“Thursdays at 2”… Poems to gladden the heart

the cover of 'Thursdays at 2'James Boucher and Susan Raposo, from West Bay Residential Services, Inc., put their heads together and came up with the idea of starting a creative poetry class about 7-8 years ago. It started with a few people coming together to talk about different topics on “Thursdays at 2” and then just expanded!

a photo of Susan RaposoAccording to Susan they put pieces of paper on the wall, picked a Topic for the day and people brainstormed ideas to develop some poetry. It got everyone involved, laughing and having fun! The group even dreamed about the possibility of someday publishing a book of their favorite poems.

And then it happened! Two years ago Susan met Tracey Karner, an author and publisher, from RI, who became very interested in the group. She volunteered her time to help people in the poetry class to really develop their creative talents to publish a book on their best poems. In September 2016 there was a Release Party and book signing at Barrington Books. 66 copies of the book were sold!

The “Thursdays at 2” group has done public readings at The Elephant Tea Room, Kent Regency, Garden City Corner Bakery and other community locations. Last Monday, January 9, 2016 they gave a well-received presentation at the RI Cross Disability Coalition. Thursdays_at_2-03Susan facilitated a process where members of the Coalition developed a poem about “Snow”.

Poet Corrine Charlette told everyone that she really enjoys “Thursdays at 2” because it has helped her to meet people, overcome some shyness and poetry is a lot of FUN!


Cross Disability Coalition Has Developed A Speakers Bureau

the logo for the Speaker's BureauThe Cross Disability Coalition has been working on the development of a Speakers Bureau to provide education/training on various topics to different audiences including people with disabilities, families, advocates, agency administrators and support staff, employers and the public.

“Public Education” and “Leadership Development” are two of the Priority Areas of the Coalition. The other two areas are “Employment” and “Accessibility”.

Coalition staff Tanja Blicker-Ucran, Deanne Gagne and Jack Ringland identified Members who had an interest in the various topic areas. People met and talked about information that would be important to include. Individual Powerpoint presentations with handouts were developed for each topic area (see the flyer below) with support from DDC Staff Sue Babin and Kevin Nerney. Specific Speakers from the Coalition were then identified for each presentation.

The presentation topic areas include:

  • “You Are NOT Alone!” (Bullying)
  • “Life Is Good!” (What does “Independence, Productivity, Integration/Inclusion, and Self-Determination” mean to people with disabilities?)
  • “Employment Can WORK For You!”
  • “Let’s Talk About Money” (Financial Education)
  • “Healthy and Unhealthy Relationships and Keeping Safe”
  • “Understanding My Human Rights”
  • “Invest in Hiring People with Disabilities”
  • “Sexual Abuse Awareness”
  • “Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE Act)” (Tax Free Savings Accounts)
  • Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)
  • Person Centered Planning (“What is Person Centered Planning and HOW Can I Run My Own Meeting?”)

a photo of some members of the speaker's bureau at a presentation with RIDDC Associate Director Kevin Nerney and Special Projects Coordinator Sue BabinThe RI Developmental Disabilities Council (RIDDC) and the Cross Disability Coalition have worked collaboratively to develop this Speakers Bureau. We are very pleased with the presentations and proud of the work completed!

The Council has provided initial funding to support the start-up of the Speakers Bureau and payment to members for presentations made.

For more specific information on any of these topic areas or if you would like to have any of these presentations scheduled for a special event, group, meeting or your agency or organization, contact:

Sue Babin
Special Projects Coordinator, RIDDC

Click here to view the Speaker’s Bureau flyer

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.

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month

NDI Poster: My disability is one part of who I am.

The National Disability Institute (NDI) is celebrating National Disability Employment Awareness Month through its theme campaign “My disability is one part of who I am”. NDI advocates for advancing individual and systems level change to improve employment and economic self-sufficiency outcomes for all people across the spectrum of disability.


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 www.amazon.com.

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 www.amazon.com

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.