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Malloy Creates Disability Advocate Position

by Hugh McQuaid | Jan 8, 2014 3:56pm
(4) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Health Care

Hugh McQuaid Photo

Jonathan Slifka and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy appointed West Hartford resident Jonathan Slifka to a new cabinet-level position Wednesday as an administration liaison to the state’s disabled community.

As liaison, Slifka will be charged with reaching out to people with disabilities on behalf of the Malloy administration as well as serving as an advocate for the community in coming up with policy recommendations.

Slifka was born with spina bifida and uses a wheelchair. He serves in a number of volunteer positions including as a member of the West Hartford Advisory Commission for Persons with Disabilities and as a tennis coach and counselor at the Ivan Lendl Junior Wheelchair Camp. He is the brother of Scott Slifka, West Hartford’s Democratic mayor.

“Jon certainly knows what it is like to live with a disability and has routinely broken a number of barriers throughout his life,” Malloy said.

Slifka was the first student athlete with a disability in Connecticut to play on a high school tennis team and was the first student with a disability in West Hartford to play little league baseball, Malloy said.

Slifka said he and Malloy “share a bond in that we were both born with a disability.” Malloy worked through physical disabilities as a child and has dyslexia.

Slifka said he struggled throughout his childhood with his identity and often felt identified by his disability.

“It has only been in my adult years that I have become comfortable in my own skin, realizing that I am not my disability, but rather my disability has helped shape who I am and what I have become,” he said.

“You beat me to that category of ‘comfortable in my own skin,’” Malloy said during the press conference. 

However, Malloy has had a somewhat rocky relationship with parts of the disabled community since taking office. His 2011 Thanksgiving Day message drew criticism from some, who said it was insensitive when the governor referred to “fellow residents [who] are afflicted with handicaps” which “leave them hovering on the edges of our society.”

He also was at odds with some within the disabled community after he signed an executive order starting a process for personal care assistants to unionize and collectively bargain. Advocates questioned whether the assistants wanted to unionize and criticized a working group Malloy created to guide the process because it did not include anyone with a disability.

Slifka said he believed people were frustrated with how the process has played out since.

“In terms of how it’s playing out in the disabled community, it’s certainly a source of frustration at the very least. I just hope to be able to be helpful in some way to alleviate that frustration,” he said.

The governor said “change is hard.” He said he believed anxiety over the change resulted from a perceived conflict between the rights of workers and the people employing them.

“What we are attempting to do is find the right balance between the rights of workers to make a fair wage — presumably with a level of benefits and security — and a right of a person with disabilities to play an active role in the management of that individual,” Malloy said.

Slifka will earn $70,000 a year and will begin work this Friday. He said his first goal will be to reach out to people at state agencies and those in the disabled community, and then “attempt to bridge the gap.”

Malloy said he also expects Slifka to focus on recommending policy to help foster jobs for people with disabilities.

“If you’re asking me what my focus is, to the greatest extent possible it is to make sure that people with forms of disability — physical, emotional, intellectual — have the greatest opportunity in our state and that there’s somebody at the table . . . who has the voice to speak to that issue,” he said.

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(4) Comments

posted by: user8288 | January 8, 2014  8:10pm

This is great news!  Now let’s get services for children/individuals with autism!  They are “special needs” as well and NEED attention!

posted by: Stephen Mendelsohn | January 9, 2014  1:03am

This is a step in the right direction, but why did Governor Malloy wait until an election year to reach out to the disability community?  Having alienated us with the forced unionization executive orders, the 2011 Thanksgiving proclamation, the attempt to gut the Office of Protection and Advocacy by folding it into CHRO, and last year’s budget proposal to eliminate funding for the state’s five Centers for Independent Living, one wonders whether Governor Malloy has had a genuine change of heart, or whether this is an election year gimmick designed to get people with disabilities to vote for him instead of his Republican opponent come November.

We are looking for action on issues that affect us deeply, including helping to defeat assisted suicide legislation that will likely be up for debate for the next several years.  Governor Malloy needs to follow through and demonstrate that he truly has changed.  Yes, change is hard, but it is Governor Malloy who is in need of that hard change.  Our lives and our liberty are not negotiable.

Our homes, not unionized nursing homes—and don’t let SEIU turn our homes into nursing homes. Nothing About Us Without Us!

posted by: thejen | January 10, 2014  6:09pm

And in an election year no less.

I’m still not going to vote for him. Conniving SOB. 

And I hope this guy is accessible to the disabled community because we are not a one size fits all.  And I hope he doesn’t start writing more business killing policy that will “help” people with disabilities get jobs that they aren’t qualified for because they’re disabled.  We don’t need affirmative action for wheelchairs.

posted by: lkulmann | January 12, 2014  5:28pm

“The Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission (LPRAC) was created by an act of the Connecticut General Assembly (CGA) in 1994. This 21 member non-partisan commission is mandated to make recommendations to the CGA and the Governor for new or enhanced policies that will foster progress in achieving health, safety, educational success, economic self-sufficiency, and end discrimination in Connecticut”~~~per LPRAC… http://www.cga.ct.gov/lprac/

“As liaison, Slifka will be charged with reaching out to people with disabilities on behalf of the Malloy administration as well as serving as an advocate for the community in coming up with policy recommendations” (see above).

Sooooo…coming up with policy recommendations for the disabled vs mandated ...foster progress in achieving health, safety, educational success, economic self-sufficiency, and end discrimination in Connecticut for the Latino’s. Feels a little discriminatory right from the start. Luckily all Mr. Slitfka needs to do is recommend the Social Security Act, The IDEA, The ACA, The ADA,  Medicaid/Medicare be implemented as per Federal Law and his job is done. Don’t worry about writing anything. We don’t do rule and policy type stuff in CT. Feds are on it so we just need to implement the Federal Disability laws. So good luck and welcome aboard!