HB 144 Commission: Faces of Advocacy
Member Lynn Braker: Advocate
As one of the newest members of the HB 144 Commission known as the Commission on Services and Supports for Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, my eyes have been opened even further and my heart strings stretched beyond measure.
I am the mother of 3-year-old Anderson Braker, who happens to have Down syndrome.
I am Kentucky Ambassador for the National Down Syndrome Society. A resident of Nicholasville, I’m also a business owner – Remedy Staffing of Lexington, which employees thousands of Kentuckians every year.
So I have seen the faces of people in need, people who are not afforded the same rights, and people who despite all their efforts don’t have it easy in life.
Yet, I sat at the first meeting of this Commission with tears running down my face while listening in shock to the story of one mother, pleading for help with her son.
This mother loves her son like every other parent but feels lost, afraid and alone in her current circumstances.
I knew in that moment I was sitting in the right seat.
Those of us on the Commission are appointed by the Governor to represent individuals with disabilities.
We are there to see clearly when and where our citizens, who at times are unable to speak for themselves, need assistance and special programs to afford them the quality of life they deserve.
We need to remind ourselves that we are not in charge of how we are created or why, but that everyone is valuable and has a purpose.
This Commission embodies that idea, and the work it does is needed.
The Commission consists of state departments aiding in the lives of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities as well as service providers, family members, business owners and, most importantly, self-advocates.
To include the very people affected by the actions of the committee makes sense and is so refreshing.
It’s just one more platform for them to show the world that people with disabilities are still beautiful and capable, and make such an amazing difference in all of our lives.
The only way we can represent effectively is to hear the voices of mothers, fathers, caregivers, providers and those with intellectual and developmental disabilities themselves.
For the past three years, my advocacy work has focused on the “Achieving a Better Life Experience Act.”
Along with U.S. Senators and Congressmen of Kentucky, the ABLE ACT has been approved at the federal level. We now need to pass this much-needed bill in Kentucky to enable people with disabilities to earn and save money in a tax free savings account without losing their SSI and Medicaid benefits.
Did you know that the maximum SSI check for a person with Down syndrome in the state of Kentucky at the age of 18 is $733 per month?
If that were a paycheck, it would be equal to making $4.58 per hour.
People collecting this much-needed support cannot survive on it alone. They are not millionaires. Most live in poverty.
My goals for my son, Anderson, are like all other parents.
I want him to live independently and provide for himself.
I want him to go to work every day like I do and contribute to an organization.
I want him to have self pride and be useful.
I want him to feel accomplished and be able to afford more than just the bare necessities in life.
I am extremely proud and honored to serve on the Kentucky Commission on Services and Supports for Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and to be a part of passing an incredibly historic change in the lives of people who are never asking for a hand-out but a hand-up.
Photo: Lynn Braker of Nicholasville, pictured with son, Anderson, 3, and her husband, Tom, is a business owner and member of the Commission.