Home and Community-Based Services Can’t Wait

Erin Hawley outside on a sunny day

Erin Hawley

I have Muscular Dystrophy which requires full care for all activities of daily living. Through home and community-based services in New Jersey, I am able to live in the community rather than an institution. I have a full-time job at Easterseals, where I work with the national staff as a Digital Content Producer. I also work on video game accessibility and disability representation as a freelance consultant. Beyond work, I spend time with my family and my loving partner of almost 7 years. I love reading and just redecorated my bedroom to look like a Victorian library – a dream I’ve had since I was a little girl. My family just got a Yorkshire Terrier named Madelyn who loves to run around my room and jump on my wheelchair. On the weekends, I play games with my niece who just started 5th grade, and help her with her homework.

I share all of that with you to let you understand my humanity. To show you that I am not just a number on a page, or a statistic. My life has value, as all lives do. If I lived in an institution, I would not be able to do any of the things I cherish. My physical and mental well-being would be in jeopardy. If you truly believed in the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness for all, then do the right thing and fully fund home and community-based services. We need that funding so people like me, who are disabled and have great plans for their future, can realize those dreams.

This issue doesn’t just impact people with disabilities – it also impacts their loved ones and professional caretakers. Higher wages are needed to meet the demand of people living in the community. We can’t meet that demand if we don’t receive the full funding. Without it, that means even longer waitlists, and even more people dying in institutions. During the height of COVID, we lost so many people living in these congregate settings, making the demand for community care more pressing than ever.

Segregation is injustice. The disability community is paying attention to the vote. Make the right choice not just for us, but for the entire nation – because only a nation that is more just and equal is truly united.



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