Myrta Rosa was born in Puerto Rico and immigrated to the United States at the age of 5. Upon her arrival, Myrta moved to Perth Amboy, New Jersey with her parents where she later attended the vocational training program at Perth Amboy High School. Myrta moved to Woodbridge Developmental Center in October 1998 after her parents passed away. Due to her immense grief, Myrta says that she wasn’t herself when she started living at Woodbridge but notes that staff truly helped her through this crisis. While Myrta kept busy by attending computer classes and working at the Boutique Store at Woodbridge DC, Myrta found her true calling as a community advocate through the Human Rights Committee. She felt as though she was the only person at the DC that had a voice as other people couldn’t speak for themselves. As time went on Myrta actively suggested new workshops and other recommendations to improve the quality of life for people living at Woodbridge such as creating a learning center across the street so people could leave the building for the day, installing satellite TV, and bringing people to cash checks at local banks to promote a feeling of independence. Myrta’s role as a self-advocate was solidified after she attended Partners in Policymaking in 2007 through the NJ Council on Developmental Disabilities.
Through her experience at Partners in Policymaking, Myrta realized it was time for her to move on and leave the developmental center. After many trials and tribulations in the search for an agency that would provide her with the life she desired, Myrta moved into a CAU home on June 10, 2010. To highlight some of Myrta’s achievements before and while she has been a member at CAU is characterized by her role as Recording Secretary for Community Access Unlimited Helping Hands Self-Advocacy Group, a consultant for CAI Advocacy Consulting Group, a member of the Monday Morning project, an advocate for the NJ’s Division of Developmental Disabilities and the Elizabeth M. Boggs Center of UMDNJ, and most recently a CAU Board Member since June 2012. Currently, Myrta works part-time at The Chat Center at CAU on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays in which she answers member’s questions as well as providing frequent updates and information about voting, recreation events and more. As a seasoned advocate, Myrta frequently gives presentations on independent living skills for CAU members. Through Helping Hands, Myrta is one of the advocates that partakes in open house sessions held at CAU every Monday in which she interviews potential staff for members.
Although Myrta did not experience abuse and neglect as a resident of Woodbridge Developmental from 1998 to 2010, she says that she saw others being mistreated on a constant basis. It upset Myrta so much that she spoke up and attempted to intervene when she witnessed such acts. This is why Myrta stresses to other advocates that it is extremely important to let your voice be heard. When you advocate for yourself, you let other people know that people with disabilities deserved to be treated like an individual with no disabilities.
Myrta hears lots of talk about the waiting list issue in New Jersey when she attends Olmstead Committee meetings, as it is a growing problem. She says that state governments try to compensate for their inability to serve everyone who requires community-based services by sending people to receive care in other states until they are able to meet their needs. She says that this is troublesome for people with disabilities as it would be for anyone else who has to move back and forth in order to receive services that they are entitled to. Myrta went on the waiting list in 2007 while living at Woodbridge and came off the list in 2010, when she became a member at CAU. Myrta is deeply concerned about Medicaid spending as the federal and state governments are always talking about cutting funding. People with disabilities rely so heavily on Medicaid that if spending decreases, more people will be placed in unstable situations if they cannot receive medication and more. Furthermore, cutting Medicaid spending will only aggravate the waiting list problem.
Adelaide Daskam is from Jersey City, NJ. Adelaide moved around throughout most of her childhood and adolescence in which she attended various schools until her mid-20s. Afterwards, Adelaide moved to North Jersey Developmental Center located in Totowa, New Jersey for five years. Adelaide became one of the first members of CAU after Sidney Blanchard, CAU’s Executive Director, visited her in Totowa. Nowadays, Adelaide has found a place where she is truly comfortable as she lives in Elizabeth with her cat Mama Girl. Since she became a member 33 years ago, Adelaide has held many different jobs. She has worked for an animal shelter, nursery home and a jewelry factory but notes that her favorite job is her current position at CAU as a secretary. She has been working for CAU for the past 15 years and she loves it. Along with job opportunities, Adelaide has held many titles in various advocacy organizations throughout the state of New Jersey. She was the first female President of NJUSA, a former President, first and second Vice President, Financial Secretary, Recording Secretary, and Sergeant-of-Arms of CAU’s Helping Hands Self-Advocacy Group. Currently, Adelaide serves as the Treasurer of Helping Hands. She has received awards from NJUSA, the Jane Miller Award from CAU and is a 2006 graduate of Partners in Policymaking program through the NJ Council on Developmental Disabilities.
When discussing public policy issues as it relates to people with disabilities, the first thing that Adelaide hopes for is to see the day where all institutions are closed and to have her brothers and sisters live freely. She suggests that non-profit organizations that continue to support people with disabilities should fix up homes that are in dire need of revamping in order to get ready for displaced people leaving the institutions. She explains that her experiences at Totowa were psychologically and physically damaging as she was abused while living there. Furthermore, people need to stop violating basic human rights for people with disabilities as people do not ask to live there and are placed in these facilities by mistake. It is important to integrate people with disabilities into the community so they can learn how to be truly independent.
While Adelaide receives services from Medicaid and Medicare, she believes that all people with disabilities are entitled to the assistance it provides. She says that state governments should expand the eligibility requirements so that all types of disabilities are covered underneath these plans. “They [people with disabilities] have a right to have it, regardless of what type they have”. As community-based care for people with disabilities has grown significantly during the past few decades, Adelaide says the waiting lists need to go away as it will allow people receive the supports they need at a faster pace. Adelaide was formerly on the waiting list for approximately 32 years as she was in and out of foster care as a child and moved very frequently as an adult before moving to CAU.