RCAL Press Release: RCAL’s Systems Advocate Nominated for National Advocacy Award

July 7, 2015     FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

The National Council on Independent Living (NCIL), the oldest and largest cross-disability grassroots organization in the nation, is holding its annual conference to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act in Washington DC, beginning July 26, where it will hold several large-scale events including a march on Capitol Hill as well as weeklong workshop sessions and an award ceremony for youth advocates. The conference, entitled “Generation ADA; Rise Up!” is seeking to draw nationwide attention to the progress as well as shortfalls of the ADA in the 25 years since its signing into law in 1990. Keith Gurgui has worked part-time as the Systems Advocate at RCAL for the past four years and has been nominated by NCILs Region II representative Cliff Perez (representing New York and New Jersey) for the regions annual advocacy award. As part of the award, Keith will travel to Washington to attend the conference and to accept the award, as well as participate in meetings with Congress and the march on Capitol Hill.

“I’m extremely honored to be nominated for this award. I’m proud to represent RCAL at the conference. I’m also there to represent all people with disabilities and hope that we can get our message to lawmakers in Washington that though our country has been a leading light in the world for progress there is much more that needs to be done in order to maintain and further that position if we hope to give credence to our promise of access and inclusion for all. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to speak with members of congress and their staff face-to-face for the first time in my life, and I think that’s a testament to NCIL and the opportunities the Americans with Disabilities Act can help provide,” Keith said.

As Systems Advocate, Keith works with a network of advocates across the state to educate local and state policymakers on the consequences and impacts of disability and civil rights policy. He has become especially active in the area of electoral reform where he has recently taken on the role of Co-chair of the Election Reform sub-committee for the New York Association on Independent Living. The subcommittee’s focus is to increase the architectural and programmatic accessibility for all eligible voters during elections as well as for individuals seeking to register for the first time. For the past year or so Keith also began participating on NCIL’s Voting Rights Subcommittee after being requested to take the place of the outgoing member from New York. Keith has been working with members in preparation for the upcoming NCIL conference in order to develop a workshop event during one of their sessions.

Keith particularly enjoys speaking with students including those at his local community college in Ulster County, touching on disability matters and answering questions specific to his own experience and injury. In August 2009 at the age of 18, Keith suffered a spinal cord injury while swimming in Bethany Beach, Delaware. Though a difficult recovery, he receives satisfaction from being able to teach others the lessons he has learned from his experiences and through the work he has done at RCAL.

RCAL is a not-for-profit Independent Living Center founded in 1983 dedicated to serving individuals with disabilities by providing services towards advancing their Independence and inclusion into the community. RCAL has a long tradition of consumer controlled and directed service delivery.

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