Tell us about yourself.
My name is LaToya Blizzard. I am the Director of Finance and Operations for the disAbility Law Center of Virginia. dLCV provides legal aid and advocacy for people with disabilities. Our organization is the state’s protection and advocacy system. I’ve been with the agency for eight years. I’m a native of Chesterfield County and attended Norfolk State University. I started with the agency when it was a state agency known as Virginia Office for Protection and Advocacy. In 2013 we transitioned to become a nonprofit.
What is the focus of your work?
The focus of dLCV is to advance the independence, choice, self-determination of people with disabilities. To protect legal, human, and civil rights. To eliminate abuse, neglect, and discrimination of people with disabilities. Our vision is a Commonwealth free of legal barriers for individuals with disabilities. We work to ensure that people with disabilities have the same quality of life as others. They have the right to work and be active in their communities without physical and legal obstacles. We do a variety of work on behalf of people with disabilities including assistive technology, traumatic brain injury, access to vocational rehab service, voting rights, seclusion and restraint, special education, and guardianship rights. People have a right to know their rights and for those rights to be respected. We want to empower people to be self-advocates and understand their rights and responsibilities. We want to educate the community about ways that we should include people with disabilities
What do you find most rewarding about your work?
The agency works to have major impact within individual lives but also on a systemic level. If feels good to be on the right side of the law every time. Knowing that we’ve given a voice to the voiceless. Giving hope to someone that had no hope. When clients contact us, they’ve been hurt or violated and are frustrated with the rejection and disappointments. Knowing that we helped at least one person have a better quality of life is rewarding.
ABOVE: Sandra shares her story of working with dLCVA
What are some major challenges you have faced and how you handled them?
As most with most nonprofits, funding is always a challenge. We want to do so much, but our funding can only be stretched so far. In recognizing we can’t take every case, we will give every caller at least information and a referral source related to their situation. Another major challenge that we have faced is we are still not very well known. We have placed more efforts on getting out and engaging the community to let them know we are here.
What would someone be surprised to know about your organization?
Someone might be surprised to know that we do exist! However, probably the biggest misconception is that there is a fee for our services.
What interesting initiatives are on the horizon?
Our social media campaign to engage college students to let us know about accessibility issues on their campus. We have a new transportation access project going on where we are surveying accessibility between public transportation and medical providers. This is to ensure that persons with disabilities that use public transit have a clear path of travel to get to necessary health services and providers. We also have a few trainings coming up on our special education manual (Pathways to Special Education) and one on transition services for youth.
Is your organization involved in any exciting collaborations or partnerships?
We regularly collaborate with other disability organizations throughout the state. It is our hope to create partnerships with as many organizations as we can to reach and help as many as we can. In August we will be working with VCIC to provide training on employing people with disabilities. You can find that training here.
Anything else you would like to share?
Just a reminder that people with disabilities are people too. If anyone is interested in learning more about dLCV and how they can aid us in our fight, they can visit our website www.dlcv.org or contact me directly at 804-662-7274 or by email at LaToya.Blizzard@dlcv.org