Self-Advocacy Council began in 1998, recreating a group that had functioned at MVLE until 1996. In 2001, the individuals voted to call their organization, Our Voices Count (OVC). Individuals meet quarterly at MVLE, to discuss topics of concern to them as individuals living with disabilities. In 2006, we began an additional monthly meeting in our Chantilly location, called Chantilly Voices Count and in 2007 we began separate meetings in both Springfield offices. Individuals are supported by MVLE staff but operate the council with their own content in mind. Additionally, MVLE staff and other advocacy organizations (People First and the Arc of Northern Virginia) help individuals to become more effective self-advocates, especially as related to employment.

Individuals involved in OVC are working in MVLE’s Center-based programs, Community-based and Group Employment sites. Competitively employed persons, also participate as guests, leaders and role models.

Involvement by individuals is enthusiastic and energized. Many have topics they are eager to discuss and are interested in what other individuals and staff have to say. Individuals have shared positive experiences as they have made progress toward greater independence. These examples have encouraged others to ask for opportunities and to explore available employment options. A goal of OVC is to effectively express desired changes and to start the process to make these changes in a timely manner.

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