Poetz to Receive National Leadership Award from AUCD

Wed Sep 13 2017
Cliff Poetz at the Minnesota State Capitol.

ICI's Cliff Poetz (pictured at the Minnesota State Capitol) will receive the Leadership in Advocacy Award from the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) during the AUCD 2017 conference in Washington, DC on November 5-8. The award is presented to an outstanding individual or family member who has exhibited exceptional leadership and self-advocacy skills in the area of developmental disabilities. "Cliff has always been a front-edge dreamer of and catalyst for change," wrote Charlie Lakin in his nomination letter to AUCD. "He has spoken out early for change and for those who most badly needed it." Lakin, a longtime associate of Poetz, was director of ICI's Research and Training Center on Community Living, and later, of the federal National Institute for Disability and Rehabilitation Research. 

Poetz's self-advocacy began in 1970 in the large Minneapolis institution where he lived when he co-founded a group called "Telling It Like It Is." The group traveled throughout Minnesota and neighboring states, educating Arc chapters and others about the experiences of people with developmental disabilities living in large institutions and the pain and discrimination of being labeled "retarded." Poetz found a receptive audience. "I was in [Minneapolis] and the city was alive with talk of social change and civil rights," he recalls. His efforts garnered media attention and an invitation from Sen. Edward Kennedy to testify at the Senate hearing on the "Developmental Disabilities Assistance Bill of Rights Act" in 1973. Poetz became an active and effective advocate, helping launch Advocating Change Together in the late 1970s and People First Minnesota in the 1980s. He went on to serve as a board member of numerous organizations and has had advisory roles with a number of foundations and academic centers, including the University of Illinois at Chicago's Institute on Disability and Human Development (UCEDD).

"I only wish my parents could have seen how my life has turned out," he reflects. "They would not believe how I live on my own, how I travel all over the country, how people with impressive titles and jobs know me and listen to me. Self-advocacy has given me wonderful opportunities. I see my involvement in continuing to organize self-advocacy groups as one way that I can help other people have wonderful opportunities of their own.