Advocate Spotlight: Mark Steidl acts as a voice for those without one–through his Dynavox communication device

Relying on a communication device to speak does not stop Mark from being a fierce advocate for disability rights and for the many individuals across the US that, like him, rely on in-home caregivers.

Pictured: Disability rights advocate Mark Steidl (center) joins the Pennsylvania Homecare Association's Advocacy Day in Harrisburg to tell legislators about what home care means to him. He is pictured here with BAYADA Home Health Care Associate Kimberly Gardner (left) and CEO David Baiada (right).
Pictured: Disability rights advocate Mark Steidl (center) joins the Pennsylvania Homecare Association’s Advocacy Day in Harrisburg to tell legislators about what home care means to him. He is pictured here with BAYADA Home Health Care Associate Kimberly Gardner (left) and CEO David Baiada (right).

 

On May 22, Mark Steidl and his mother Tina joined hundreds of Hearts for Home Care advocates in Harrisburg, PA to express to legislators the importance of home care and of its impact on the thousands of Pennsylvanians that are able to remain safely at home with their families due to in-home services.

Harrisburg isn’t Mark’s first time joining with others to advocate for better policies. In addition to his participation in the Pennsylvania Homecare Association’s (PHA) Advocacy Day, Mark currently actively advocates on behalf of the National Council on Independent Living and the United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania’s “21 and Able project.

Not only is Mark an advocate, but his goal is to complete his Associate’s Degree in Social Work coursework, go on to obtain his bachelor’s degree, and eventually serve in a case management position so that he can continue to help others with disabilities. Mark, who is 23 and diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, uses a Dynavox to communicate. Mark operates the device by using the switches that are affixed to his wheelchair at either side of his head. The Dynavox allows Mark to type out what he wants to say, and then the device’s speakers enable Mark to communicate out loud.

During their time in the state capitol, Mark and his mother met with Senator Jay Costa, Representative Paul Costa, and Representative Ed Gainey, who represents Mark’s district in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. To prepare for the day, Mark used his Dynavox to create a message that he would share with each legislator. Mark found it important to not only advocate for himself, but for his caregivers. In addition to advocating for three key issues that PHA outlined as legislative priorities for the home care industry in Pennsylvania, Mark’s speech included the following:

At home and in the community, I have personal care assistants who help me with various physical things. These assistants are very important to me, as they are to any person who needs one-on-one help, whether people with disability or older people. These aides enable us to live at home and avoid having to go to nursing homes.

“I am advocating today on behalf of home care providers who make it possible for us to have high-quality homecare services… When I think of my priorities as an individual with a disability, my first priority is my health and how it affects my life. But helping people maintain good health should also a priority for society.

I am pleased to be here today because you make decisions that affect people with disabilities and older adults. You have the power to create positive change and to enable people to live good lives!”

When Hearts for Home Care asked Mark to tell us why he advocates, Mark used his Dynavox to tell us:

“I consider myself an advocate for myself and for other people with disabilities. My disability is visible, and many people are likely to underestimate me and not see the person that I am. I have to challenge society’s perception each and every day.

I have to tell people when I first meet them why I use a wheelchair and communication device to talk. I have to explain cerebral palsy. People often wonder how I do school work without the use of my hands, so I have to explain that also.

All of us with disabilities have abilities and accomplishments, but we have to advocate for ourselves in order to create our place in the world.

The efforts of many dynamic leaders, innovators and activists affect our lives every day. The things I do every day would have been impossible 30 or 40 years ago. Before the changes in education laws that occurred in the 1970s, I would have been considered too disabled to attend public school, let alone Community College of Allegheny County. Thirty years ago – before the advent of electronic communication devices, I would not have been able to communicate with you. If I had been born in 1965 instead of 1995, my parents might have been told to send me to an institution instead of raising me at home with all the support I need. Times have really changed. Advocacy and new ways of thinking have created those changes.

But much more needs to be done and much more can be done. We have to keep advocating for the changes and the opportunities we want.”

Mark is an inspiration to many of his peers, and to many who understand the importance of sharing their voice on behalf of others. For ways you can advocate for yourself, your loved ones, and your community at-large, please email advocacy@bayada.com

 

 

Hundreds of Home Care Advocates Attend Pennsylvania Homecare Association’s Annual Advocacy Day

Home care employees, clients, and families participate in Advocacy Day in Harrisburg, PA

Last Tuesday, May 22, more than 200 home care employees, clients, and clients’ family members came together with the Pennsylvania Homecare Association (PHA) for their annual Advocacy Day in Harrisburg, PA. Advocates came from a variety of agencies and backgrounds across the state to discuss the importance of home care with their legislators.

Advocates met with more than 200 legislators to educate them on the need for deemed eligibility to allow more of Pennsylvania’s seniors to remain at home, increasing pay for home care workers, and the importance of maintaining strict hiring standards within the home care industry. Advocates used their passion and first-hand experience to demonstrate the necessity of these initiatives to legislators and made lasting impressions through their stories.

And advocates’ hard work paid off! During PHA’s press conference, Rep. Stan Saylor, Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, stated that he would support a rate increase for Medicaid personal assistance services (PAS). Additionally, PHA has been in touch with staff from the Senate Appropriations and Health Committees about bringing deemed eligibility legislation to the Senate floor for a vote.

Advocacy is a vital part of a democracy and allows for legislators to hear about issues their constituents routinely face from a different perspective. Through BAYADA Home Health Care’s Hearts for Home Care Ambassador Program, BAYADA employees are educated on the issues facing their states, strategies to advocate effectively for home care staff and clients, and the tools necessary to make a lasting impression.

Advocacy is just another way of ensuring the highest quality care is provided to those who need it. Below, please find quotes from some of those who attended this year’s Advocacy Day on why they chose to participate, as well as a reaction from Pennsylvania State Representative Donna Bullock.

 “When I was approached several years ago to be a Hearts for Home Care Ambassador, I was hesitant. There is so much about politics I don’t understand, but what I do believe in is what we do at BAYADA! We have such an amazing opportunity to be the voices for those who don’t have them and if we believe in what we are speaking too, it’s really not that hard! Advocacy, to me, just means I’m standing up for what I believe in and sharing it with those who have the ability to make change.” –PA Hearts for Home Care Ambassador Christine Detweiler

“Advocacy in home care is really about our government representatives seeing the faces and hearing the voices of the people. These interactions help legislaotrs know what our needs are so they can do their best to help my family and the many other families who need a nurse or an aide at home.” –Amy Zemek, Mother of client Alexa D.

“What I found special about attending Advocacy Day in Harrisburg was that the real people we serve every day did not need to rely on anyone else to tell their story. They were allowed to advocate for themselves. We just need to listen more and allow their powerful story to speak loud and clear. Advocacy Days allow those we serve the opportunity to tell their powerful story and for our elected officials to hear and listen to their stories, because those we serve can often advocate for themselves far better than we can.” –Home Care employee Jarod Champeaux

“What is advocacy to me? Advocacy is the look on the faces of the people we serve, the love, the commitment, and the lives we change by the amazing work that we do!” -PA Hearts for Home Care Ambassador Candice Proctor

“Affordable healthcare is a top priority of mine and is critical in safeguarding the well-being of our communities. I share BAYADA’s Home Health Care’s passion and devotion to ensuring anyone who qualifies for home care service receives the proper treatment they need and deserve. I thank them along with the many other advocates for traveling all of the way to Harrisburg to fight for our cause. Together, we can instill change, protect families and achieve our goals.” –State Representative Donna Bullock, 195th District

Thank you to the many home care employees, clients, and families that participated in Advocacy Day!