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Join Us to Talk About the Stories We Wrote About People With Developmental Disabilities in Arizona

There will be a free event on Zoom on Dec. 16. You can hear from the people in our stories and the people who helped make them.

Adiba Nelson and her daughter, Emory Webster. They use Emory’s new device to talk. (Mamta Popat/Arizona Daily Star)

We wrote this story in plain language. Plain language means it is easier to read for some people. You can read the original version here.

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The Arizona Daily Star worked with us to write this story. It is part of ProPublica’s Local Reporting Network.

Emory Webster can talk again. And she has a lot to say.

Emory is 11. She has cerebral palsy. She has been waiting 1.5 years for a device that would help her talk. She was waiting for the Division of Developmental Disabilities. It is also called DDD.

We wrote a story about Emory last month. You can read the story here.

The day after we wrote the story, Emory’s wait was over.

Her mom’s name is Adiba Nelson. She said, “Monday morning I had a text from our service coordinator at DDD that miraculously the talker had arrived and it was in their office.”

DDD workers did not answer our questions about Emory.

You can hear more from Emory and her mom at our event on Dec. 16. You can also hear from other people whose stories were in our State of Denial series. These are stories about people with DD getting services in Arizona.

The event will be Dec. 16 at 5 to 6 p.m. MST. It will be on Zoom. The speakers will be people who helped make the story possible. Register here to get the Zoom link.

Many people wanted to help Emory after we wrote the story.

Emory’s mom said no need: DDD came through. They still need some pieces to make the device work best for Emory. And Emory is still learning how to use it with her speech therapist.

“Emory’s been using it. She loves it,” her mom said. “Allowing her to express herself via her talker allows her to be a full human being, which so much of society doesn’t afford people with disabilities.”

Emory’s mom is very happy Emory can be a sassy tween. She said Emory got in trouble recently.

She said: “I went in and I was like, ‘What is going on, why are you being this way, it’s not acceptable,’ you know, all the mom stuff you say. She takes her talker and she says, ‘You’re impossible.’”

Emory’s mom laughed when she told this story. She said: “I’m impossible? Oh honey, you have no idea. Hold onto your seat, kid, cause this is nothing.”

Some of the people in the story did not get good news.

Cassie Camacho lives in Mesa with her dad and stepmom. She has an intellectual disability. She called DDD after the story to ask if she could get more help. She wants to live in a group home. Cassie does not get help from DDD other than meetings every few months.

Cassie wrote an email in December. It said, “I talk to ddd person she didn’t say nothing.”

We will talk about all these stories on Dec. 16. Other speakers include:

  • Adiba Nelson and her daughter, Emory Webster.
  • Drew Bolender and his mom, BJ. They live in Phoenix. Drew has epilepsy. He needs help from people hired by DDD to stay safe and healthy.
  • Rebecca Monteleone. She made plain language versions of the stories. She teaches about disability at the University of Toledo.
  • Speakers from Make Studio in Baltimore:
    • Rosie Eck is a program and exhibitions associate.
    • Stefan Bauschmid is the program director.
    • Erika Clark is an artist.
    • Kareem Samuels is an artist.
  • Mamta Popat. She is a photographer at the Star.
  • Amy Silverman. She is a reporter. She works at the Star as part of ProPublica’s Local Reporting Network.
  • Jill Jorden Spitz. She is the editor of the Star.
  • Speakers from ProPublica:
    • Maya Miller is an engagement reporter.
    • Beena Raghavendran is an engagement reporter.
    • Shoshana Gordon is a story production fellow.
    • T. Christian Miller is a senior editor.

RSVP to get your Zoom link at propub.li/azstories.

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