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Summer 2017 Fellows standing or seated in wheelchairs, smiling and posing for the camera

Stevie Mays, Community Outreach Apprentice

National Leadership Program, Fall 2019

Stevie Mays smiling in front of the RespectAbility banner

Stevie Mays

Stevie Mays was a Community Outreach Apprentice in RespectAbility’s National Leadership Program for Fall 2019. RespectAbility is a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities so that people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of community. Mays has great passion and enthusiasm when working with and for the greater disability community. This passion is rooted in experiences of wanting to end the cycle of shame and taboo felt with their own learning disabilities growing up.

Born and raised in Michigan, Mays’ career in the disability community began in high school while volunteering at a life skills center, the Healing Haven, a center for children on the autism spectrum. This volunteering opportunity eventually led to a job as a lead therapist. Mays was able to assist in curriculum planning, augmented communication creation, and social skills training. The role, which lasted three years, brought great fulfillment and joy every day when working for the disability community. This created a desire for Mays’ interests in research with people on the spectrum, which lead Mays to transferring to the University of Michigan (U of M) to have such research and academic pursuits.

U of M had many opportunities to explore the academic side of disability. Mays worked in the Early Start Denver Model research lab under principal investigator Constanta Colombi. The study examined the effectiveness of teaching parents of children with autism a parenting class on a social skills toolkit to promote maximum communication and play skills within the family. The opportunity to add to the body of disability research arose and Mays elected to write a thesis on employment barriers for employees on the spectrum. This piece on adults sparked Mays’ advocacy desires for adults with disabilities and the necessity of job training. Mays graduated from the University of Michigan in August 2019 with a bachelor’s in general studies with a focus in Psychology, Sociology, Women/Gender studies, and Disability Culture.

During the summers while as an undergraduate, Mays worked with children, and occasionally adults, on the spectrum, as a camp counselor at Camp Michigania. Counseling involved managing groups of around 25 children each week for children ages zero to six-years-old. Singing by campfires, zip lining, and ‘spotting’ magical creatures only heightened Mays’ naturally playful energy. Mays also created assistive communication devices to make camp more accessible for non-verbal campers.

While camp is Mays’ favorite place, understanding the gravity of public policy, Mays elected to pursue work in disability political advocacy one summer. As an intern at the American Association for People with Disabilities, she was paired to work with the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities (NACDD). While at NACDD Mays was able to help individual state developmental disability councils, lobby for national policy from the developmental disability perspective, and assist at NACDD national conference. While at NACDD, Mays concretely saw how important national policy and social welfare is as an aid to even out inequalities in the lives of those with developmental disabilities.

Mays was delighted to join the RespectAbility team for Fall 2019, which meant coming back to the Washington, D.C., area. Mays is committed to explore the East coast. With a never fulfilled desire to travel, Mays has plans of visiting all East Coast states before 2021 and already has completed six of the fifteen visits. While searching for the right a capella family for this alto two, Mays has a love for singing and is commonly known to sing in the car, shower, or jamming with friends. After RespectAbility Mays is hoping to transition into a role as a teacher for people with developmental disabilities with prospects to attend graduate school to earn a master’s in education and education policy to eventually co-run a community center for people with disabilities across the lifespan.

Mays wrote two pieces during the 2019 Fall Apprenticeship. Check them out on our website:


RespectAbility is a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for and with people with disabilities. Learn more about the National Leadership Program and apply for the next cohort! Contact [email protected] for more information.



Meet the Author

Stevie Mays

Stevie Mays has great passion and enthusiasm when working with and for the greater disability community, because they want to end the cycle of shame and taboo they felt with their own learning disabilities growing up.

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