As previously presented, Marie is not only a strong self-advocate but through her current Fellowship educational opportunities and her playground project research, she has become an amazing advocate for others.

Marie began her role as an advocate several years ago after she graduated from her post graduate program and became a member of Arc Employment Services.  At the time she knew she wanted a competitive paying job and to live in an accessible apartment thereby creating a “bucket list” of goals and with her team works to make them a reality.  Marie is an insightful and motivational speaker and has been invited on many occasions to represent the Arc and share her stories with United Way Donor companies, DDS Citizen’s Advisory Board sponsored Legislative Breakfast events and DDS and Arc Family Support Transitional Workshops.  She is a graduate of a local Toastmaster’s public speaking program and visits the State House monthly Legislative Day when she is able.  In addition to her current Self Advocacy Leadership program, she looks forward to attending the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disability (AAIDD) Policy Seminar in Washington, DC this April.  We have no doubt that Marie will be wowing politicians and policy makers from across the country!

In a recent interview about her Fellowship Marie shared her most profound experiences related to her travels throughout the state visiting playgrounds.

1.  She has developed a good sense of what works and what does not; what is truly an accessible playground and what “pretends to be”.  Her recommendations…think about corners and how a person using a wheelchair can navigate safely with enough turn radiuses.  Eliminate any barriers from the parking area to the play structure…it won’t work if you can’t get to it! There needs to be swings of all types and sizes for everyone to use.  Finally do not create separate specialized structures for kids with disabilities…all kids need to play together.

2. Marie in her travels met a little girl named Clara who she describes as “the best child in the world”.  Clara is a 6 year old typically developing child who played with Marie at one of the playgrounds fascinated by her wheelchair and peppering her with questions about her Cerebral Palsy.  Marie shared that at age 6 Clara was “the most open minded person” evident by her comment to Marie “just because people say they are different, they really are not…everyone is beautiful”.

3. Marie also met Owen, a little boy with a disability and with permission took his photo for the cover of her brochure because “he had the most beautiful smile, outgoing personality and so fullof life”.

4. Long rides in the car to Western MA and long days of Fellowship work and playground testing have been the biggest challenge!

5. Marie stated “I love what I am doing and my experiences have opened my eyes to a lot of different people”.Our bet is that Marie will be opening eyes as well through her future advocacy work.

Congratulations to Marie for her accomplishments and we look forward to what is next on her “bucket list”!