A Right to Respect: The Story of the Consumer Advisory Commitee
The Consumer Advisory Committee of Westside Regional Center works with the regional center to promote the rights held in the Lanterman Act and to empower, build awareness, support and teach others to be leaders and active members in their home community.
In 2015, the consumers of Westside Regional Center faced huge challenges and rights violation according to the Lanterman Act. This led to a very uncomfortable situation about which most people felt outraged. Over months, CAC members got together and wrote letters of concern, requested meetings, and reached out to other organizations in order to resolve the issues that left them feeling disrespected, treated unfairly, unsafe, afraid, angry and disappointed. At one point even our supports and facilitators were removed.
That made us terrified to know that a place we call home, a place that was created by the Lanterman Act to provide services, could so easily deny our services. It is
Westside Regional Center's mission to empower people with developmental disabilities and their families to choose and access community services that facilitate a quality of life comparable to person without disabilities. We were no longer experiencing the warm and friendly atmosphere that we have known and
loved. Instead we felt bullied, singled out and discouraged.
In Self Advocacy, we work hard to learn, so that we will know our rights. Not giving into pressure, we stood together and fought for our rights. We were scared and some of us even became physically ill. We continued to fight for our rights and stood with our other advocates like parents, some WRC staff, concerned vendors and concerned citizens.
It was a very hard and terrifying process to go through, but we prevailed. Changes were made at the WRC and we now are allowed and supported to have more important roles at the WRC. Some of us will never be the same. We have learned many important things about standing up and letting our voice be heard and following through. We are still healing and sadly there are some advocates who may never return because it got to be too difficult. We keep hope alive and wish to see them again. Slowly, but surely, the hallways of the WRC are returning to its friendly environment and those in charge have done all that they can to help us rebuild what I feel is one of the greatest Regional Centers.
The CAC will continue to be the voice of the consumers and we hope that others will continue to be supportive of our efforts. So many people were very helpful to us and we will be forever grateful. We came together and saved the Westside Way. This is just one example of how consumers can use Self Advocacy to make improvements to an existing system and improve the quality of life for everyone.