Name: Talmadge House
Title: Systems Change Diversability Advocate
Job description: Community outreach to the under-served and the disabled transitional-aged youth in Butte County
Describe Me: I like learning, I like understanding, and I like balance. Communication is a plus. Understanding makes it easier. I live by a mantra: accept, adapt and adjust. If we don’t accept anything, whatever is going on in our life, it is going to be hard to move forward, to adapt or adjust to what must come next, or may come next, because we cannot control or stop anything.
My inspiration for the T. House mantra: When I began working here last year, working with a lot of consumers that wanted help and expected a lot of things free and thought we were a one-stop pickup. At the same time a lot of them did not. That’s my opinion. From what I notice and what I see in a lot of individuals, they did not accept what was really their situation in life. They had not accepted the restart. By not accepting currently what was going on in their life, they keep a loop and cycle going. That loop and cycle keeps going because they do not want to accept, and once you accept, you put breaks on it. And you learn some tools to adapt to it. That way, once you adapt you can adjust to the new nature of the life of acceptance and being able to move forward and grab something that you want to obtain.
In your experience, why are people slow to “accept”?
Society is slow on inclusion. Butte County is slow to inclusion. We are one of the hardest counties on disabled and homeless individuals. We have to locate resources that are being negated to other places. But we do not turn away individuals because we are an information and referral center. We want to be able to advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves. And that means empowering ourselves more to be able to empower others. If we are unable to do that, why are we here?
Why the lack of progress on inclusion?
Cost. No one wants to pay for the rights that we were afforded by the ADA. The disability rights movement and the ADA. It costs so much to argue for the rights we were afforded and for so long. Now those rights are being pulled slowly and surely with this current administration. We are losing access and the ability to have access to buildings because builders are being given a choice whether to implement accessibility into their plans.
Since the ADA got passed in 1990, do you think things have gotten better for people with disabilities?
I can say it has opened doors and has gotten better. But what has not gotten better is the distribution of information because of the isolation of the individual with disabilities. That’s why we are here – so we can make it known and reach out to individuals that we may know that are working with different organizations that may just go from the doctors to their home. We don’t have outside community contact. We can get them to understand they have a place to ask for help and they don’t have to sit there with late documents. Or phone calls to make and they can’t make them because they don’t have a communicator. Someone to help them understand. And to be that impartial ear. Just to make sure they are getting their rights heard and they are getting their words understood. And that they understand what is being told to them as an individual.
What future goals do you have as a systems change advocate?
Continue to grow, learn better communication skills. Learn to adapt and think more outside the box. Continue managing my own disabilities. With this job, in being in this place as systems change, the more I learn to manage for myself, the better I am to be able to help others. Because as Systems Change (Advocate), other people are affected. We need to be able to help people understand what systems change does because systems change is not a one-person resolution. Systems change is a resolution for a community. It’s not for just one person. What you are going through affects more than just you. Systems change is what we are here to make that communication advocacy for. That does not mean poor people. It means under-served people who do not get the information.
How can the community improve to help people with disabilities?
The first thing that keeps coming to my mind are meet and greets. Open the doors just for meet and greets at certain places. Join up and combine with other agencies who are going out to the community and introduce yourselves and ourselves to other parts of the community to generate trust. To develop that trust and communication because in this realm, trust and honesty is needed because people are still private just because they are disabled. They have a life. They are individuals, they are human beings. A lot of them are intimidated by systems, by applications, by coming to an office and feeling like they have to report. We have to let them know that we want to advocate for you. We want you to feel comfortable to know that this is not a place you have to come to. This is your center. If we can continue to let people know this is their area and we work for them. Just like city council should re-enforce that mission to people. But we don’t; they don’t. We have to force city council to hear means but it doesn’t work that way for the disabled. We want to show openness and availability to pass information along.
How do you measure success: Smiles, a “thank you” and energy. It can come in the form of a phone call. People just saying that no one heard me. No one was listening to me. There’s people who repeat their stories over and over again. But let them know that they were heard. And that shows them that you are doing something to help them solve their problem. We are here to help empower. You don’t want them to get the wrong idea. Being able to measure success I think is just an internal feeling on an individual who delivers the information or delivers the job.
Describe Talmadge House: Loud, I like balance, I like talking. I like communication. I like communication and compromise. I like learning. I like helping people. I like the ability to help others understand and not feel lost and trapped. Let them know there’s somebody, even though the world is cruel, there’s someone who had empathy. Not just sympathy, not just saying I’m sorry. It’s the ability to hear that somebody had a situation where we can’t fix everything. But we can help give them some tools. It’s not a band aid. It’s not going to make them better. But it’s going to give them energy in their brain to know the difference. It may just be stored information, but it will be used sooner or later.
Hobbies: I am a video gamer. I like dog training and I volunteer dog grooming. Just like working with animals.
How has working at DAC changed your life?
Brought me to wider eyes. I see things more now that I am not so isolated. Have been given the opportunity and I appreciate the opportunities that I have been given at growth, at learning. DAC has changed me in the way I perceive that people look at disabled individuals. We can actually change that ourselves. Because it’s how we perceive things. Just because we are disabled, we shut ourselves out. We don’t have to shut ourselves out. We don’t have to stop fighting. We have to learn not to be isolated. We have to find a proper support system. DAC has helped me by accepting growth. I had to accept it. I had to not push back. I had to rebelieve it was real. I too had to live by my own mantra. I had to learn to not self-sabotage. I had to learn how to accept people’s circumstances. I had to learn too that I cannot change people. I cannot make everybody’s life better. I had to learn to accept that. We are here to do a job. I had to accept and learn how to do this job properly and effectively. I believe that I have accepted that. Now I am learning my ways of adjusting by researching different areas so I can answer more questions when people call and ask. One of the things I like to do is to not turn anyone away. I like to turn it into an informational and referral service. I do not like to say sorry, we can’t help you. I will try to research that information even if it’s just an email. I will give your name and number and I will make sure we have a way, an offer to call us back. If you need further assistance if that number doesn’t work. That creates an open dialogue for a person that may feel unsure about coming to us. I have done that many times, and have gotten a lot of good turnarounds. I appreciate the love and respect our consumers have. I appreciate the unison that is developing at Disability Action Center. I appreciate our teamwork, our ability to learn and adapt to each other because just about every one of us here has a disability. It’s not easy to work in a crowd of people with various disabilities. We have to learn and understand what our disabilities are so we don’t compete on each other. So we don’t put our issues on each other. So that we can work together better. We work a lot smoother that way.
Parting words: Each one, teach one and someday soon, we will all reach one. And that unison, whether it be up or down, it all ends in one. We need to be able to communicate and talk to each other as people and human beings. That’s not just the disabled. That’s everyone.