Ryan Roy is an Autism advocate from Saddle Brook, New Jersey. He has advocated for various lobbying and organizing efforts at the local, county and state levels to improve policies and conditions for people with disabilities. In 2017, he served as Grand Marshal of the New Jersey Disability Pride Parade.
There are a lot of people that want to be more involved in advocacy, but maybe don’t know what the right route is - there’s an information gap. You’re very active on social media - on Facebook and Instagram. Talk about all the forms of communication, whether it be traditional mail, email, social media, and what that allows you to do as an advocate.
I always get email updates when its time for me to get involved and make an impact. The council on developmental disabilities has been supplemental. They’ve been around for over 45 years to address problems that have been arising for people with disabilities. You also have those that are part of the independent living movement, and I am actually part of that as well because I believe people with disabilities can live independently on their own. They can contribute to society and make a difference and to inspire people. It’s really important because this is your life. This is no one’s life but your own. There's a lot of things you have to take into consideration. And this is something you have to do.
I know about CQL, the Center for Quality and Leadership, and they actually want people with disabilities to learn how to take control of their life, instead of being patrolled by other people. Because people need to learn how to be independent. Whether it be post-secondary education at a college setting, or working out at the gym, o going for therapy, and being in a day habitation program, and even going for competitive employment. Its individuals and their parents choosing. As long as it benefits everybody.
I'm just trying to keep myself alive and active, and people ask me when I’m going to go for employment. All in due time, when its necessary. And I’m a motivational speaker - I do so much of that. Hopefully - and I pray - that if it really happens to me, it’d be great! And I know I’ve always been involved in the community. I do so much community work - I fought for my town of Saddle Brook to be designated as stigma free. And stigma free is important because it has to do with behavioral and mental health, and I know that having autism spectrum disorder is related to mental health. And things like schizophrenia fit into that as well. One high school teenager, along with a young adult, committed their lives. And its just sad. And it hurts me a lot. My town today is going to be doing a grieving, and talking about how teenagers are supposed to cope, and deal with it, and accept it. And all along with moving on with their lives.
You have no limits. There’s no one who can control you - you set your goals for what you want to accomplish.
I want to talk about something that I’ve heard you talk a lot about, which is transportation. Which is a really big piece of the disability services world for adults. People without certain physical or cognitive disabilities don’t really think about transportation as something life-changing or transformative, but for people with disabilities, transportation is really a key to so many things. Can you talk about your experiences and your advocacy around transportation?
I learned a great deal when I was in the adults with autism day program.
I know its really important to learn how to use it to your advantage. When I was going to Trenton, my mom taught me how to take the train. Even though it was a pain in the butt, and my mom had to take me.
There was an occupational therapist who taught me how to take the bus. I take the bus very fluently. Even going on the train, even going on the northeast corridor, or going into the Raritan Valley line. I know this is something that I do. I even travel to New York myself, and I took the bus down to Port Authority. I make sure that I’m safe, and I did a little venturing on my own. Its kind of a scary feeling, but I know how to manage it myself. I even take cabs!
There's a lot to know when it comes to taking transportation, and getting me from point A to point B. The NJ Tips program, they teach individuals how to access transportation and be on their own. Its a lesson in how they’re supposed to survive. Instead of being stranded on the streets. I even took the plane two times, one to Poland for World Youth Day, and the other one to Oregon when I finished my term in June, for the Learning Community for Person Centered Practices. I do so much work as a motivational speaker, and I do so much inspiration to all educators, professions, and students.
You do great work, and at the Post 21 Club we really appreciate it.