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Biden names UA's Gabe Martinez to presidential Intellectual Disabilities Committee

The University of Arizona's Gabe Martinez will advise President Joe Biden as a new member of the Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities, the White House announced Friday.

Martinez works with the UA’s Sonoran Center for Excellence in Disabilities, which is part of a federally funded network of services throughout the country that provide resources and employment for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities on higher education campuses.

The centers are funding through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In addition to advising the president, the members of the committee also provide input to HHS.

Martinez has been working with the Sonoran Center for two years, and he graduated from one of their job training programs in 2016. The Sonoran Center is part of the UA’s College of Medicine, and Martinez works as a trainer for medical students in the college. He’s a regular public speaker in college and high school courses, and he has a leadership position with a self-advocacy group in the Sonoran Center that teaches people with disabilities to protect their rights and live independently.

He works in a similar role as a peer mentor with Transition AHEAD Roundtable, a UA program that helps youth with disabilities find jobs and prepare for adulthood, and with Find Their Way, which is also a UA youth transition program but aimed specifically at Native Americans. Both programs are part of the Sonoran Center.

The national committee has 21 citizen members, who are selected because they “reflect the diversity of America and include people with intellectual disabilities and their family members, researchers, service providers and other professionals, community and business representatives, and systems advocates,” according to a White House press release. Each member serves a two-year term.

People with intellectual disabilities have served on the committee as federal advisors since 1966, when Lyndon Johnson created the committee to create a “decent, dignified place in society” for people with intellectual disabilities, according to the U.S. government. They can support inclusive policies and initiatives though they’re limited from being able to deliver federal funds.

Bennito L. Kelty is TucsonSentinel.com’s IDEA reporter, focusing on Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access stories, and a Report for America corps member supported by readers like you.

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