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Kristen Kelling seated in front of Braille machine smiling at camera

“Disability Advocates not only advocates for you, they help you be better at advocating for yourself.” 

Kristen Kelling knows. She first visited Disability Advocates of Kent County in 2016 after she had graduated from college. At that time, she participated in the Employability class especially enjoying the interactive nature of the sessions. As a person with a visual impairment, Kristen was anxious to know how best to put her college degree to work. Kristen remembered, “In the class, you didn’t just sit and learn; you practiced it and really learned!”   

Shortly after participating in the Employability class, Kristen started volunteering by placing Braille on Disability Advocates’ business cards. After that, she helped our Advocacy team with workshops that covered subjects like transportation and housing issues for persons with disabilities. 

And when you are a great volunteer (so much so that she was named “Volunteer of the Year” in 2017), more assignments come your way! Kristen became a front desk volunteer and then became active with our advocacy efforts such as when she spoke at Disability Advocates’ legislative coffees to ensure that our state representatives and other local elected leaders are fully aware of the challenges faced by and concerns of persons with disabilities along with the solutions she and others proposed. 

When Disability Advocates’ Absolutely Accessible Kent project started rolling through the streets of downtown Grand Rapids, it is no surprise that Kristen became involved. One event had Kristen working with a group of four with disabilities of all kinds and a few design professionals. They walked and rolled from the Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. office to the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel to check the accessibility of the entire hotel. “It was interesting to collaborate with folks with other disabilities.”   

Kristen thoroughly enjoys her work with Disability Advocates (and, like all of us, can’t wait to get back to the office and into the community in 2021!). She says she was a shy young woman when she first came to Disability Advocates and she didn’t know she could advocate for herself. “Disability Advocates gave me the tools for my toolbox to do better for myself.” 

“Give Disability Advocates a call. They will help you or they will know where you can get the help you need,” Kristen advises.

Your financial gifts allow Disability Advocates of Kent County to provide these opportunities and services to persons with disabilities and to work to improve our community’s accessibility for all. As we close out 2020 and look forward to an exciting 2021, we ask you to please consider supporting this important work. Donate here.

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