Barry Kress is a self-advocate from West Allis. In addition to being the president of both People First Wisconsin and People First Milwaukee, he recently completed the BPDD’s Partners in Policymaking program.
What did you take away from your Partners in Policymaking experience?
I learned that a lot of people have different issues but similar ideas. If we just work together we can get things done better and faster. Sometimes the issues aren’t even different, it’s just the names that are different.
Also, during Partners, we received some great training and met with legislators. I’m proud of the fact that people in the political arena are not just listening to me but taking me – and other people with disabilities – seriously.
What’s it like being the president of People First Wisconsin?
I’m not a traditional president – I consider myself the head cheerleader. I want People First members to use their skills for the betterment of everyone else.
Right now, People First is focusing on raising awareness about self-advocacy and recruiting new members. Through a BPDD SPARKS Grant, we have been visiting schools in the Milwaukee area and giving presentations about People First and talking about the importance of self-advocacy.
What are you looking forward to as you continue your work as a disability advocate?
I look forward to the day when all people with disabilities get up and go to school or work without being labeled, just like anybody else. If I was meant to be labeled, my mother would’ve given birth to a can of chicken soup.