Cliff Poetz of the College’s Institute on Community Integration will receive the Leadership in Advocacy Award from the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) during the AUCD 2017 conference in Washington, DC on November 5-8. The award is presented to an outstanding individual or family member who has exhibited exceptional leadership and self-advocacy skills in the area of developmental disabilities.
Poetz’s self-advocacy began in 1970. Like many people with developmental disabilities at the time, he lived in a large institution and was labeled “retarded.” But his institution was in Minneapolis and “the city was alive with talk of social change and civil rights,” he recalls. Poetz protested the discrimination, people listened, and the media took notice. He has influenced social change and legislation every since. An active and effective advocate, he helped launch Advocating Change Together in the late 1970s and People First Minnesota in the 1980s. He went on to serve as a board member of numerous organizations and has had advisory roles with a number of foundations and academic centers.
“I only wish my parents could have seen how my life has turned out,” he reflects. “They would not believe how I live on my own, how I travel all over the country, how people with impressive titles and jobs know me and listen to me. Self-advocacy has given me wonderful opportunities. I see my involvement in continuing to organize self-advocacy groups as one way that I can help other people have wonderful opportunities of their own.”