Self-advocates testify in support of inclusive higher education bills

Self-advocates Jamie Curran, George Travis, and Joshua Hernandez testified on July 13 in support of H. 634/S. 698 “An Act creating higher education opportunities for students with intellectual disabilities, autism, and other developmental disabilities.”

The bills, sponsored by Senator Barbara L’Italien, Representative Patricia Haddad, and Representative Sean Garballey, allow persons with intellectual disabilities (ID), autism, and other developmental disabilities to access state colleges and universities in order to gain skills necessary to work and live independently in the community.  The legislation also codifies the Massachusetts Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment Initiative (MAICEI) grant program, supporting partnerships between high schools and public institutions of higher education, and provides consideration of higher education for older students through the special education process.  Currently, 15 Massachusetts colleges and universities participate in the initiative.

Curran, Travis, and Hernandez successfully participated in inclusive college programs; they shared the positive impact college has had on their career readiness, social and independent living skills, and self-confidence.  Hernandez described the skills he gained through attending college classes, including video production techniques and valuable job experience that allowed him to improve his time management skills and ability to effectively communicate his needs to his employer.  The three self-advocates agreed that college had given them more confidence in their futures and should be made available to more students with disabilities.

Lisa Battaglino, dean of the College of Education and Allied Studies at Bridgewater State University (BSU), also testified in support of the bill.  Battaglino taught an inclusive class at BSU prior to becoming dean, calling it “among the best courses” she taught and explained, “Every student learned more, participated more, and respected and valued their classmates in a way that you seldom see.”

Representative John Scibak, Chair of the Joint Committee on Higher Education, applauded the panelists for their “courage and willingness to share” their stories.

MAC Senior Project Director Julia Landau has led our efforts at the State House to increase college opportunities and helped to organize the self-advocate panel.  Support for these bills comes as part of a larger MAC initiative to increase transition opportunities for youth with disabilities.

Click here for a fact sheet about these bills.

Video: Jamie Curran, George Travis, and Joshua Hernandez (left to right) testify in support of H. 634/S. 698, “An Act creating higher education opportunities for students with intellectual disabilities, autism, and other developmental disabilities”