Idalmis Lopez is a sophomore at Brown studying health and human biology, who builds learning partnerships and opportunities alongside adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDDs). As a Swearer Center for Public Service Bonner Community Fellow, Idalmis serves as a leader with the Partnership for Adult Learning (PAL), which engages with a community partner, Perspectives, to build independence and choice for people with IDDs. Her approach to addressing a lack of agency among PAL learners is grounded in an intentional combination of direct service, public awareness, difficult reflective conversations, and legislative action. Idalmis has organized a panel at Brown to discuss health inequities faced by individuals with IDDs; encouraged social and athletic connections between Brown students and PAL learners; and found ways for PAL learners to enter public spaces, particularly those that have not historically welcomed people with IDDs. Idalmis engages the Brown community in important and thoughtful discussions of society's treatment of individuals with IDDs. This semester, she is building a group of PAL self-activists who are supported by Brown students to lobby for legislative changes to bring about equitable access.
As a college student accessing knowledge and higher education, I want to extend my privilege to those who find themselves voiceless in environments that should be of equal access to all. Thus, I joined Partnership for Adult Learning (PAL), a Swearer Center for Public Service student group committed to the inclusion and empowerment of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDDs). Through PAL, Brown students serve as a support network to help adults with IDDs gain agency in managing their lives. As a leader for PAL, I create workshops for other student volunteers, restructure tutoring curricula, and organize social events on campus that develop meaningful connections with PAL learners - all to empower adults with IDDs who are often devoid of independence and choice. Supporting adults with IDDs has served as my introduction into a different world, and although I have limited knowledge of the daily challenges our learners endure, I have gained awareness on the urgent need for change. I am building a legislative engagement group in which members of our community with IDDs, alongside Brown students, will be at the forefront of legislative actions concerning equitable access so that together we may bring about long-lasting, systemic change.