The executive director of the Brain Injury Association of New York State stopped people with brain injuries from being on the committee representing people with brain injuries, say several of the committee members whose identities will be protected.
When committee members complained that there was no one with a brain injury on the committee, Judith Avner is said to have claimed she and BIANYS represented people with brain injuries and pointed out that one of the committee members had a family member with a brain injury. Avner does not have a brain injury.
Avner did not respond to several requests for comment.
The committee was comprised of providers and others and was tasked with drafting a proposal on behalf of New Yorkers with brain injuries for the state’s Medicaid Redesign Team. The proposal had to be filed by a specified date. Not long after Avner took her stance against people with brain injuries being on the committee, the committee folded.
People with disabilities, including those of us with brain injury disabilities, encounter people and systems who hold to the inaccurate and misguided belief that we are unable to speak for ourselves. Slowly, slowly, this perception is eroding. However, when someone who has been in a leadership position in brain injury for years oppresses the very people she claims to care about, it is beyond unconscionable. It is a kind of moral fraud. It is also bigotry.
What would happen if a committee claiming to represent Jews or Italians or African-Americans refused to allow Jews or Italians or African-Americans to be on the committee? One would hope there would be an uproar of indignation. One would also hope that those blocking the participation of people they claim to represent are fired.
Life with a brain injury disability can be difficult enough; it is made all the more so when those who claim to care are some of the biggest oppressors.