This archived article was written by: Kellie Henderson
During the Utah Developmental Disabilities Council’s annual awards banquet Sept. 22, Kelly Holt was awarded the self advocate of the year. In the same ceremony, Holt awarded Brad King as the advocate of the year from the legislature.
According to Becky Archibald, dining services manager and friend, “She’s on their [UDDC’s] committee for people with disabilities to fight for their rights because people with disabilities deserve the same rights.”
Holt, serving as the vice chair, has spent years advocating for the rights of people with disabilities, implementing ‘Language Matters’ which challenges everyone to focus on the person rather than the disability, and working hard at whatever she does, including her current work at the College of Eastern Utah’s dining services.
Her position at the UDDC has allowed her to travel all over the country including Indianapolis, Washington D.C. and, in the near future, Milwaukee, “We’re doing a presentation … . We’re going to talk about the things that we have done in the past like in People First,” says Holt.
“I like to not just advocate for me but to advocate for other people because some people don’t stand for their rights. Sometimes I see somebody say something, I will correct them, but I don’t think they catch on. It’s not right to put us down,” she explains.
Holt is currently trying to educate people on the voting process and learning about leaders in order to better protect their rights. She explains, “We need to know … who’s running and stuff like that … I have to learn before the elections and kind of get to know people and why they’re running.”
Standing up for a worthy cause has always been important to Holt, and she recalls wanting to attend a SABE, self advocated becoming empowered, conference in Atlanta. “I didn’t have enough money to go and I told myself that I wanted to go the next one. I think Becky noticed that I’ve been working really hard during the whole year and the summer saving my money. Not only that, I didn’t have any help, I paid my way.” At the Indianapolis conference, Holt did a presentation on how to vote and learning about those running for office, “We kicked butt!”
Once, while working with People First, a movement similar to Language Matters, Holt decided to create a radio commercial to educate the public on the issues concerning people with disabilities. “Our boss for People First wanted us to take the challenge to do something in our community so I went and talked to the Radio Station to see if they could do commercials for me … so I did one minute of the commercial.”
Holt’s commercial is a display of her personal beliefs to achieve equality “By teaching the public that language does matter- how and what you say shows respect for all individuals.”
Dining services at the college is also an advocate for people with disabilities, Archibald explains, “We partner with the community for hiring people with disabilities. 70 percent of our lunch staff and 40 percent of our total staff are people with disabilities.
“The people we have working for us that have disabilities are actually better workers than the ones that don’t. People with disabilities go above and beyond what is expected of them … They’re just good workers.”