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.

2021 St. Louis City Mayoral Election


St. Louis City’s 2121 Mayoral Election is just around the corner!

On March 2nd four candidates will be on the primary ballot; the two winners will run against each other in the April 6th General Election.
The candidates and their top priorities are listed below. More information can be found on each individual’s website.

Lewis Reed

  • Reduce crime and gun violence
  • Support workforce development, small businesses, and job growth
  • Protect homeowners at risk of foreclosure
  • Increase government transparency
  • Protect the environment
  • Protect St. Louis’ unique neighborhoods


  • Committed to equity and inclusion
  • COVID-19 Recovery will be two pronged and focus on the economy and preparedness for future health crisis
  • Community first public safety plan
  • Modernizing City policies and procedures
  • Address income inequality
  • Encourage development in North and South City
  • Champion issues relating to children, youth, and families


  • Violence reduction with a 10 step data driven plan
  • Strengthen St. Louis School system
  • Against Airport privatization
  • Center racial equity
  • Revitalize neighborhoods and reduce vacant property
  • Run City government efficiently and professionally
  • COVID-19 Recovery
  • Economic Development


  • Strengthen public safety by reducing violent crime and improving PR
  • Send more resources to schools
  • Economic Development by reducing violent crime and welcoming businesses
  • Infrastructure development
  • Thoughtful police reform

For information on how to vote in the Municipal Elections visit the St. Louis City Primary Muncipal Election webpage.

Consumer Directed Services Day of Action – February 3, 2021


Your advocacy is needed this Wednesday, February 3rd!

The Missouri House Budget Committee is busy developing our state’s FY2022 budget and we must let them know how important the Consumer Directed Services (CDS) and other personal care programs are to Missourians with disabilities.

We are asking advocates across the state to reach out to House Budget Chair Smith and Vice-Chair Deaton to ask them to include additional funding for CDS providers so Missourians with disabilities and seniors can continue to receive quality personal care services in their own homes and their attendants can receive a living wage for the critical work they do.

Here is how you can reach the legislators making these important budget decisions:

Committee Member Name Twitter Phone Email
Rep. Cody Smith (R) – Chair @cody4mo
Rep. Dirk Deaton (R) – Vice-Chair @dirkedeaton


Here are some sample messages you can use:

Sample Tweet – Consumer:

I use CDS to live in my community. My attendant helps me _______, ___________, & _______. Without them I would not be able to live in my own home or work, and my attendant deserves a living wage. Please increase provider rates.

Sample Tweet – Attendant:

I am an attendant through CDS. I help the individual I work for ______, _______, & _________. I love my job, but I could make more money working less hours at target. Please increase provider rates so I can earn a living wage.

Sample Tweet – Loved One:

Someone I love uses CDS to live independently in their home. I worry about their health & safety if they do not have access to these services. I can not quit my job to help them; please increase the provider rates so they can live in their home.

Sample Email/Phone Script – Consumer:

Good afternoon, Representative:

My name is _____________ and I live in _______________. I am a person with _____disability and I use Consumer Directed Services to live in my home and participate in my community. Without CDS I would not be able to be independent, and I would have to live in a nursing home, which I do not want to do. Please increase the provider rate so that I can continue to live independently. As minimum wage continues to increase it makes it harder for me to keep attendants, as they can earn more money working at Target or Walmart. Please increase the provider rate so that I can continue to receive CDS, live in my home, and pay attendants a living wage.



Sample Email/Phone Script – Attendant

Good afternoon, Representative:

My name is _____________ and I live in _______________. I am a personal care attendant for a person with a significant disability. I assist them with activities of daily living such as using the restroom, bathing, getting dressed and eating meals, among other things. Without personal care attendant services the individual I assist would not be able to live in the community. It is crucial that the provider rate is increased so attendants can be paid a living wage.



Sample Email/Phone Script – Loved One

Good afternoon, Representative:

My name is _______ and I live in ___________. My loved one has a significant disability uses Consumer Directed Services to live independently in the community. I can not afford to quit my job to help them if they do not have an attendant. Please increase the provider rate so that my loved one is able to pay a living wage and continue living in the community.



Missourians with disabilities want to remain independent in their own homes and our state lawmakers need to prioritize this funding.  Let them know how you feel!

If you need any additional information or have questions please contact Sarah Schwegel at Paraquad (314-289-4277 or

Youth to Adult Medicaid Transition Summit


On November 17th, Paraquad hosted a virtual summit to discuss the transition from youth to adult Medicaid services for people with disabilities.  This transition can be challenging and daunting for new college students or young adults entering the workforce. This event provided parents, educators, and students with the information and resources to navigate this change.

Hosts Briana Conley and Sarah Schwegel from Paraquad’s Public Policy and Advocacy department welcomed over 100 attendees and 14 speakers from across the St. Louis area, many of whom offered advice and shared their personal experiences with making the jump from youth to adult Medicaid services. The all-day event was open to the public and featured experts from Paraquad, the Special School District of St. Louis, St. Louis University, Metro Transit, and more. Attendees learned about the application process for adult Medicaid services, supplemental waivers available to people with disabilities, reasonable accommodations for college students with disabilities, transportation services for people with disabilities, and job placement services for recent high school or college graduates. Sarah Schwegel and Raven McFadden of Paraquad shared their experiences as college students transitioning to adult Medicaid services and living independently on campus.

Attendees received an informational packet with resources and additional information about Medicaid and the various services available to young adults with disabilities and their parents to ensure a smooth transition.

Voter Education


Paraquad’s Public Policy & Advocacy Department has been busy spreading the word across the state about how and why to make sure everyone is able to vote and be heard this November.  If you haven’t had the chance to attend one of our trainings, no worries!  Public Policy & Advocacy Specialist Sarah Schwegel recorded a training to share with you.

Follow the link below to watch the video, and feel free to email with any questions!

Breaking Down Barriers: Ensuring People with Disabilities Can Exercise Their Right to VOTE

If you would like to attend a live presentation, check out our schedule, or contact us to schedule an event for your organization or group!

Social Movements: An Introduction


2020 has been a rough year. There is a global pandemic, communities are hurting, people are dying, and everything in the news is bleak. While what is happening today may seem hopeless, nationwide protests aren’t necessarily bad; they can invoke massive social change. During times of civil unrest, like we are experiencing now, we can look to other social movements, not only for comfort–to know what tactics have created change in the past but also for a framework for how to act and how to have cross-movement solidarity.

In this blog series, we will examine the intersectionality of four major movements: Civil Rights in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Second-Wave Feminism, LGBTQIA+ Pride, and Disability Rights. None of these movements would have been successful without the support of other movements and multiply marginalized (having more than one minority identity) people.

Before we can dive into the history of social movements to understand how cross-movement solidarity and being aware of intersectionality is crucial to any movement’s success, we need to understand what intersectionality is. As a concept, intersectionality is not new; in fact, Maria W. Stewart alluded to the idea of intersectionality in the 1830s. The term itself was coined by Kimberle Crenshaw in 1989. It is defined as “the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender, as they apply to a given individual or group regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage”. This definition is complicated and very academic. Another way to conceptualize intersectionality is to list out how you identify yourself and think about what identities might cause you to be discriminated against or oppressed. A white, middle-class, nondisabled man in his 40s is likely going to experience less discrimination than a 70-year-old Black woman who has a visible disability and is living in poverty. Folks who have intersecting identities are more likely to experience discrimination than those without. For example, a Black woman may experience discrimination in employment in companies where a Black man or a white woman world not.

Our identities make up how we interact with the world and how the world interacts with us. Massive social movements have been necessary to ensure equality for oppressed people for a long time (early settlers came to America to escape religious oppression). What our country is experiencing now is not new, and has a proven record of change, although slow and incremental. Take a moment to reflect on the Disability Rights Movement (which we will examine in a future post): the Rehabilitation Act was passed in 1973, section 504 was not enforced until 1977, and it took a 24-day sit-in to get that done; then ADA was not signed until 1990 after a number of other protests and a crawl up the capitol steps. Reform does not happen fast. Through examining past social movements, including our own, we can learn to be better allies and further rights of all people.

2021-2023 State Plan for Independent Living (SPIL)


Authorized under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2015, the State Plan for Independent Living (SPIL) is a three-year plan developed by the Missouri Statewide Independent Living Council (MOSILC). The plan issues guidance for the state to achieve the mission of ensuring individuals with a disability in Missouri can live independently and participate in the community as they choose. Centers for Independent Living (CILs) are primarily responsible for implementing the mission of the SPIL; however, other agencies that serve people with disabilities are expected to implement the plan as well.

There are four specific goals, each with measurable action steps outlined to fulfill the mission of independent living for people with disabilities in Missouri.

The first goal is community integration across housing, employment, and transportation. To achieve the housing portion of this goal, CILs will use educational materials to influence housing authorities to encourage universal design. CILs and other stakeholders, such as people with disabilities, will advocate for and take an active role in developing policies ensuring access to affordable and accessible housing. The second part of this goal calls for CILs and other agencies dedicated to independent living to increase competitive integrated employment. To do this, CIL staff will sit on local boards and commissions, learn about work incentives through webinars/online classes, educate employers and consumers about work incentives, and facilitate Vocational Rehabilitation programs such as Summer Work Experience and Pre-ETS. To meet the goal of community integration through transportation, CILs will increase awareness of existing systems and make sure information is accessible, influence transit planning by serving on boards and commissions, and work to increase the number of consumers who use transit services.

The second goal is to stimulate civic engagement through self-advocacy, voter registration, and encouraging advocates to serve on boards and commissions. CILs will educate people with disabilities on the importance of civic engagement and self-advocacy and prepare advocates to sit on boards, committees, and commissions. In addition, CILs will educate policymakers about the importance of disability policy issues by hosting voter forums and advocacy days. Finally, CILs will assist election commissions with ADA compliance.

The third goal is to ensure emergency preparedness by making sure consumers have access to resources during emergencies and that people with disabilities are included in disaster planning and emergency management. People with disabilities are at high risk of being negatively affected by disasters and must be included in emergency preparedness. CILs are to make an emergency plan and share accessible information about disasters with their consumers. CIL staff needs to encourage participants to have their own emergency plans. CILs and other organizations need to collaborate to ensure emergency plans are inclusive of people with disabilities.

The fourth goal is to grow the Statewide Independent Living Council’s (SILC) capacity to support more people with disabilities in Missouri. To increase the SILC’s capacity, resources will need to be obtained and developed so that dedicated staff can implement the action plan outlined in the SPIL.

The SILC committee will meet bi-monthly to evaluate the success of the SPIL. Success will be measured in the implementation of time-specific action steps, satisfaction surveys, and program reports from CILs. The committee will create an annual independent living progress report.

While there are 22 Centers for Independent Living in Missouri and no unserved people in our state, the SPIL recognizes the need to continue outreach to underserved populations. These populations include youth, individuals who are Deaf/hard of hearing, veterans, folks with mental health diagnoses, people with intellectual disabilities, individuals who are blind/low vision, and other multiply marginalized people. CILs will make an effort to better serve people in these groups and will outreach to other organizations to make sure that traditionally underserved individuals are able to receive the services they need to be successful in the community.

The full SPIL is available for review here. If you have comments regarding the 2021-2023 SPIL, please submit them to by June 15th.

Action Required: Federal Medical Assistance Percentage Increase Request


Last week, we reported that there were no increases or cuts to Consumer Directed Services providers or Centers for Independent Living in the FY 2021 budget. This is still true; however, providers and CILs will struggle to adequately provide services to people with disabilities without a rate increase.

You can help secure a potential increase by reaching out to members of Congress. Call and email your federal representatives and senators to share the following message with them:

My name is ______, I am a constituent in Missouri. My zip code is _____. I am calling today to ask ______ to work with their colleagues at the federal level to enhance the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP). FMAP Funding may be used as general revenue in Missouri and could help disabled voters maintain crucial services that help them live independently. Without enhanced FMAP disabled constituents could lose services, potentially resulting in costly hospitalizations that could become fatal during a pandemic.
Thank you for your time.

If you use social media, you can share a sentence or two about how important CDS/Paraquad is to you along with the ask “enhance FMAP so I can remain healthy and independent”. Be sure to tag your representatives, senators, and Paraquad so that we can share!

#WeAreEssential Week 4 – The Danger of Institutions


This week we are refocusing our attention on the importance of Home and Community Based Services (HCBS). One of the most important services Centers for Independent Living, like Paraquad, provides is transition services for individuals who are living in nursing homes or other institutions but would like to live independently in the community. COVID-19 is running wild in nursing homes across the country, putting people with significant disabilities and the elderly (who are already at increased risk) in grave danger.

It is crucial for Congress to increase funding to HCBS so that people with disabilities and older adults are able to stay in their homes. At the best of times, Medicaid funded nursing homes and institutions are understaffed and generally unpleasant places to live, not to mention far more expensive than HCBS. During a global pandemic, the negatives of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities are exacerbated; it is difficult to control illness when folks are living in small spaces and employees go from room to room assisting residents. Often people who do not need to be institutionalized become institutionalized due to illness. With increased funding to HCBS people with disabilities and older adults will have the opportunity to remain in their community and stay healthy.

This week we urge you to tell Congress:
• Disabled people in institutions are not disposable; Congress must act now to support our communities. #WeAreEssential
• Coronavirus numbers have increased dramatically in nursing homes and long-term care facilities – over 10,000 deaths. Congress needs to support these workers. #WeAreEssential
• My civil rights and my life will be at stake if I cannot stay in my home during the #coronavirus outbreak. Congress needs to support home and community-based services in coronavirus relief! #WeAreEssential

#WeAreEssential Week 3 – SSI & SSDI #FixTheGlitch


This week, in addition to using #WeAreEssential to talk about HCBS and Paid Family Medical Leave, the disability community is using #FixTheGlitch. We need to ensure that all Americans are able to receive their Recovery Rebate that was included in the CARES Act and that everyone who files taxes and meets the eligibility guidelines will receive.

Many people with disabilities who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), and certain VA benefits are not required to file taxes; therefore, they will not automatically receive payments. The IRS and Social Security Administration worked together to fix the problem for people who receive SSDI, but not SSI or VA benefits. This situation is creating confusion amongst beneficiaries and increasing barriers to stimulus checks, as it is unclear who needs to fill out the IRS non-filer form (best practice is to fill it out if you did not pay taxes in 2018 or do not plan to pay them for 2019).

This week’s asks are focused on the IRS/Treasury, the Social Security Administration (SSA) and Veterans Affairs (VA), as well as Congress:

Sample text to tweet/email the IRS/Treasury, SSA, and VA:

#FixTheGlitch and share data and make these payments automatically. #WeAreEssential

Sample text to tweet/email Congress:

Please tell IRS/Treasury, SSA, and the VA to #FixTheGlitch by sharing data and making stimulus payments automatically, and if they will not, please order Information sharing amongst agencies in the next COVID-19 bill. #WeAreEssential

Don’t forget to tag Paraquad in your social posts so that we can lift up your voice and make sure the disability community is heard!