"About Us" is a series of interviews with accomplished self-advocates in Florida.
Denise Payne has been a self-advocate for over 30 years, including as co-founder of the National Alliance for Accessibility, a compliance tester, and member of FL SAND's Abilities Venti self-advocacy group in Pembroke Pines. She was also a co-trainer for waiver support coordinators on individual cost guidelines with the Department of Children & Families.
Question: When did you start to identify as a self-advocate and why?
Denise: At the age of 18, when I joined local advocacy groups and started to work to make local businesses accessible.
Question: What is your funniest disability related story? Denise: My senior year of high school, when I got recruited for the Army.
Question: What advocacy related issue is of the most significance to you?
Denise: Training support coordinators, working toward improvements in waiver and other services.
Question: Can you share a time when your disability inspired a behavior or comment you found particularly obnoxious?
Denise: A special ed coordinator at my high school refused to give me needed accommodations, which led to me being less included than I should have been.
Question: Can you name a time in which a behavior or comment inspired by your disability made you feel valued or understood? Denise: Not a comment but having the ability to train other individuals with disabilities in self-advocacy and be involved with ADAPT/the self-determination movement.
Question: In 10 years, what would you most like to see change in the lives of persons with disabilities?
Denise: I’d like life to be barrier free, if that’s possible. There are a lot of pitfalls I’ve experienced in my life that I don’t want those behind me to have to go through.
Question: Who or what has most inspired your advocacy journey?
Denise: My parents. Being an adult and having aging older parents has given me perspective on all they did for me.
Question: What unique strengths has your disability given you or contributed to? Denise: Memory. Not being able to transcribe easily has truly strengthened my ability to remember almost anything.
Question: Can you share a product, way to complete a task, or life hack that has made life with a disability easier? Denise: I find that naturally compensating works best for me. I’m not fond of any particular equipment.
Question: If you could pick one song as your theme song, what would you choose?
Denise: "Anything" by Bill Withers
The FSACentral staff would like to thank Denise for taking the time to participate in the interview. Let us know what you think about "About Us" on Facebook! If you know an accomplished self-advocate in Florida you think we should showcase in "About Us," contact us here or via Facebook.