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"We had the Mayor's support to stay at the barricades. I sent photographers down to take footage of the demonstration outside and was there several days with the outside demonstration. I was shuttling between the protest and the place where I was to meet Jerry. When I finally met him, he asked, 'Are you one of the leaders of this?' I told him that I was and he listened. He never cut program funding for people with disabilities while I was there. If he ever had a question, he would come to me directly.

I served as the Director for nine years. I went straight from being on welfare to this state government position. People asked me if I was going to become a bureaucrat. I told them, 'No, I think I'll be an advocrat.' I fired a lot of people early on. Not the guy who told me I would never work, though.

"The system was set up all wrong, and those flaws persist. To give you an example, I once met a rehabilitation counselor who had won an award for making the most job placements. He was bragging to me about how many people he had helped to get to work. I saw him months later, and he had changed; his placement number had dropped significantly. 'What happened?' I asked him. 'One day, one of my clients came back to the office and told me, 'Well, I lost your job today.' He realized that while pushing for a large volume of placements, he wasn't helping people to develop careers. They were getting jobs, and quitting or losing them, and he was marking them all down as successes.

"The whole system was set up this way. The counselors are good at making decisions for people instead of throwing the power back to the consumer. We have to put the choices back in their lap. Service professionals who work with people with disabilities have to make this into an art form.

"People come to you and expect to be told what to do. It's your job to place that power back into their hands. You are there to help them find out what they want to do – not to decide what you think is best for them."