Paraquad in St. Louis has been awarded a three-year, $150,000 grant for training advocates and self-advocates to provide comprehensive sexuality education to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, a group often excluded from any discussion of human sexuality.

The grant, awarded by the Missouri Developmental Disabilities Council (MODDC), was announced after the Council reviewed grant proposals from disability rights and service organizations both nationally and state-wide. In awarding the grant to Paraquad, the Council said it was seeking a partner with whom it could create a comprehensive and continuing program in which advocates for people with developmental disabilities, and self-advocates, would be trained to teach sexuality education. Those who receive training will go on to train other advocates and self-advocates, keeping the program ongoing and serving the critical need of providing sexuality education to people with developmental disabilities. This peer model design aligns with independent living philosophy by centering people with disabilities. The training, resources, and materials developed for the program will be shared with other advocacy groups throughout the state.

“The Missouri Developmental Disabilities Council is proud to partner with Paraquad for this important work,” says Leigh Anne Haun, a project coordinator at MODDC. “Paraquad’s vast network and robust outreach efforts will allow both urban and rural Missourians to benefit from this program. Their experience delivering high quality programming makes them an idea partner in this work.”

People with developmental disabilities include those with intellectual disabilities, autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, and Down Syndrome. In addition to being devalued as sexual beings by having little or no access to typical sex education programs, people with disabilities in general are disproportionately impacted by all forms of abuse, including sexual assault. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the rate of violent crime, including rape and sexual assault, for people with disabilities is more than three times the rate for those who are not disabled.

Paraquad recently completed its first sexuality education classes in June. During the four-week course, “Sexual Health & Healthy Relationships,” participants learned about different kinds of relationships and knowing appropriate public and private behavior; making responsible decisions about sexual behavior; avoiding sexual exploitation; practicing proper hygiene and avoiding sexually transmitted diseases; understanding reproduction; and practicing safe sex. Paraquad staff created a safe and supportive space in which to teach the classes, which were well-received by participants and their parents.

Paraquad Hires Local Equity and Inclusion Champion for Development and Marketing Position


Paraquad Hires Local Equity and Inclusion Champion for Development and Marketing Position

ST. LOUIS (February 2022) — Paraquad has hired Melissa Brickey as Senior Director of Development and Marketing. Brickey has served for the last two and half years as Executive Director of Diversity Awareness Partnership (DAP).melissa brickey has short blond hair. She is wearing a tan turtlneck sweater and a brown blazer.

While at DAP, Brickey ushered the advancement of DAP’s vision of inclusive communities, where diversity is respected and embraced, and equity is the norm. She is thrilled to remain in the equity and inclusion space. An amputee for almost 30 years, and a lifelong advocate for people with disabilities, Brickey is excited to be an integral part of advocating for equity and inclusion for people with disabilities.

“Paraquad’s driving values of dignity, equity, opportunity, inclusion, and self-determination are deeply meaningful to me on a very personal level. I am so incredibly excited and happy to be a part of a mission that is committed to equity and systemic change,” said Brickey.

Brickey is well acquainted with Paraquad’s mission and values, having served on its Board of Directors and the advisory committee for the Stephen A. Orthwein Center since its early conception.  A daily swimmer, she is very committed to equitable access to sports and athletics for people with disabilities.

“Paraquad unabashedly insists that every voice matters as we strive for an integrated society free of barriers and discrimination where disability is viewed as a natural part of human diversity. I look forward to working closely with the Paraquad team to grow and to amplify the voice of and partner with people with disabilities to live their best lives,” said Brickey.

Brickey has had an extensive career in the non-profit sector, focusing on equity and inclusion.  Prior to her position at DAP, Melissa previously served as the Vice President of Advancement for Rosati-Kain High School, and as a Program Director, Operations Director, and Executive Director for De La Salle, Inc.

“We are so excited for Melissa to join our organization. She is an incredible fit and exemplifies our mission and values. As we continue to work toward making independence accessible, Melissa’s work will be a cornerstone on which we build,” said Aimee Wehmeier, Paraquad President.

About Paraquad: Paraquad is a leading disability services provider in the St. Louis region. Paraquad champions equity and independence for people with disabilities through services, partnerships, education, and advocacy.  As one of the oldest Centers for Independent Living in the United States, Paraquad is a pioneer in furthering opportunities for people with disabilities. More than half of Paraquad staff and board members have a disability

Huge Turnout for Paraquad’s Virtual Medicaid Education Forum


More than 80 disability activists, civic leaders, and community members attended our virtual forum exploring the importance of Medicaid to independent living for people with disabilities.

(Read full release on STLtoday)

Last week, we hosted community forum with disability activists Ellie Stitzer and Gabriella Garbero as part of our ongoing Community Voices for Medicaid initiative aimed at educating Missourians about the importance of Medicaid to the health and well-being of people with disabilities.

Public policy and advocacy specialist Sarah Schwegel moderated the event, which started with Ellie and Gabriella sharing a bit about growing up with a disability, their experiences in school, and their relationships with family, friends, and mentors.  From there, the conversation shifted into the Medicaid application and renewal process, and the program’s central role in keeping the panelists out of nursing homes.  The complications and frustrations people with disabilities often face as they navigate the system, including oppressive income and asset limits, system errors resulting in lost coverage, and low wages that make it hard to find and retain quality personal care attendants (PCAs), were also discussed.  Afterwards, State Representative Sarah Unsicker commented, “I’m glad I went because I learned more about the lives of people with spinal muscular atrophy and hearing personal stories is important to making good policy.”

If you missed this awesome educational opportunity, you can access the recorded webinar here.

In a continuation of our efforts, we’re partnering with Missouri Rural Crisis Center (MRCC) on July 9th to host a Facebook Live Ask Me Anything: Medicaid and Disability. Medicaid Ambassador Tyra Williams will tell her story and answer public questions about how the program makes it possible for her be an active member of her community.

If you would like more information about Paraquad’s Community Voices for Medicaid initiative, please call Sarah Schwegel at 314.289.4277, or email

Gov. Jay Nixon

Nixon Approves Measure to Increase Asset Limits


Gov. Jay Nixon, D-Mo., on Thursday signed into law House Bill 1565, which updates an asset limit measure that is more than 40 years old and allows people with disabilities to retain Medicaid benefits and save for unexpected expenses. Read more

Accessible Health and Wellness Center

Health and Wellness Center Expanding


Paraquad on Tuesday began construction of its new 22,000-square-foot Accessible Health and Wellness Center, which will enable up to 500 people with disabilities to achieve their fitness goals each year. Read more