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We are Kids As Self Advocates!

We model leadership and the power of self-advocacy. We are active in our schools, communities, families and places of employment. We share our message with other youth who have disabilities or chronic health conditions, as well as with our friends and peers.

former KASA board member Chad Murphy-Price leading a workshop.

Our activities include:

  • Representing the voice of youth living with disabilities and chronic health conditions by speaking to policy makers at public events and hearings

  • Educating our communities, including students, teachers and administrators at our schools; medical students and physicians; and federally funded cafe and agencies and state programs

  • Serving as advisors to the over 40,000 members of Family Voices across the country and organizations and agengies interested in promoting youth involvement and leadership

Our Theory of Change

In order to make a real difference in our communities and in this country, we work under a Theory of Change. What this means is that we have come up with the change we want to see for youth with disabilities in the U.S. and we have outlined how are working to make that happen. See how this works!

  • The KASA National Advisory Board

We usually have 6-9 young adult and youth leaders
[ages 13-24] on the Advisory Board and as they leave, new people can
apply to join.This is the highest level of KASA project leadership.
The Advisory Board members help create the Annual Operating
Plan, which is a plan that describes the work the KASA project will
do and who will do it,as well as create many of the documents that are on our website and
that we give out to other people and groups.
They also present at conferences and work with other national
and local groups to get young people involved. The KASA Advisory
Board can be a great way to learn how youth can lead a project, and
to gain other advocacy and leadership skills.

The Advisory Board advises policy for the KASA project as a whole, including activities like this website, our newsletter, and meetings.The Advisory Board leads all of the programming for KASA. Advisory Board members are given an opportunity to sharpen their leadership skills. The Advisory Board acts as a valuable resource to the media, professionals and other young adults regarding issues concerning young adults with disabilities.

The KASA National Advisory Board and our members help determine what will be on the website based upon your input and submissions. We hope you will use our website to learn about subjects like advocacy, leadership, health care, education, employment, disability culture, and much more! If there is something you want to learn about that is not on the KASA website, please let us know.

The KASA Board Members

    Hamza Jaka
    Hamza sitting in his wheelchair, holding Ed Roberts Medal of Honor from the California Hall of Fame.
  • Hamza Jaka
    • Age: 22
    • Hometown: Fontana, Wisconsin
    • Years working with KASA: 2007-2014
    • About me: I am a long time self advocate, having worked in local, state and international disability rights for eight years. I graduated from the University of California Berkeley in May 2014. I enjoy learning more about civil rights, and how disability and civil rights mix together. I love studying languages, traveling and exercises and reading, especially Spider-Man


  • Lyndsi Holmes-Wickert
    Lyndsi Holmes-Wickert

    Lyndsi Holmes-Wickert

    • Age: 25
    • From: New York
    • What I am involved in? I am currently a special education teacher and that takes up most of my time! In my free time, I enjoy spending time with my family, including my wonderful husband. I also enjoy reading, playing tennis and softball and traveling.
    • What is my disability? I have spina bifida.
    • What do I hope to contribute to KASA? I hope to be able to share my personal experiences in life. I hope to help kids and young adults become future leaders in their communities and learn advocacy skills. I also hope to be able to help communities to be more disability friendly.


  • Ronald Tasker
    • Age: 16
    • From: North Carolina
    • What I am involved in? In school I am currently not involved in any clubs but I hope to get involved next year. I am very involved in my community, being a part of several mission trips and retreats per year. I love interacting with our youth.
    • What is my disability? At 6 weeks old I was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Luckily my disability isn�t as severe as doctors first thought. I talk at ease, use a manual wheelchair, and walk with a walker regularly. I am involved in water skiing and hope to be involved in rugby next year.
    • What do I hope to contribute to KASA? I hope to bring a fresh perspective. I also hope to help youth by sharing my experiences and giving them tips to succeed.



The KASA National Task Force

  • The national KASA Task Force has 6-9 youth leaders
    [ages 12-18]. The KASA
    Task Force gives advice and opinions to the KASA Advisory Board and
    staff about what information and training youth with disabilities
    need. The Task Force members have the opportunity to help develop
    these materials and also review {look over} what the KASA Advisory
    Board and staff write to make sure it is helpful and clear
    {youth-friendly}. They work together on large projects like reports
    and toolkits on issues they care about. The Task Force members also have lots of opportunities to
    learn. Along with learning from presenters, they are trained in
    advocacy skills and also have opportunities to represent KASA at
    conferences and meetings.Task Force members at the Disabilty Pride Parade

  • Youth on the Task Force get to learn how a project can be led by
    young people with disabilities, with the staff only giving support. 

KASA National Youth Information, Training and Resource Center

What Is the KASA Youth Information, Training and Resource Center?

The KASA project is a project of Family Voices. We have received a grant from the Administration on Developmental Disabilities (US government) to provide information and materials to youth by youth on information that is important for youth to know, in ways that youth want to learn.

KASA believes that young people with disabilities will have control over their own lives and futures. We will do this by informing youth about their rights, providing peer support and training, and changing systems to include us.

How We Get The Work Done

The KASA project is led by a national all-youth National Advisory Board. We also have two staff members. The Center is guided by an all-youth group, the Task Force.

Julie Sipchen is the project director and she oversees the Center as well as all KASA activities. Naomi Ortiz is the project coordinator. She is working full-time to support the Center and the Task Force.

What Does The KASA Task Force Do?

The Youth Information, Training and Resource Center Task Force members give advice and opinions to the KASA Advisory Board and staff about what information and training youth with disabilities need.

How Does This Happen?

The Task Force works with the KASA Advisory Board and KASA project staff. The KASA Advisory Board makes recommendations to the staff about how KASA will do it’s work, what information should be on the website and does the work of putting materials, like tip sheets, together.

The KASA Task Force helps the KASA Advisory Board and staffs by giving advice about what information young people with disabilities need to know. The Task Force members have the opportunity to help develop these materials and will also review {look over} what the KASA Advisory Board and staff write to make sure it is helpful and clear {youth-friendly}. We have one phone call a month to talk about what we need to do and to figure out who is interested in helping with different things.

The Task Force members also have lots of opportunities to learn. They have some training at an in-person meeting as well as opportunities to represent KASA at other conferences and meetings. Youth on the Task Force also get to learn how a project can be led by young people with disabilities, with the staff only giving support.

The Task Force members are:

back to about KASA

Our Theory of Change

Young people with disabilities and special health care needs will have control over their own lives and futures. This will be achieved through:

~ informing youth about their rights ~

~ providing peer support and training ~

~ changing systems to include us ~

KASA’s Guiding Principles:

  • We take risks in our own lives and as an organization. We can take risks because we know we’ll have support and our experiences are showing us that we can do this and be successful.
  • We need to increase the visibility and support for youth with disabilities and special health care needs. We will have enough KASA youth members at adult and youth conferences and meetings in order to be noticed and visible and to provide support to one another.
  • We make it a priority to hire youth with disabilities and special health care needs when we have the opportunity.

KASA’s Mission Statement (what KASA believes the project should focus on)
Kids As Self Advocates (KASA) is a project created by youth with disabilities for youth to educate society about issues concerning youth with a wide spectrum of disabilities and health care needs. KASA believes in supporting self-determination, creating support networks and proactive advocacy for all youth with disabilities in our society.

Our Vision
Our goal is to increase understanding of disability and health care rights as they relate to youth with disabilities and health care needs.

KASA will empower youth to learn how to advocate for themselves and others through better knowledge in areas such as school, health care, technology, and other current issues related to youth.

Through this education youth will start to hold themselves and society responsible for upholding the rights of those with disabilities and health care needs.

Youth with disabilities and health care needs will understand their rights as members of our society, will determine the supports that they need to be independent within communities that are accepting of them as individuals.

back to about KASA

Contact Us!

For general information about KASA, please email us at

Naomi Ortiz, Project Director
(785) 273-3398

Family Voices inc
2340 Alamo SE Ste 102
Albuquerque, NM 87106
Attn: KASA Project

(505) 872-4780

Contact Us!

For general information about KASA, please email us at

Phone (Toll-Free):
(888) 835-5669

(505) 872-4780

Jennifer Thomas, Project Director

Should YOU Join KASA?

There are
many benefits to being part of a national network of youth/young adults
with disabilities and our allies. 

membership is important to KASA. We work to include our members in
meaningful ways in our youth-driven, grass-roots project.

Here are
just a few of the things our members get as being part of KASA—and
membership is FREE for youth. 

Benefits of a lifetime KASA Membership:


Lifetime access (subscription) to our email listserv, full of
opportunities and resources.

Discounts on our reports and manuals.

Access to youth experts on youth leadership and meaningful youth
involvement and/or gain access to youth who can speak at your meetings
and attend your trainings. (See KASA’s “Guide to Presentations and
Technical Assistance” brochure)

Our network features youth and young adult leaders as resource experts
on living in the community, managing our health care, going to school,
advocacy, civil rights, getting a job and much more.

provide information on scholarships, conferences and events around the

Just for Youth:

You have an opportunity to give input into the work we do.

You can have your poetry, art and original articles featured on our

You can be part of a cross-country network advocating to change systems
to include US in decision making.

You can raise your own disability awareness—learn about things you don’t
hear about in other places.


You will have a connection and opportunity to communicate with other
youth in the disability community in a ‘safe’ place in our forums.

spotlight youth from across the nation who are making a difference in
their communities.  You can
get ideas, or you could be next!

  • You can learn about and participate in leadership and speaking

Membership is FREE for youth, $15.00
for parents, $30.00 for professionals and $50.00 for organizations
(sliding fee scale is available to those who need it). This is a one time fee for a lifetime membership!

You can sign up on our website or call/write to KASA at:

3701 San Mateo Blvd. NE, Suite 103
Albuquerque, NM  87110

In Spanish: Beneficios de pertenecer a KASA —
Infórmate acerca de la red de KASA y de cómo puede ayudarte a ti o a algún joven que conozcas.


Meet the KASA Board!

In order to be a TRUE youth organization, we have a National Advisory Board. This Board comes up with the programs and activities for the KASA organization. We work with the Project Director and with the membership to make sure that youth are getting important information in order to make and be involved in educated decisions about their lives. We write some of the pieces that appear on the website and in the mail, we share our experiences and serve as role models for youth with special health care needs around the country. We represent a variety of disabilities, special health care needs, ages, cultures, ideas and perspectives from all around the country!

Our Theory of Change!

In order to make a real difference in our communities and in this country, we work under a Theory of Change. What this means, is that we have come up with the change we want to see for youth with special health care needs and disabilities in the U.S. and we have outlined how are working to make that happen. See our Theory of Change here!

See the KASA Board in Action

Because we are a national network with limited funding, we mostly meet by telephone conference call and through email. As funds allow, we have two face-to-face meetings per year. We use our time together to do specialized training, create and add to our Annual Operating Plan and have fun!! See some pictures!


KASA Board Meeting July 2003

back row:
Naomi, Pete, Mara & Micah

front row:
Maia, Amanda, Mitch & Erin

Erin is explaining something very important!
back row:
Naomi, Micah, Erin & Maia

middle row:
Christina, Mitch & Marlin

front row:
Mara, Amanda & Pete


Micah, Maia & Pete are talking with Naomi

Naomi & Pete are listening very carefully

Micah, Pete & Naomi are waiting (for what?)

Never too young to advocate! Nora, 5 months
back row:
Micah, Pete, Erin, Naomi, Maia, Mara, Lisa (Diana Fund)

front row:
Christina, Mitch, Julie

We decorated these hats during the meeting. Who says you can’t have fun and work hard?


Mara & Christina bonded over a good dinner

Pete’s hair was the subject of much discussion

Mitch (front) is taking notes on Maia’s presentation

Mara, Micah & Janice (Micah’s mom) on the way to dinner. Does Micah know he still has his hat on?

Mitch is traveling to his dinner “icognito”. Or maybe he is hiding from his mom (behind him)?

Emily, Maia & Erin take time for a pose

All that work and we can still be friends!

KASA Board Meeting January 2004

January 8-11, 2004 we had another face-to-face meeting. We met in San Diego, California at the Hyatt Regency Islandia. It was a beautiful hotel and a beautiful setting. Christina Mills set it all up for us and she did a super job. Because we were in sunny San Diego, we had a “beach theme”. We were actually only about a mile from the ocean and we went to a restaurant on the water for dinner Saturday night. On Friday and part of Saturday we had guests do a special training for us. Jason David and Patrisse Cullors, from NCCJ (National Conference of Communities and Justice) helped us build our skills around diversity and cultural awareness. It was a great training with fun and informative exercises. Of course, we also worked hard on our Annual Operating Plan, discussed funding and evaluation and got to know each other better.

We missed Pete-who couldn’t come because of work, Maia-who tried to come but weather would not let her leave Milwaukee and Naomi-who had several previous commitments at home. We welcomes our two newest board members-Jennifer Thomas and Jen Halpert.


Mitch is wearing his lei and is ready to hit the beach

If her smile is any indication, Jennifer T is having a great time so far

Our guest presenters, Jason and Patrisse fit right in with our Group

Jen H is interviewing Mitch to get to know him better

Jennifer T and Emily are thinking about..???

Back: Jennifer T, Micah, Amanda, Jen H

Front: Mitch & Emily

Can Micah have a better smile?
Another special guest, Micah’s friend Illana, treated us to some raps she wrote herself. She was awesome!!

back: Micah, Amanda, Jason, Patrisse, Jennifer T, Julie

Front: Christina, Emily, Mitch

Micah, Christina and Amanda have fun with our scarves.

Who are these masked ladies? Is this a new fundraising strategy?

After two full days of work, we deserve to get out of the hotel!!

Even Nora got into the beach spirit. Nora at 11 months.

It was close to Emily’s birthday so we celebrated. Does it look like she is enjoying her cake?

Jennifer, Christina and TJ enjoy our last evening together by the water

The big question of the night: Did Micah actually go on that ride that is behind him?

Back: Jennifer T, Micah, Amanda, Jen H

Front: Mitch & Emily

KASA Materials

The KASA brochure is available for you to download:

KASA brochure (pdf: 603K)

KASA brochure – front (jpg: 920K)

KASA brochure – back (jpg: 1,112K)

We also have simple, easy to read “hard cards”. This is a series of three brochures, each of which represents one of our three program focus areas.

Peer Support – front (jpg: 653K)

Peer Support – back (jpg: 819K)

Change Systems to Include Us – front (jpg: 529K)

Change Systems to Include Us – back (jpg: 568K)

Learn Your Rights – front (jpg: 461K)

Learn Your Rights – back (jpg: 641K)

If you cannot access any of these through the web, or if you would like to have us mail some of these to you, please e-mail Julie Sipchen at or call her at 773-338-5541.


Scroll down for a listing of the latest issues and demonstrations that may be of interest to folks with special needs and their friends.

Higher Education Act
The Higher Education Act is already an Act, but is being reauthorized. That means, that is it being renegotiated or discussed again to see if it needs to be changed, adapted or discontinued. The voices of young people who are affected by this need to be heard. if you would like to know more about this, please read on.

Hate Crimes – MTV
Click here to find out “What is a Hate Crime” and what you can do about them. Also lists a toll-free number you can call to report hate crimes.

University of Alabama vs. Garrett
In Garrett, the Supreme Court ruled that state employees can no longer sue their employers for money damages under Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The Court held that Congress did not have the constitutional authority to waive the state’s “sovereign immunity,” even if there had been a sufficient record of discrimination, and that the remedies set forth in the ADA far exceeded that which was required to remedy unconstitutional state conduct.

Christina Mills goes to a rally sponsored by ADAPT against a nursing home in Northern California. Christina also gets educated in advocacy, politics and youth movements.

**If you’re concerned about this judicial activism, then join the National Disabled Students Union on April 17th to send a united and powerful message to the Supreme Court that, “The People’s Right to Equality Comes Before the “States’ Right” to Discriminate!”

To find out about “Leave Out” activities near you, go to the NDSU website


Scroll down for resources on taking action or networking on issues.

Contact Congress
The best way to express your concern or support for a pending law (bill or legislation) on a particular issue is to contact your elected representatives. Even if you are not old enough to vote, it’s important to make your voice heard. After all, you will vote some day, right?

The first step is to find out who you representatives are. To do that, you have to know your ZIP code. Follow this link to find out who works for YOU in Congress!

Would you like a sample letter to send to your congressperson? If so, click here and you will find one that you can localize and personalize to your particular issue.

The National Disabled Students Union (NDSU) is a national, cross-disability, student organization. They recognize all disabled people – those with traditionally recognized disabilities and those who have often been left out of the movement – as brothers and sisters, and recognize all students – those who work to learn, whether or not they are at recognized schools – as colleagues.

**They have developed a Media Tool Kit that can be adapted to publicize any issue and is available in a variety of formats (HTML, .PDF, Text Only and MS Word). Also, check out their Advocacy Packet.


Upcoming Events



1. Disability, Narrative and the Law

February 16-17, 2006

Moritz College of Law, Saxbe Auditorium, Columbus, OH

What is the role of personal narrative in effectively advancing the cause of disability rights, whether in individual cases or in arenas of legislation and policy making? This unique public interdisciplinary conference will draw together researchers from law and the humanities to explore how themes of autonomy and dependency, �normal� and �abnormal,� innocence and fault, sameness and difference all play out in legal discussions about disability and in the self-understanding of persons with disabilities. They will also feature outstanding practitioners to analyze how personal experience narratives concerned with disability bear on actual legal practice, how legal arguments get translated back into individuals� accounts of being disabled, and how tensions may arise between the highly individualized, personal experience of disability and the necessity of developing a pragmatic legal definition of disability under relevant statutory and case law.

The conference is being organized collaboratively by the Center for Interdisciplinary Law and Policy Studies at the Moritz College of Law, the Ohio State University Department of English, the Institute for Collaborative Research and Public Humanities, and the office of the OSU ADA Coordinator. It is supported also by grants from the Ohio Statewide Independent Living Council and the Association on Higher Education And Disability.

For more information visit:


2. Disability Policy Collaboration: The 2006 Disability Policy Seminar

February 6-8, 2006

The Capital Hilton Hotel

1001 16th Street, NW (16 and K Streets)

Washington, DC 20036

Disability Policy Seminar participants come to Washington, DC to find out what is really happening in national politics and on policies affecting people with disabilities. For two days, discussions will occur on topics such as: The Medicaid program, Social Security reform and privatization, Medicare prescription drug coverage, Employment, Disability Rights, Housing, Transportation, and Tax Reform. Participants will then spend the third day on Capitol Hill, educating Members of Congress and their staff on these and other issues important to the disability community.

The Disability Policy Collaboration, in cooperation with our seminar partners, continues to bring national leading organizations in field of mental retardation, cerebral palsy, and related disabilities, as well as state and local executives and affiliates, self-advocates, families, providers and others, to our nations capital for three days of intense public policy discussions/meetings focused issues affecting people with disabilities.

For more information, please go to:

or e-mail Richard Price, Director of Communications and Grassroots Advocacy, at:


3. Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Blindness and Low Vision Conference on Aging & Sensory Loss

February 8-10, 2006

Creating Roads to Independence for Persons Aging with Hearing and Vision Loss will be held in Decatur, Georgia. Topics include Housing, Community Integration, Psycho-social Adjustment Issues, Assistive Technology, and Transportation/Travel Issues.

Deadline for registration: January 23, 2006.

The goals of the conference are to help participants:

1. Understand the issues faced by seniors with both hearing and vision loss,

2. Identify the best methods to address these issues, and

3. Locate the resources available to assist persons aging with hearing and vision loss.

For further information, check out the Conference Web site:

or contact Ms. Stacy Butler: Voice: (662) 325-3304; TDD: (662) 325-8693, Email:


4. Learning Disabilities Association (Lda) 43rd Annual International Conference

February 26 to March 1, 2006

Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront Hotel

Jacksonville, FL


Is Anybody Listening?

Students with Disabilities Seek to be Heard as the Higher Education Act is Reauthorized

College and graduate students with disabilities are struggling to receive necessary support services in order to achieve the same level of educational and financial aid as our non-disabled peers. KASA (Kids As Self Advocates) is working with other grassroots youth groups are working toward solutions to the obstacles students are facing.

We call on the disability community to recognize that access to higher education is a key concern for many of its members and to focus on removing financial barriers through advocacy & legislation.

Students will not accept these barriers anymore. This summer and fall Congress will debate the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. Time is of the essence. We need your help to illustrate the links between education, independence, and financial barriers – to bring disability issues into this policy discussion while there is time to make a difference.

Please become a leader in this effort: Help us make disability issues a key part of the Higher Education Act reauthorization. Talk with others in the disability and education community about the barriers college and graduate students overcome, their disability-related expenses, and the financial aid process. Request a copy of our Higher Education Act public policy recommendations by e-mailing us. Share them with the advocates, students, and government officials you know.

Write to us with your comments and encourage other students with disabilities to do the same. We will use your feedback to make our voices (youth voices) heard!

It is challenging for many students with disabilities to qualify for financial aid and to pay for support services not provided by their campuses or other agencies. Students write:

“As someone who is hearing impaired I require more time to complete my work than the average student. … All of this extra time takes away my chance to have a job”

“I have received little help from my financial aid office as far as my disabilities are concerned. … I am unable to perform work-study because I lack the stamina needed, so my debt will be substantial – around $100,000 when I graduate. … My financial aid package is not sufficient to cover my medical costs and thus we went on Medicaid to help.”

“Because I couldn’t do a 9 to 5 and go to school full time … I had to have student health insurance. Student health insurance will not cover pre-existing conditions for the first year. Therefore, my expenses for my asthma shot through the roof to about $700/mo.” (Students also describe out-of-pocket expenses for academic tutors, readers, personal attendants, drivers, captioned videos, TTYs, medications, medical travel, rehabilitation services, and assistive technology.)

“I am a college student 1/2-3/4 time. I can’t do much more than that…and I am having a hard time keeping up with my work. I have taken out financial aid loans and am worried how I will pay them back on a fixed income. I also don’t know if when I am finished if I will be able to work”

“The conditional forgiveness of my pre-disabled Perkins Loan is dependent upon me falling below the poverty level in Kentucky for three years. … If my disability causes me to fall below half-time I will not be eligible for Stafford aid.”

“Unfortunately, loans may be the only possibility because many disabled students cannot take a full time load that makes them eligible for grants.”

KASA is a national, grassroots network of youth with special health care needs & disabilities. The KASA project of Family Voices was established to promote and improve the lives of youth with disabilities and chronic health conditions through peer empowerment and advocacy and the development of leadership opportunities. We also encourage youth to become more involved in policy-making and implementation as it relates to their health care, employment, education and other issues.

Our project is designed for youth and young adults with chronic health conditions &/or disabilities, their friends and siblings, who wish to learn more about the disability movement, health care advocacy and management, employment strategies and opportunities and the development of a national network of teens dedicated to peer education, leadership and empowerment.



We are teens and young adults with disabilities speaking out. KASA knows youth can make choices and advocate for themselves if they have the information and support they need. Some of us may not have disabilities, but maybe a friend, brother or sister does and we care about them and want to learn more about how to support the disability community. So, read up, join in and pass it on!

Who we are:

KASA believes young people with disabilities will have control over their own lives and futures. We help this happen by teaching youth about their rights, giving peer support and training, and changing the systems that affect our lives to include us. We represent the voice of youth living with disabilities and chronic health conditions by speaking at public events, hearings, to governors and with other policy makers. We also educate medical students and physicians, and fellow students at our schools. We serve as youth advisors to many Family Voices activities at the state and national levels.

What we do:

We model leadership and the power of self-advocacy. We are active in our schools, communities, families and, in some cases, places of employment. We are proud to be who we are. We share our message with other youth who have disabilities or chronic health conditions, and with our friends and peers.

Among our programs:

The National Advisory Board of KASA advises policy for the KASA project as a whole, including activities like the website, newsletter, and possible meetings. This Board serves several purposes: it leads the programming for KASA; it provides an opportunity for youth to sharpen their leadership skills; and it is a valuable resource to the media, professionals and other young adults regarding issues concerning young adults with disabilities.
The KASA Task Force is our peer mentoring group of younger youth who receive training and guide KASA to make sure all we do is youth friendly and accessible.

The Website:

The website for KASA,, is a place where you and your friends can go to learn about subjects like: advocacy, leadership, health care, education, employment, disability history and pride, and much, much more! The KASA Board and our members help determine what will be on the website based upon your input and submissions. We want to hear from you!


Membership is FREE for youth, $15.00 for parents, $30.00 for professionals and $50.00 for organizations [sliding fee scale/lower membership prices are available to those who need it].  You can join by sending us your information in any of the following ways:

  • Send a letter with your name, address, phone number, and email address (if you have one) to: KASA/Family Voices, 3701 San Mateo Blvd. NE, Suite 103, Albuquerque, NM 87110,
  • Email your information to,
  • Call us at (207) 458-1009,
  • Fax your information to (505) 872-4780,
  • Fill out the online Membership Form below:
Your Name:




Zip Code:


Are you a:

Parent / Family Member ($15 membership fee*)

Professional ($30 membership fee*)

Youth with a disability (free!)

*one time fee
Note: sliding fee scale/lower membership prices are available to those who need it

Would you like a response by (check one)
regular mail
no response needed



Teen eager to cast first vote

Written by LARA MOSSA , Of The Oakland Press


Huntington Woods resident Micah Fialka-Feldman, 18, will vote Tuesday in his first election. With him are his parents, Rich Feldman and Janice Flalka Oakland Press photo/LARA MOSSA

November 3, 2002

Stepping into the voting booth Tuesday will mean more to Micah Fialka-Feldman than a pit stop between school and home. For the 18-year-old Huntington Woods resident, it will be a rite of passage. Fialka-Feldman, a senior at Berkley High School, has a developmental disability that makes it difficult for him to read and write, but that has not stopped him from becoming involved in politics and following important issues.

He has been looking forward to his first trip to the polls for a long time

Declaring himself proudly as a Democrat, Fialka-Feldman said he has passed out campaign literature for gubernatorial candidate Jennifer Granholm and other party members. He follows political issues on the Internet with special software that reads text to him.

Wearing a red, white and blue tie with donkeys on it, Fialka-Feldman said he plans to vote for Granholm, along with Proposal K for arts and parks.

“I hope (Granholm) wins. I think it’s a close race,” he said. “I think she will help education. I think she’ll be a good governor who will pass good issues and fight for education and families.”

He also said he plans to vote against Proposal 1, which would eliminate straight-party voting, because he thinks it would cause longer lines at the polls, but he is weighing the strengths of other proposals.

Fialka-Feldman talked politics over brunch Sunday at a party his parents threw to celebrate his first voting experience. Friends and family joined Janice Fialka and Rich Feldman, who also have been political activists, in congratulating their son and cultivating his interest.

State representative candidate Andy Meisner of Ferndale stopped by to show support.

The youth is “a little bit of a legend around here,” said Meisner, a Democrat, who met the Fialka-Feldman family at political events. “I think he’s an incredible person. The thing what’s so moving about him is his passion for social justice.”

The young man with a bright smile stumps for his own cause. Micah Fialka-Feldman said he benefits from inclusion in traditional education classes. Since the second grade, he has participated in regular classes with the help of paraprofessionals and even a high school peer.

“It helps me make new friends,” he said. “It’s fun being with kids who don’t have special needs. We can talk and hang out after school.”

This year, Fialka-Feldman gave a presentation on the peer tutoring program with his peer, Oliver Hersey, a 2001 graduate, at the West Michigan Inclusive Education Conference in Grand Rapids.

Fialka-Feldman has “always had an interest in world affairs, how to make things better for people. He’s a very caring and sensitive person,” said Jill England, an inclusive education specialist who works with the teen. “He’s received a broad, rich education by attending classes with his peers. His teachers have always had high expectations, and he always lives up to them.”

His sister, Emma, 14, had the chance to share her brother’s story at a political rally in Detroit, where she described him as a “political junkie” in her speech to introduce Granholm.

For two years, Fialka-Feldman has been a board member for Kids As Self Advocates, a national youth group for people with disabilities, formed to educate government officials and policy-makers and promote health care issues. Fialka-Feldman participates through conference calls and annual meetings. He plans to attend his third board meeting in Chicago next year. He also participated in a Michigan Youth Leadership Forum for students with disabilities last year and a National Youth Leadership Forum in Washington, D.C. He visited state Rep. Gilda Jacobs in Lansing and met Tipper Gore.

“It’s incredible. He has grown into a very self-confident young man,” said Barbara Cardinal of Taylor, an advocate for people with disabilities. “People have believed in him and helped him believe in himself. Through all of that, he can speak out.”

Fialka-Feldman participates in cross country and track at his high school and is investigating colleges, where he plans to study politics. As he looks toward the future, he continues to give a thumbs up to Democratic causes.

“I’m proud I’m able to vote for the first time,” he said. “I think I will be a good U.S. citizen.”

©The Oakland Press 2002

Micah’s first vote was also covered by the weekly, Detroit Jewish News. Read that article here.



CRIMES–from mtv

Current federal law allows federal prosecution of hate crimes based on the victim’s race, color, religion or national origin, and does NOT cover crimes based on the victim’s gender, sexual orientation or disability. In a recent national poll, MTV found that 82% of young adults believe that the law should cover ALL people who are targeted simply because of who they are.

If you agree, send a message to your elected officials telling them to pass comprehensive federal hate crimes legislation now.

First let President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney know how you feel, then make your voice heard by your members of Congress.

Someone commits a hate crime every hour.

Eight blacks, three whites, three gays, three Jews and one Latino become hate crime victims very day.

A cross is burned every week.

What can you do? More than you think. 89 percent of young adults in America believe that hate crime is a serious problem. Give the government a piece of your mind by sending a message to your President-Elect and Congress.

If you or someone you care about has been a victim of a hate crime, call the National Center for Victims of Crime toll free at 1-800-FYI-CALL to find out how you can get help in your area.


Take Our Survey!


When we talk about �standardized testing� we are talking about tests that you take where your score is based on how everyone else scored, not by a grade that the teacher gives you. Some examples of this are the SAT�s, tests given by the state to see where you rank compared to other people in your grade, in your state, or some tests that are given to seniors to graduate. You can use other experiences of taking tests to answer the questions, but if you can, please try to talk about your experiences with taking standardized tests.

If you cannot answer a question, or do not have an example, that�s ok. Share what you can.

If you need support or have questions, please call Naomi at 520-881-4672 or email at:

Introduction to the issue � standardized testing

1. Does your state require, say that you must, pass a test to graduate from high school?

2. What do you think about standardized testing as it relates to youth with disabilities?

Why this is an issue for youth with disabilities

3. What do you think the problems with standardized testing are?

4. What is hard about taking standardized tests?

5. Talk about a time when you did not get the accommodations you needed to take a test.

6. Describe a time when you tried to get accommodations you needed and they couldn�t provide it or the person responsible was not able to meet the accommodation needs.

7. When you did receive some kind of accommodation to take a test, did you have a chance to explain how it helped, or did not help? Did anyone evaluate [check and see] how it went?

8. Describe how standardized testing makes you feel.

9. How has �No Child Left Behind� affected you?

This paragraph explaining No Child Left Behind is from Andrew. Thanks Andrew!

========No Child Left Behind Summary=========

Signed by George W. Busch the No Child Left Behind act is designed to “bridge the achievement gap” within five years. The government intends to do this by restricting federal funding to schools that do not show improvement. What this means for you is that if your school does not have a plan to bring you, as a disabled person, up to the same level that your fellow classmates are functioning at they will receive less federal money. The bill also provides funding for curtain types of educational methods and allows parents who feel that their child’s school is unsafe or not providing for them to move their child to another public school.

This sounds like a great plan but currently the bill is not funded at all leaving little to no reason for schools to meet its mandates. As a result of this, since States are also responsible, standardized testing has been instituted with cuts in state funding if a school does not show improvement in their test scores. What this means is that law makers think that if a school is making improvements the test grades for third graders, for example, will continue to improve even though different students each year are being tested (this is an example from the State of Missouri).

Solutions, Ideas

10. What can be changed to make taking standardized tests better?

11. Describe some ways you have dealt with taking standardized tests that have worked for you.

12. A time when I got the testing accommodations I needed was when�

13. How did you find out about different kinds of accommodations available to you?

14. What do you want law makers to know about standardized testing?

15. Are there any other ideas or ways you have dealt with testing that might help other youth with disabilities across the country?

16. Anything else you would like to say?

What state do you live in?  

How old are you?  

Please give us your name and e-mail and/or phone number if we can contact you for more information.




Please share these questions with other youth who you know would like to respond!!


KASA Web Survey on Materials

  1. I have used KASA produced materials (if NO, skip to question #7)



  1. I have used materials from (check all that apply)

    Civil rights/ advocacy

    Staying Safe


    Prevention and Recovery



    Sports, Leisure and Recreation

    Dating and Relationships


    Transportation and Getting Around

    Disability History and Culture

  2. I find the materials most useful for (please check one):





    Other (please explain):

  3. I found the following most helpful (please check one)

    Info Sheets

    Fact Sheets

    Other (please explain):


  1. These are the top 2 (TWO) topic areas that have been helpful to me (please check 2 ):

    Civil rights/ advocacy

    Staying Safe


    Prevention and Recovery



    Sports, Leisure and Recreation

    Dating and Relationships


    Transportation and Getting Around

    Disability History and Culture

    Other (please explain):

  1. I have shared KASA resources with the following number of people in the last year (guesstimate, please check best answer):







    Other (Please explain):

  1. I would like to see more info in the following 2 (TWO) topic areas:  (please check 2)

    Civil rights/ advocacy

    Staying Safe


    Prevention and Recovery



    Sports, Leisure and Recreation

    Dating and Relationships


    Transportation and Getting Around

    Disability History and Culture

    Other (please explain):

  1. I have ideas and resources for other materials the KASA can use and/or should develop. Please contact me:

Thank you very much for your help to make KASA a better. More effective project in order to help youth and young adults with disabilities have more control over their lives an futures!!

nyln and kasa

Hi!  We are the National Youth Leadership Network (NYLN) and the Kids As Self-Advocates (KASA) project! 

Kids As Self Advocates (KASA) is a project created by youth with disabilities for youth (ages 13 to 24).  KASA believes young people with disabilities have control over their own lives and futures.  We teach youth about their rights, give peer support, give trainings and work to change the systems that affect our lives.

The National Youth Leadership Network (NYLN) is for young leaders with disabilities (ages 16 to 28).  NYLN helps youth at national, state, and local levels.  Our Governing Board leads the Network.  And our mission is about leadership and education.  We focus on education, employment, and independence. 

We are two national programs for youth with disabilities. We came together to create some documents on important issues to young people. This website is to share these documents with others who also care about these issues.  

Our organizations are different. But we agree on some important things, like:

  • Making sure everyone uses respectful disability language; and
  • Helping people know how to make things accessible.

We have also included information about the other activities and work we do. Please contact us to ask questions, to share ideas, or to work together.  Welcome to this powerful network of youth voices!

Respectful Disability Language: Here’s What’s Up!

Check this out for respectful ways to talk about and with people with disabilities.

( pdf | doc | plain text )

Accessibility and Accommodations:
Making opportunity accessible to all

Check this out for ideas on ways to make activities accessible.

( pdf | doc | plain text )

Document Accessibility Checklist


Check this out to make documents that you share with others accessible.

( pdf | doc | plain text )

More Information about NYLN

Future Directions Agenda:
Check this out to learn about the priorities of young people with disabilities.  It also shares a checklist of tasks that will help with transition.
( pdf | doc | plain text)

NYLN Pamphlet:
Check this out to get a summary of the services through National Youth Leadership Network.
( pdf | doc | plain text)

More Information about KASA

KASA Youth Friendly/Accessible Language
Check out this tip sheet on accessible language, so everyone can be involved.
View Webpage

KASA Opportunities
Check this out for all the ways to get involved in KASA.
Download (word document)

KASA Benefits of Membership
Learn about why you should become a member of KASA
View Webpage

KASA Website One-pager
Check this out to see all the resources KASA has on its website.
View Webpage

KASA How to Include Youth As Leaders Manual Order Form
Order this manual to learn how to bring in youth as leaders to projects, organizations, and Boards.
Download (word document)

National Youth Leadership Network
Portland State University – RRI
PO Box 751; Portland, OR  97207-0751
NYLN is a supported by
portland logo

Kids As Self Advocates
2340 Alamo SE, Ste 102;
Albuquerque, NM  87106
KASA is a project of
fv logo

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