Heather Statler of Millsboro was recently appointed to the Developmental Disabilities Council (DDC) by Gov. Jack Markell, for a five-year term.
Statler explained that the council has a three-pronged mission: inclusion, equality and empowerment for Delawareans with developmental disabilities.
“This council works to ensure access, advocacy and support for citizens with developmental disabilities in the state of Delaware,” through holding state agencies accountable, promoting change and talking with policymakers, said Statler.
The Developmental Disabilities Council is authorized by Public Law 106-402 to address the unmet needs of people with developmental disabilities through system-wide advocacy, planning and demonstration projects.
The mission of the DDC is to promote and embrace inclusion, equality and empowerment. Their beliefs are that all individuals should be included, all individuals should be able to exercise their rights and responsibilities, the integrity of individuals and families need to be supported, supports should be consumer driven, equality should be promoted and the accepted standard, and equality within the disability community must be embraced and practiced.
Statler’s 13-year tenure as a counselor at Delaware Technical and Community College, where she works with people with disabilities – along with her work on a variety of college committees and community involvement – serves as a foundation for her term on the council.
“I work with students with disabilities/special populations to ensure that they receive the support and services they need to be successful in the college environment,” she explained.
The DDC is federally- and state-funded. Its makeup is based upon federal requirements, which mandate 60 percent of members must be persons with developmental disabilities or their immediate relatives or guardians, and 40 percent others that are qualified to assist individuals with developmental disabilities, according to the Governor’s Office.
As a counselor for disabled students at Delaware Technical and Community College, Statler’s expectation is to receive the information that the DDC provides and forward it to the students.
“We need and want good people serving on this council — people who have a passion for advocating for the needs and rights of those with developmental disabilities,” said Governor Jack Markell. “We try to choose people positioned to help with outreach and those who want to make a difference in the lives of people with mental or physical impairments,” he said on the selection process for the council.
The daughter of Roxana poultry farmers Mack and Norma Lee McCary, Statler is a 1992 graduate of Indian River High School. She went on to attend the University of Delaware and Salisbury State University and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology.
Statler completed a volunteer internship with the Cape Henlopen School District, in which she worked with at-risk students with disabilities. That kicked off her interest in working with that segment of the population.
“I found [that] to be extremely rewarding, since every student is so unique. That experience, coupled with my psychology background, sparked a real desire for me to work with people with disabilities.”
She then was hired at Delaware Technical and Community College for the position she has now held for 13 years.
“I was fortunate enough to get a position working with that population,” she said, “and when you find something that you are good at, you just keep doing it!”
She went on to receive her master’s degree in educational leadership and a doctorate in educational administration, supervision and leadership from Delaware State University.
Her dissertation was titled “An Examination of Services for Students with Disabilities at Delaware Technical and Community College and the Integration of Universal Design for Learning Strategies.”
Statler said she believes the concept of universal design will help the council as she embarks on her term, starting in 2011. She explained that “universal design” has its roots in architecture.
An example might be curb cuts in sidewalks, which architects designed with those in wheelchairs in mind; but, in reality, it benefits the whole population, including new mothers with strollers, people that have crutches, etc., which helps to foster an environment of inclusion.
“There are lot of things that we can do for someone with disabilities that can benefit the whole population,” explained Statler. “It’s that out-of-box thinking. We can provide services, not just focusing on the disability, but what can benefit the whole population.”
She explained that her dissertation examined services and how to integrate them into the learning environment, and that, plus her background, helped to solidify her candidacy for the council.
“My work experience and doctoral dissertation have made me an excellent fit for the Governor’s Council for Developmental Disabilities,” she said.
“I have worked with people with disabilities for about 14 years now, and they are an interesting segment of the population to work with,” she continued. “Their needs are so different, but they still want to have access to all the things the rest of us enjoy.
“I look forward to the opportunity to serve the people of Delaware in such a meaningful way,” Statler added.