Monday, October 17, 2011

People First members have to push up our sleeves and work

People First teaches us that we have to push our sleeves up and work as hard as folks without disabilities if not harder. As a self-advocate, I have to be able to answer questions on my own, to work my own jobs and to be able to volunteer as I am able. 
I joined People First in Libby in 1997 after graduating from Libby High School. I wanted to be motivated after high school and to teach people that we work as hard as they do. 
I am the president of our People First and have been senator as well. 
We have 13 members in our club. We like to socialize and do things in our community for different service organizations. 
Kandis Peterson has been our adviser since 2009.
Our People First Chapter is working on two key issues — the R-word and the marriage penalty.
The R-word is the word ‘retard(ed).’ It hurts because it is exclusive. It’s offensive. The R-word is hate speech. When people without disabilities use the “retard” and “retarded” as synonyms for “dumb” or “stupid,” it only reinforces painful stereotypes of people with intellectual disabilities being less valued members of humanity.  
Like other chapters in Montana, we are also working to end the marriage penalty. Many people with disabilities live on a $637/month federal SSI benefit, an amount that is about 75 percent of the poverty level. When two unmarried SSI recipients live in the same household and share expenses, each continues to receive a full $637/month SSI benefit. However, when two people with disabilities of the opposite sex marry, and one or both receive SSI, their combined benefit as a couple ($956/month) is reduced to 75 percent of the total of their two individual benefits ($637/mo + $637/mo = $1274/month).
As a result, SSI recipients with disabilities who wish to marry like their typical peers, in accordance with social convention and/or their faith, hesitate to do so, or choose not to marry at all rather than risk the loss of precious dollars needed for basic food and shelter, as well as for disability related expenses.
In Libby we have to be creative in raising money, because everyone in this community tries to do fundraisers. Ours are always different. One time we did a car wash/rummage sale. We recently sold Dala horses for Nordicfest. A Dala horse is a handcarved and painted horse that has become a symbol of authentic Swedish handicraft. 
Besides People First, I also belong to Kiwanis Aktion Club, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and Special Olympics. I compete in basketball and bowling. I have won tons of medals. 
I was born Jason Gale Mobley on Jan. 25, 1979, in Yakima, Wash. My parents are Lura and Bill Inama. Bill is my step-dad. He has played a huge role in my life. My mother and I have the same birthday.
I have a sister and a brother, Monica and Michael. Monica lives in Libby. Michael lives in Georgia. I see Monica the most often. I am a proud uncle to her four children, Tamerak, Tianna, Cassidy and Lexie. 
My favorite TV show is Walker Texas Ranger. My favorite food is pizza.
I especially admire the church congregation that helped our family during my recent bout with cancer. They were very kind to help us, both financially and spiritually. 
I am self-employed. You can see me mowing lawns in the summer and shoveling snow in the winter. I like to work hard in my community. People praise my work a lot.
Read my People First column in Apostrophe at:

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