Voting: Your Right & Your Independence

American flags symbolize the importance of the vote voting for independence & self-advocacy among people with disabilities

“Election Night at Rockefeller Plaza” Photo by: Marco Verch, in the Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons


Voting. It’s the right of every American citizen. Voting: It’s your right. Participating in U.S. democracy is also a unique chance to self-advocate and express one’s independence. Both of these are core values at Advancing Opportunities as well; they are at the heart of our mission and credo. All too often, however, people with disabilities find themselves excluded from this critically important process. Fortunately, here in New Jersey, information and resources on voting are available to every individual with a disability.

Voting - Its Your Right

This brochure has information to help New Jersey voters. It was developed by the Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School – Boggs Center, in collaboration with Disability Rights New Jersey and the New Jersey Council on Developmental Disabilities.


Although the November general elections receive the greatest press (and social media) coverage, it is the primary election when the two major parties, the Democrats and Republicans nominate their candidates for the general election in November. These individuals represent a wide variety of views on important issues not only at the national level, but also (and sometimes more important) the state, county, and municipal levels. Information on the positions of the gubernatorial (in New Jersey) and other candidates are available on this special page.


Disability Rights NJ VotingDisability Rights New Jersey is New Jersey’s designated protection and advocacy system for people with disabilities pursuant to federal statutes intended to protect the legal, civil, and human rights of people with disabilities. The organization reminds us that people with a disability have the right to vote independently and in private. In addition, both the polling place and the machines must, by federal and state law, be fully accessible. Poll workers have been trained to offer voters with disabilities the assistance they need, but they cannot enter the voting booth or recommend a candidate. Voters with a disability may also bring a friend, family member, or agency worker to help out.

Although all voters should receive a paper sample ballot, one can also look up this information online at BallotpediaThe Alliance Center for Independence in New Jersey has many other excellent resources on its page should these be needed. General New Jersey voting information is available on the NJ Department of State website.

On Primary Election Day, June 6, 2017, Disability Rights New Jersey will have attorneys available by telephone to answer your questions concerning any disability-related voting problem you might experience. Call 800-922-7233 or e-mail between 7:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. Disability Rights New Jersey is New Jersey’s designated protection and advocacy system for people with disabilities pursuant to federal statutes intended to protect the legal, civil, and human rights of people with disabilities.

I Voted Sticker

Oh, yes, the November general election. The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), “a convener, connector, and catalyst for change, increasing the political and economic power of people with disabilities,” has set up July 17 through 21 as National Disability Voter Registration Week, the focus of its Rev Up! campaign. More information on that and Crip the Vote will be featured in a future article in this space.


Appreciating Men and Women Who Died in Service and Helping Disabled Veterans in New Jersey

honoring veterans who died or were disabled

Graves at Arlington National Cemetery bear silent witness to the sacrifices of our service men and women.

Today, Memorial Day, the Advancing Opportunities team remembers and pays respect to our brave men and women lost in battle. We are ever grateful to them and their families for their sacrifice.

However, other veterans do make it home but sustain lifelong disabilities. For them, there are assistive technology solutions; our team of professionals at the Assistive Technology Center is ready to assist, whether the need is for mobility hardware or augmentative communication—and anything in between.



or other needs, state government agencies right here in New Jersey are ready to help. The New Jersey  Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (NJDMVA) is dedicated to “serving those who served.” The agency has produced the handy New Jersey Veterans’ Benefits Guide. The guide lists clinics throughout the state, provides information on health insurance, and lists regional Vet Centers to assist with benefits. Also critically important is information on assistance with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), an increasingly common disability. Veterans will find organizations that help with employment (including job training), entrepreneurship, training and education, recreation, and transportation, along with specific disabilities. NJDMVA also offers medals and awards in recognition of distinguished service. “I owe you! Veterans, you may be able to receive benefits you’re not even aware of!”

Also worth consulting is the Disabled American Veterans Department of New Jersey. To all who served, along with their families, we thank you!

Rutgers University Offers an Inclusive Setting for Autistic Students

The Rutgers Center for Adult Autism Services offers autistic adults inclusion in a community setting

New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney was on hand this week to meet with the first adult with autism at the Rutgers Center for Adult Autism Services (RCAAS) day center. That program was launched late 2015.

“The Center for Adult Autism Services is working to accomplish something that I think everyone agrees should be our top priority,” said Senator Sweeney in a statement on his website. “It allows adults with autism to live as fulfilling a life as possible. We want everyone, no matter what challenges they face, to reach their fullest potential. This support can make a real difference in their lives.”

Rutgers Center Autism

When the first phase of the program is in full operation, the center will offer up to 60 adults with autism (living off campus) fulfilling university jobs. The effort will supported by Rutgers clinical staff and graduate students. The following (second) phase calls for a residential program for 20 adults with autism. These individuals will work on campus and live alongside Rutgers graduate students in an apartment-style residence. These inclusive settings will offer individuals with autism the satisfaction and learning that come from employment. As such, the program will present Rutgers students with important educational opportunities as well.


The University’s Douglass campus is already host to the Douglass Developmental Disabilities Center. This on-site program for children and teens on the autism spectrum is accessible to graduate and undergraduate students in education and psychology.

Advancing Opportunities applauds efforts in New Jersey to provide people with intellectual and developmental disabilities settings for full participation in society.

Honoring Great Leadership


Mount Rushmore honors presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. Source: Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

We, at Advancing Opportunities, would like to take the time to reflect on the deeds of George Washington and other great presidential leaders.

Leadership takes many forms. Most important, it starts with a vision of what should be and can be. In other words, leadership involves advocacy, standing up for what is right and what will benefit people, especially those who need a voice or assistance expressing it. Fundamental to leadership, what presidents such as George Washington and Abraham Lincoln possessed, is a vision, a compass to guide them – and the people they represent – to righteousness.

Our Most Notable and Favorite Disability Articles for the Week Ending January 20, 2017

At Advancing Opportunities, we excel in providing residential and respite services to people of with all disabilities, along with advocacy and education services for parents and guardians and assistive technology support.  As a leader in the field, we are pleased to share our experience, knowledge, and expertise with the disability community through our social media outlets: Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.  In our Disability and Ability Highlights of the Week column, we will select the best of what we found and shared and present them.  Please click on the titles with embedded links to find the full article.


Though the sun is setting on this old caboose, with bright colors this wonderful artifact bears witness to the technology of an earlier age. It’s owner, Southern Railroad Company of New Jersey still provides local service from Winslow Junction (Gloucester County), where this car was spotted. Photo: Daniel L Berek

Please stop by our website,, and find out all we have to offer. In addition, we are specialists in the area of assistive technology and offer a huge array of services; the Assistive Technology Center is New Jersey’s premier source of information and equipment.


Advancing Opportunities job announcement of the week:

Advancing Opportunities has immediate openings for part-time Direct Support Professionals in residential care programs throughout New Jersey.

dv1954021Candidates will be providing direct care to men and women with disabilities in residential support programs and group home settings. This entails includes supervision and/or assistance with personal care, daily living activities, recreational pursuits, transportation, medical appointments, or any other needs the individuals may have.

  • Job fair: Wednesday, January 25, 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.: Elizabeth YWCA, 1131 E Jersey St, Elizabeth, NJ 07201

If this location or time is not convenient, please visit:



Disability in the news (mostly in New Jersey, the population we serve):

This article explains why employers in NJ should consider hiring workers with disabilities.



For parents of a child with a disability (parenting, special needs):

Here are six tips to help your child with Asperger’s syndrome with social skills.

We thought some parents might be interested in the adaptive and sensory-friendly jeans this small business creates.

Worried about your child’s stimming? Here’s what you can do.


Special education & medical news:

The meaning and importance of executive function are well described in this blog piece.


Advocacy and self-advocacy:

Advocating for your child with ADHD or other learning disabilities at school.


Informative, positive, noteworthy (or all three!):

The Special Olympics has a program, The Unified States of America, to promote inclusion among abilities and ethnicities.



People with a disability in the community (disability rights and acceptance; inclusion):

Reliable self-driving cars are critical to the independence and overall well-being to people with disabilities, according to a new Ruderman Family Foundation white paper.



Disability awareness and appreciation:

Here’s a nice article about why Speechless is the antidote to inspiration porn.

Autism is big. But I am bigger.

Opinion piece: Disability is fundamentally a human concern, transcending politics.


Animals and animal therapy:

Therapy dogs and other pets help people manage their schizophrenia and other mental illnesses.


Here’s a Handy Resource from the Boggs Center


The Boggs Center on Developmental Disabilities, part of the Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, has published a valuable resource for families of a child or other relative with a disability has published a helpful reference, Providing Respite: Supporting People and Families across the Lifespan, available as a fee PDF download. One of the co-sponsors of the booklet, the Family Resource Network, which includes Caregivers of New Jersey, a Service Coordinator.  As a leader in providing a wide range of services for people with disabilities in the state, Advancing Opportunities is ready to assist!


It Is Important to Reflect on Our Work to Continue Serving Our Individuals with Disabilities.


Important to Ask Ourselves…

For those of us who are direct-support professionals, in residential and respite care, at the end of the day, it is important to reflect on our work by asking ourselves the following:

  • How did I help this individual?
  • What did I do to enrich his life?
  • How did I acknowledge her accomplishments?
  • How did I ensure his voice was heard and that he had the opportunity to make his own decisions?

In addition to asking these questions of ourselves to serve others, it is important to document the answers on reports on the progress toward their ISP goals! This last consideration can be critical for an agency to continue to receive funds… to keep on serving their consumers with disabilities.