Matthew Shapiro, Virginia
2021 National APSE Board of Directors At-Large Candidate
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How many years have you been involved in integrated employment/supported employment?
The area(s) that best represents your current position/experience:
Advocate, Employer or Business Owner, Person with a Disability
Describe your history/nature of involvement/interest in integrated employment/supported employment.
Five years ago, my mentor Ed Turner approached me and asked if I would become the new lobbyist for the Virginia APSE chapter. At that point, I knew I wanted to engage in state-level politics in some way but hadn’t found the right pathway. I began shadowing Ed a couple of times a week during that year’s General Assembly session. Ed showed me how to be a lobbyist in Virginia during this time. Also, he suggested I start learning all I could about integrated employment and consider joining the Virginia APSE board. After learning about what competitive and integrated employment was, I knew I could become a voice to help ensure that people with disabilities could be employed in competitive integrated settings and make appropriate wages. I began attending regular VAAPSE board meetings and officially became a board member that same year. After shadowing Ed, a bit longer, I was formally asked four years ago to take over as the organization’s lobbyist moving forward. I am currently in my fourth session in this role, and over the last two years, we have had the success of getting two pieces of legislation through the legislative process. I have also become more active in National APSE activities during this time. I have presented on state policy conference calls and webinars to share with chapter members my strategies for lobbying and making policy change on the state level.
Currently I sit on the public policy subcommittee, where I’ve learned about national policies that affect employment first initiatives. I have immersed myself in this fight. I believe everyone, no matter their disability, should have the opportunity to work for competitive wages in a setting of their choosing. I believe I can bring this same experience and expertise to the National Board.
How will you be able to contribute to the growth and improvement of APSE as an organization?
There are three areas where I believe I can bring significant contributions to the APSE board. First, throughout my career, I have had the privilege of sitting on numerous local, state, and national boards both as a board member and in some cases as the chairperson. I understand how boards are supposed to function. I have also been the decision-maker who helped guide the outcomes for those boards. I believe this experience gives me insight into a board’s inner workings. Additionally, I am never afraid to speak up and provide different perspectives during all board activities. I know these attributes and skills will allow for my success as part of the APSE board.
Second, I think it is vital to have a self-advocate’s perspective as part of all disability boards. This is a perspective that I know I can successfully bring to the APSE board. As a self-advocate, I am continually looking at situations through the lens of how they may affect me directly. I want to make sure that APSE is always considering these perspectives when making crucial decisions. I will always make sure that the self-advocate’s perspective is at the forefront of everything we undertake. I will always fight for other self-advocates.
Lastly, my experience with public policy work will be an asset to the board. I understand the work that goes into getting policies changed and the strategies necessary to change them. I want to put this expertise to work for the board to help get more national policies in place that support competitive integrated employment for all people with disabilities everywhere.
These assets are just a few examples of how I could help the APSE organization grow and thrive if I was to be selected to serve on the board.
Matthew Shapiro is a 2013 graduate of VCU where he completed a Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies degree. Throughout college he participated in several internships including opportunities with The White House, The U.S. Department of Transportation as well as with several Virginia area disability organizations. In 2014, he developed a disability consulting company called 6 Wheels Consulting. It is the goal of 6 Wheels Consulting, LLC to work with businesses of all types to help advance their understanding of disability culture. In his free time, he enjoys learning about politics, watching sports, and hanging out with his dog, VP.