General Assembly Approves $15.4 Million Increase For DD; Worker Raises Are Assured

By Gina Macris

a photo of the Rhode Island State HouseRhode Island’s developmental disability budget for the next fiscal year includes assurances that a total of $9.1 million in Medicaid money will be spent to raise pay for direct support workers and to begin transforming the state’s system of services for those with intellectual challenges.

Shortly after 1:30 am on Saturday, June 18, The Senate approved total developmental disability funding of $246.2 million beginning July 1 in concurrence with the House vote taken Wednesday. That total, almost all of it state and federal Medicaid funds, is nearly $15.4 million more than the General Assembly approved last year at this time for the current budget, which closes on June 30.

Click here to read the rest of the article on Developmental Disabilities News

RI Monthly Magazine Features Story About People With Disabilities Working In Jobs In RI…”The Tyranny of Low Expectations”

RI monthly cover - October 2015The October Issue of RI Monthly has a featured article entitled “The Tyranny of Low Expectations” written by Associate Editor Casey Nilsson.

“For decades, local agencies segregated people with disabilities and kept them from pursuing real work in the community. The federal government stepped in and last year, the state agreed to make big changes. How far has RI come from the sweatshop scandals of 2013?”

Associate Editor Nilsson takes an in-depth description into civil rights investigations by the federal Department of Justice in RI at the Harold V. Birch School in Providence and at Training Thru Placement, Inc. and other agencies providing services to adults with developmental disabilities. The article looks into the life of web-savvy Nick Garcia, a young man at Birch, who had been segregated from the other mainstream high school students but is now more involved in transition planning and integrated activities.

DDC Council Member Steve Porcelli was visited in his job at Automated Business Solutions in Warwick and he is quoted as saying… “It’s important to like what you are doing, and I always wanted to do something other than piecework. If you’re disabled, you’re often not given the chance to prove yourself. We should have the chance. Even if we cant do it right away, well pick it up.” For over 30 years Steve worked at assembly work at TTP and really wanted to do so much more with his life.

Jeffrey Pete also used to work in a sheltered workshop but he works in a full time receivership position at the Capital Grille and has demonstrated he is an asset to the popular downtown restaurant. When asked about his relationship with his co-workers, Jeff proudly used one word to describe it: “RESPECT.”

A photo Jeffrey Pete“We don’t look at Jeff like he has a handicap. He gets the work done, and well.”

-Chris Phillips, General Manager, Capital Grille

The article mentions the benefits of hiring people with disabilities and how employers and coworkers see the positive contributions of individuals with disabilities. It also describes the changes being implemented in both the educational and adult systems in RI for people with disabilities to have “informed choice” about opportunities for working in jobs in the community, or even for self-employment, like Allyson Dupont, who owns her own graphic design and paper products business.

The Sherlock Center’s Employment Survey for 2015 indicates that the number of people working in sheltered workshops has decreased by 25% in the last two years. The number of people landing new jobs has significantly increased.

Sue Babin, of the Developmental Disabilities Council, says this momentum for change is similar to the deinstitutionalization movement of the 90’s to move hundreds of people with disabilities living in the state institution into the community in group homes. Back then sheltered work was considered a progressive alternative to Ladd Center. “All across the country, it’s been a tradition of folks with disabilities performing work at less than minimum wage and segregating them in workshops. Maybe we don’t need sheltered workshops at all. Maybe people need to just be out in the community like everyone else,” said Babin.

“Despite the earth-shattering shakeups of the past and the uncertainty of the future, one thing is true: Nick, his Birch peers and many more Rhode Islander’s with disabilities have the opportunity to work in jobs they actually like, no assembly required.”

-Casey Nilsson, Associate Editor

Pick up a copy of the October Issue of RI Monthly at local newsstands to read this whole article.

Maureen Gaynor Has Her Own Business and It’s Her Passion for Music and Writing

The Cover of Maureen Gaynor's Autobiography, 'What If Nobody Finds Out Who I Am?'Ever since she was small, Maureen Gaynor, from Smithfield RI, has been enthralled with music. She has recently released her fifth original album Iron Horse. She is self-employed and has worked as a freelance Writer and Musician since 1993.

“One of my favorite shows was the Partridge Family,” Gaynor said. “They had very catchy songs especially to a six year old girl. That’s where my fascination with music began. All of us have ambitions. All of us develop a passion for something early on in our childhoods. My passion was for music.”

At age ten she discovered Billy Joel. In particular the Stranger album, she said it was much different than what she had been listening to.

“I must have listened to ‘The Stranger’ 1,000 times in a year span. And once I saw Billy Joel in 1979, I was completely sold on him.”

She uses a program Kore and Finale which work together to make it able for Gaynor to play music.

The cover of Gaynor's book, 'Always a Place'Besides music, Gaynor has written two books. Her first book was Always a Place, she wrote in 2010.

She has just completed working on another book, her autobiography, “What If Nobody Finds Out Who I Am?” which is now available for purchase at

Her first music album “Live the Beat” was released in 1996.
Five years after college, Gaynor wanted to see what was out there for notations software and she stumbled on a program called Finale.

“I was so engrossed with this particular program because it was the first program I ever tried that allowed me to play more than one note simultaneously,” Gaynor said. “It was incredible.”

Once Gaynor got used to Finale she bought a sound generator with 128 instrument sounds.

a photo of Maureen GaynorShe used her computer to compose music. She uses a notation software program called Finale in conjunction with a sound generator to produce all the instruments. She has written over 40 original compositions.

“We hooked it up to the back of my computer and hooked up some speakers to it,” Gaynor said. “I had sounds other than computer tones. The piano really didn’t sound like a piano compared to what quality of sounds are available today. The tones of the old sound generators are very rudimentary.”

She says she now has internal sounds that she can manipulate.

“I am about to switch to Logic Pro which is a digital audio workstation. I already bought some new speakers and some new sound instruments.”

Gaynor says to overcome any limitations she has, “I just search out for the easiest way to do something and experiment.”

Gaynor designed five out of six of her album covers!Gaynor's five self-designed album covers

She was influenced to write her autobiography by Peter Falk. Falk played the main role in the mystery television film series Columbo. Falk would always send Gaynor Christmas cards before he passed away in 2011.

“I wrote my autobiography,” Gaynor explains, “because I had the ability to do so. And it was just that: I had the ability to do so. I thought given my unique views on life, having a substantial physical disability, but having the ability to get my story out there, it would have been incredibly selfish and irresponsible if I didn’t write it. You can’t talk a good game without putting it out there.”

“When you think that something is out of reach, just sit back and breathe because within time, anything is possible!” says Gaynor.

“Maureen Gaynor is an inspiration, my inspiration. Her autobiography is raw and real and made me take an honest inventory of my own life. Besides wielding a poetic pen, she writes with the courage and insight of a modern-day sage. I read deep into the night, enjoying each personal path she was generous enough to take me on. This book will not only inspire those with disabilities, but has the power to make a positive impact on all who read it. Maureen is a hero and I highly recommend that everyone read her newest literary gift.”
– Steven Manchester, #1 bestselling author, “The Rockin’ Chair and Twelve Months”

Gaynor’s favorite instruments to play are the drums and the piano. You can buy her music or books at

a photo of Maureen Gaynor. find out more at www.maureengaynor.comFor about information about Maureen Gaynor go to:

Article Written by URI Journalism Student Ryan Murray in consultation with the RI Developmental Disabilities Council (RIDDC) Systems Advocacy Committee (SAC) Chairperson and URI Journalism Professor, Celest Martin, and RIDDC Staff, Sue Babin.

Governor Raimondo Signs “ABLE ACT” into RI Law

Governor Raimondo signs the ABLE Act into lawThe “Achieving a Better Life Experience” (ABLE) account program for individuals with disabilities federally recognized investment accounts similar to 529 college savings programs.

See Governor’s Press Release:
For more information on the ABLE Act:

Your Chance to Speak Up: 2015 Public Forums for People with Disabilities

State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations
Public Forums to Identify the Concerns of People with Disabilities and their Families

During the week of the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (signed on July 26th), the Governor’s Commission on Disabilities and many other state and non-profit agencies conduct a weeklong series of open forums to hear the concerns of people with disabilities and their families.

The forums are open for anyone to come in and speak; representatives of the sponsoring agencies will be there to listen. State policy makers and planners want to hear your concerns about current services, unmet needs, and suggestions for improving services and expanding opportunities.

Monday, July 27, 2015 | 3:45 – 5:45  PM

South Providence Library
441 Prairie Avenue

Hosted by Perspectives Corporation

Tuesday, July 28, 2015 | 2 – 4 PM

Warwick Public Library
600 Sandy Lane

Hosted by the Ocean State Center for Independent Living

Wednesday, July 29, 2015 | 4 – 6 PM

Peace Dale Library
1057 Kingstown Rd
Peace Dale

Hosted by National Multiple Sclerosis Society RI Chapter

Wednesday, July 29, 2015 | 4 – 6  PM

Middletown Public Library
700 West Main Rd

Hosted by Opportunities Unlimited For People With Differing Abilities

Thursday, July 30, 2015 | 1:30  – 3:30  PM

Zambarano Unit, Eleanor Slater Hospital
2090 Wallum Lake Rd

Hosted by Zambarano Unit, Eleanor Slater Hospital

Thursday, July 30, 2015 |  4 – 6  PM

Woonsocket Harris Public Library
303 Clinton St

Hosted by RI Department of Health

Friday, July 31, 2015 | 2:45 – 4:45  PM

East Providence Public Library
41 Grove Ave
East Providence

Hosted by RI Statewide Independent Living Council and National Federation of the Blind of RI

Additional information from the governor’s Commission on Disabilities about attending the Forum:

Remarks can be made in person during the forums, faxed to 401-462-0106, e-mailed to, or mailed by August 8th to:

Governor’s Commission on Disabilities
John O’ Pastore Center
41 Cherry Dale Court
Cranston, RI 02920

CART Recorders (real-time captioning) and assistive listening devices will be at all sites, courtesy of the Office of Rehabilitation Services/Assistive Technology Access Partnership. The RI Commission on the Deaf and Hard of Hearing will provide sign language interpreters for each forum.

To request information or accommodation, please call 401-462-0100 or 401-462-0101(tty) in advance; arrangements will be provided at no cost. Language interpreting is available with the Deptartment of Human Serivces and requests can be made to 401-462-2130 in advance.

When making the ADA reservation with RIde to get to and from the public forum, tell the RIde reservationist (1-800-479-6902) that this trip is for the Governor’s Commission’s Public Forums in order to guarantee your return trip, after normal RIde hours of operation. ADA fare is still applicable.

When attending the forum, please use unscented personal care products. Mild fragrances can constitute a toxic exposure for a person with an environmental illness.