Delaware State Representative for District 8
August 13, 2013 - 2:00pm to 3:00pm

Joyce welcomes Delaware State Representative for District 8, Quinton “Quinn” Johnson to the show.  Representative Johnson will talk about his administration’s commitment to his constituents with disabilities.  Among the achievements Mr. Johnson and his administration have made is HB 328 which ensures that children with disabilities are provided the educational support to which they are entitled by local school districts.  In addition, The State Council of Persons with Disabilities (SCPD) and the LIFE Conference Planning Committee presented Representative Johnson an award in 2012 at the LIFE Conference for his efforts to improve the lives of people with disabilities and their families. In the short time Representative Johnson has been a State Representative, he has made a significant impact in improving the lives of all citizens in Delaware.

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Transcript

"DISABILITY MATTERS" 

AUGUST 13TH, 2013

1 PM DST

HOST:  JOYCE BENDER

GUEST:  REPRESENTATIVE QUINN JOHNSON

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This is being provided in a rough-draft format. Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) or captioning are provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings.

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   >> Welcome to "Disability Matters" with your host, Joyce Bender. All comments, views, and opinions expressed on this show are solely those of the host, guest, and callers. Now the host of "Disability Matters." Here's Joyce Bender.

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  Hey, everyone. Welcome to the show. We are going to have a great one. Before I introduce our guest, Yoshiko, wherever you are right now, greetings to you. You are a champion. I am talking about Yoshiko Dart who, as you know, was married to Justin Dart who passed away several years ago, but it is as if she still is because his spirit is still alive, and she's done so much for the disability community so a special greeting goes out to her.

   And today, we are excited to have as our guest, a member of the Delaware House of Representatives from that great state of Delaware who we've been reading so much about with the leadership of Governor Jack Markell.

   So, Representative Johnson, welcome.

   >> QUINN JOHNSON:  Thank you so much, Joyce. It is an honor to be on the show.

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  It is a pleasure to have you, and I wanted to know, since many of our listeners may not know you, if we could begin by you telling our listeners about your background prior to becoming a statesman.

   >> QUINN JOHNSON:  Sure. I'm actually originally from Maryland and grew up in a very rural area, and actually, my encounter with individuals with disabilities was very rare. You hardly had any if at all interaction with those students within our school system. I grew up in the Salisbury area, went to college, graduated. The economy was kind of tough so I had to move around to find a job.

   I was actually already married and had my first daughter at that time so my feet landed in Delaware where I was working actually with an insurance company. And my wife and I set out on a path to see how we could one, be involved more in our own children's lives as we started our family, and we looked into and actually started a child care facility and actually have grown that, and I'm still very involved in that aspect over the years, but we were dealing with young children, infants through school age, and as my family grew, I actually have two daughters, and my son, the youngest, who is now 18, was born deaf, and that experience was my first ever interaction with a deaf individual and I had a lot to learn. And we jumped in with both feet first and just kind of learned all about what we could do.

   And as a result, as he was going through the preschool years, so to speak, we actually wanted to try and we did do a lot with other young children with disabilities in our child care facility setting. And so with that, that is kind of my experience that we had in getting involved prior to our Delaware legislature which is part-time, as they say.  Although I joke, I'm still waiting for the part-time hours to break in, but it is a part-time legislature where we still have to maintain our day jobs, and I'm still much in that early childhood education aspect.

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  You know, that is unbelievable, the path you've taken. So the question for many of our listeners is why did you decide to run for office.

   >> QUINN JOHNSON:  As I said, my son being born, opened our lives and opened a lot of challenges. And with a child, who is profoundly deaf, we had to set on the path to learn another language. We had to learn American Sign Language. We got him involved in the local state deaf school in an early stage, although it wasn't until about a year old that we actually were able to identify that he was, in fact, deaf because it was pre-newborn screening when he was born. So there is no screening test that was done at the hospital, and it took us months and months of going to doctors explaining that we felt something was wrong to have them tell us, no. He's fine, to finally going to the high-tech world of pots and pans while he was asleep to say, yes, there's definitely an issue!

   Once we got past that at a year old, we had to immerse ourselves a lot into what was going to be in store for us as parents, what was going to be in store for him, what we could expect, all those types of things. We had a great experience in the very beginning with the early childhood portion of the program, but I will say this that we were naive in thinking that the education system was supposed to be there for us. And when we were progressing along that path of his educational experience, we actually got, unfortunately, the hard lesson that, in fact, they weren't there for us.  And when it came down to our expectations of what we wanted for our child, we found that they actually worked against us.

   We ultimately, and I'm sure we'll get into more detail, ended up having to go through a lot of due process battles, court battles, that sort of thing, to get the education that he deserved and ultimately a short answer, I was angry! I was upset to see this is what was happening, not just to my child, but I learned it was happening to many parents.  And so the system tried to build a wall that we couldn't overcome, and we wouldn't let it. So we decided. I say we, my wife and I, we're going to get even more involved and get into positions where we could make a difference and help make decisions and try to set the path on a different course.

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  Well, isn't that something? I was angry that no one would hire people with disabilities, and the result is Bender Consulting Services. It is amazing how those things happen. I have some questions. When you realized -- what is your son's name?

   >> QUINN JOHNSON:  His name is Quinton.

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  When you realized that Quintin was deaf, how did you feel? How did that impact you?

   >> QUINN JOHNSON:  Well, it was challenging. It was something, as I mentioned, because of my lack of knowledge and interaction with deaf individuals, I didn't know what to expect so my first reaction was I was sad. I wanted him to be hearing, and I wanted him to explore those options, and I think those parents who are hearing and that have deaf children do, I really didn't know much about the actual deaf culture deaf identity.

    Now, I certainly look at my son, and my son would clearly agree with that. In his mind, he is not disabled. He just speaks a different language, and he is able to navigate the world. The doors should be completely open for all opportunities, but in the beginning, there were tears. There was sadness. There was a lot of anxiety at the time.

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  Now, at what age, for him, how old was he when he learned sign language?

   >> QUINN JOHNSON:  We started once we found out he was deaf. And this would have been -- and because of the early childhood background, we learned the importance of language development and brain development when that occurred so we learned we had to immerse ourselves immediately into this. We were fortunate there was a parent-child play group, as they called it, at the school for the deaf that we got involved in and started to interact and started to get the videos, get the books, you know, you name it, and we got it. And so we started from that very moment learning and trying to get acquainted.

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  And may I say it isn't easy.

   >> QUINN JOHNSON:  It is definitely not easy. I quickly learned probably the areas of my brain development that are a bit challenged at the time and certainly language, and learning language at a later age in life is not as easy as obviously it is for the young children to do. And it is still a struggle because it is a skill and, again, we're in an area where unfortunately, the deaf community is limited so my opportunities to interact are challenging. So you have to make it happen and even today, after 18 years, I would love to have my skills much better than what they are here, but it is a constantly ongoing process.

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  It is, and then you go through the whole thing of, okay, now I can sign, but now, I have to understand the person signing to me.

   >> QUINN JOHNSON:  Yes. I will say that is different. I can deal very well with my own son, but just like we have different dialects and tones to our voices and even slang words, that all exists within the way that someone signs is different than the way my son does, and their hand gestures are slightly different. It is just the same as trying to understand someone that's maybe from the South or from Boston. It's that type of issue.

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  Yes, it is. And I know because we have, as she's been here 15 years, a woman in our corporate office who is deaf although we then have people out in the work force, but I know that that is not easy to learn. So you know what? Kudos to you that you were able to.

   >> QUINN JOHNSON:  Thank you.

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  Listen. When we come back, we'll talk more to Representative Johnson, and we'll talk about that issue he had with the school system. But right now, you are listening to "Disability Matters" with Joyce Bender on voiceamerica.com. Don't go away. We'll be right back with the representative.

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  Welcome back to the show, and if you just joined us, we're talking to Representative Quinn Johnson from the state of Delaware. And earlier in the first segment of the show, Representative, you were talking about the difficulty that you endured in the school system. I wonder if you could elaborate on that a little bit.

   >> QUINN JOHNSON:  We started out in an early aspect so his involvement with our local school for the deaf started out even earlier than three years of age, but they had a preschool program he was enrolled in. As he progressed, his language development and academics were certainly progressing at a satisfactory and acceptable rate. As we were moving further grades, first, second, third, the school is very small, and it just a product of being from a very small state that the population is minimal. And, therefore, as students went into the higher grades, and the aspect of probability of having to mainstream and go out into another school to be able to get the academic courses that couldn't be offered at the school for the deaf was something that was a path that Quinton was definitely going towards.

   However, what we saw was happening was his reading level was getting stagnant, and he was getting stuck at a fifth-grade reading level and not progressing. Actually, it was lower than fifth grade; it was third grade, but in the fifth grade. When we were talking, we were kind of disappointed with the expectations because we would hear the comments that well, you know, most deaf individuals, they only graduate with a seventh- or eighth-grade reading level anyhow so it is okay, and it wasn't something that was acceptable for us.

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  That is so terrible.

   >> QUINN JOHNSON:  It was something that was frustrating. He had only a few children in his class. He was going to have to mainstream anyhow so then we started to look, and because of where we lived, we were a little bit of a distance away from the school, and so we weren't in our local school district. So we wanted to look it up.

   So we went and looked at the local schools that we had, but we also went and looked at a private school that was literally maybe two miles away from the school that Quinton would have attended in the public arena. And now keep in mind, this was the transition of going from one class with seven children total at the school for the deaf, maybe a total of 150 students, if that, maximum for all grade levels throughout, to a middle school that would have been about 800 to 900 students in just three grades. And, of course, in an environment where he wouldn't been around -- there wasn't a single deaf child there, and in addition, he would have had classes or students that would not have stayed with him. He would have migrated through.

   The other option was a private school that had only 15 students per class. The class size was much more conducive to a deaf environment and set up for the interpreter to be able to follow. Plus the kids normally stayed and then moved on. So us, as his parents, looking at what we thought was best for his education, we went to the district and we stated that okay, we feel that his placement is best at this private school. We understand the issues, the fact that it is private. You have already said that you would provide placement in the public school and provide the interpreter. What we will do is go ahead and pay the private tuition. We were fortunate enough to be able to have the means to do that. But we would like for you to be able to provide the interpreter which you already agreed to. Our analysis of that was the fact that the out-of-pocket expense would be no different, meaning that the district already said yes, we will pay for an interpreter. There were no other students that would be deaf in the entire school and so we thought it was a pretty simple, easy question. The response we got was no. And when we asked why, the response was, well, because we don't have to.

   And so ultimately, we decided that that was not going to be an acceptable answer. We went through the due process, hearing process, which, of course, takes some time and extensive legwork. We ultimately, and that -- and of course, we have to find an attorney. There aren't many in Delaware. I won't say there are doors that were closed, but there weren't many attorneys who would entertain that because they represented some school districts somewhere. We finally did find one attorney who was willing to take our case outside of the state, and ultimately, the due process provision actually prevailed where the panel said, we do agree you can't just say no to say no so we're going to award the interpreting fees.

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  Oh, wow! Go ahead.

   >> QUINN JOHNSON:  I was going to say the district appealed that decision, went to a third circuit court of appeals where the state put a provision in, and this process took approximately four years from fifth grade to eighth grade to where we finally got to a point where he graduated from eighth grade and was going to have to move to another school anyhow and so ultimately, it ended up being, well, we don't really have anything more to fight about so shall we call it truce. That is what ended the path.

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  How long of a time period are we talking about?

   >> QUINN JOHNSON:  That was at least four years. It was when he was entering into the fifth grade and we finally resolved it after the eighth, and all of that, those types of things, actually predated me getting elected. And it wasn't me that the state representative had any influence over the case. The issue was the result of the case and the result of the issues. That's when I said all of this is the way the process worked, the information, because we don't have enough time on this radio show to talk about the entire experience. But the process, I just decided I was going to do several pieces of legislation which I did do that would make the system much more fair for parents and their children and make it to where they need to be much more involved and much more in the say of placement for him, for their children.

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  Okay. The first thing I'm thinking what you're talking --

   >> QUINN JOHNSON:  What's that?

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  Imagine what happens to students who do not have parents to do all this.

   >> QUINN JOHNSON:  Yes.

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  This is why there are young people that are deaf and fall through the cracks of life, just as they told you, you'll never be beyond the seventh-grade level which is total baloney because may I tell you we have people that we've helped get employment that I hired and then got them on contract at another company, one of which is Michelle, who went to the school you're talking about, the college NTID, and she was named employee of the year by "careers and disabled" magazine. She's a software developer. Now, she's a project manager.

   But many people in finance, accounting, computers, and I have to tell you about one person I'm so proud of, Claudia Gordon, who is this most beautiful, awesome individual. And now, she is the special assistant to President Obama and she is completely deaf, at the White House. So that just says it all about what we are talking about.

   But as I said, what happens to people who don't have someone to advocate for them?

   >> QUINN JOHNSON:  That is what was frustrating because we were fortunate because, again, we did have some means because there were times in which we were required through that process to actually have to pay for the interpreter ourselves. And then, of course, not only that, the legal expenses, and ultimately the entire cost was paid for, but we were out a significant amount of time that you can never get back, as well as resources. And that's one of the reasons why I set on this path to say I don't want it to happen to anybody else, or if there's anything else I can do to make it easier, and like what you said, we'll never be able to know had he gone down the path of what the school district wanted him to, what he would have ended up being. But I do know, time for me to brag on my son, this child who said could only graduate with a seventh-grade reading level, he did go to another deaf high school, much bigger, and out-of-state schools, where he was class president, graduated the third of his class. And he has gotten accepted into all the colleges he applied to. He's very smart and well above his grade level in reading, well above a twelfth-grade reading level and scored the top of his class in math and science. And so academically, if given the tools, they can accomplish so much. And that's the key.

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  And I agree with you 100 percent. As I said, Claudia Gordon is the new assistant to President Obama at the White House representing the disability community across the United States. And, by the way, that's the reason this show is real-time captioned so that all of my friends across the United States from the deaf community can also hear this show on VoiceAmerica.

   Listen. We're going to go to break, and then we're going to come back and talk more to Representative Quinn Johnson from the state of Delaware. This is Joyce Bender, America's voice, where disability matters at voiceamerica.com we'll be right back.

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  Hey, welcome back to the show, and you know Representative Quinn Johnson and he's not just a representative from Delaware. Now that I've had him on the show, he's a civil rights leader for all of us, especially people who are deaf, but all young people living with disabilities. And, you know, I just applaud you for what you are doing, Representative Johnson. It is so awesome how you are leading the way and have led the way for other parents.

   >> QUINN JOHNSON:  Thank you so very much.

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  Now, since all of this happened, what are some of the issues you have to deal with having a son who is deaf?

   >> QUINN JOHNSON:  Some of the things, and now that he is older, he's become very, very independent. But one of the things we kind of experienced as he was growing up was just the challenges of getting him involved in the community. One was he wanted to play sports. So, ultimately, that meant that I ended up having to be his baseball coach and also soccer coach because I had to be there every single practice, game, to interpret for him. And so I just became involved as an individual. I certainly enjoyed it, but it was something that was a time commitment on that part. Camps, for him to go to a soccer camp or some sort of sport camp in our area, you would sit and explain, okay. I'd like to sign up our son. He's deaf. What do you have? And they have no knowledge of what to do, making an arrangement there's an interpreter there, you know, all those types of things have just always been a challenge and then just because we are a small community in where we are in Delaware is to make sure that he has that peer involvement.

   And more so was the issue of when he was younger, the adult role models to look at. There was a family that moved from the Maryland area which has a much larger community. And when they moved, they did not understand where are the deaf actors. Where are the deaf attorneys and those individuals. My son's perspective was just the opposite. When he heard that, he said, what do you mean there aren't deaf doctors. That would have been something we could do. So it was an experience for him to learn just what he can do which is anything he puts his mind to which, right now, he's a typical teenager getting ready for college. I suspect his ideas will change at some point, but he wants to become a veterinarian. In my view, there's nothing that's going to stop him from being able to accomplish that, and that is a huge -- that, in itself, getting that mindset.

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  Good luck to him. Wouldn't that be awesome? Just as you said, there isn't anything stopping him from being able to do that.

   >> QUINN JOHNSON:  No.

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  Representative Johnson, you know about the leadership academy in Delaware for high school students with disabilities. As a matter of fact, it was so great that Governor Markell came to the last one. But I wanted to talk to you about this. One of the things I found out years ago is that students with disabilities are so brutally bullied. As a matter of fact, I have lost some of them to suicide as a result of this. So I wanted to ask you, in the state of Delaware, what do you do to help with that?

   >> QUINN JOHNSON:  One of the things that we did do, and it kind of goes back to when I was young. I was never exposed to any individuals that had disabilities. And so one of the first things that we did was create a disability awareness month in Delaware which is the month of October, and not just naming and putting it on the calendar. We went further and got involved with the school districts and wanted to get them involved in curriculum, getting them involved and what types of things that they could be teaching and showing and in dealing with for the sheer purpose of just exposing kids to these issues so that when they look at someone who is deaf or autistic or with Down syndrome that they're not looking at them as different. They're looking at them as just another child, and as we progress and they get more used to that, that is a big difference in regards to what will help bring down certainly some of the barriers.

Will it eliminate all of them? Certainly not. But getting involved in the schools and getting children to understand that everybody has feelings regardless, and you need to respect those feelings is something that we are working for.

   And we are seeing some tremendous progress and seeing their programs being more inclusive and having, for example, individuals on the high school cheerleading squad. Two of my favorite constituents, young ladies, have been involved in that and seeing the acceptance, watching, you know, when I got my son involved in soccer, seeing how the kids just accepted him and also when he was in school, and all the kids, you know, brought him in. So it's getting them to understand.

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  And that is so important because you know that can really scar a child --

   >> QUINN JOHNSON:  Yes.

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  -- when they don't feel accepted. I am glad you are working on that and not surprised since Governor Markell has become the hero and champion of the disability community and is known and talked about everywhere by people in the disability community. So here you are with a deaf son and working for such an awesome governor, what is it like for you to work with him?

   >> QUINN JOHNSON:  It is a great experience to do that, and he, like myself, I've had a personal experience of having a child that is deaf. One of the things that I have -- when I talk to parents, with individuals that maybe have other disabilities, family, a lot of our stories were similar. Our experiences were the same, but there were just different pathways. That's one of the reasons why I was involved, and since I've been there five years and since he was elected governor, hearing about his experiences and the fact that he has been very compassionate. He picked this topic when he was elected to be the president of the Governor's Association, and that made me extremely proud because it was not a topic that was high on the rankings as far as the most notable thing an individual could do for the general society. It wasn't something that often would get the most press coverage, and yet, he picked it anyway because he was very passionate about it and knew some of the experiences he had encountered. It has been an honor and I am glad he listens to myself and others in our caucus that have this passion for helping individuals.

   And it is great when you have your governor behind you because we can certainly do things on our side to pass laws, but there's more to it within a state system and the state itself so he needs to walk the walk. He's making his executive branch walk the walk for helping and we're working right alongside of him for passing laws that we need to do. So it has been just a great few years for individuals with disabilities in Delaware.

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  I know. You know what? This will carry on. His mission will carry on. He just has had such an impact in the United States, and we just love him. He's wonderful as is his secretary, Rita, another great champion for people with disabilities. I mean, I just think, you know, the governor, all of you, it is just wonderful to see the leadership because we know with the 70 percent unemployment, we know that we need it.

   So with that, Representative, what do you hope to accomplish while you're in office for people with disabilities?

   >> QUINN JOHNSON:  Sure. Well, we've done a number of things already. I'll just read you a few of those things just to show what we've done here. We've worked on the newborn hearing screening process here in Delaware. We've done that legislation for universal design features in public buildings, not public buildings from the standpoint of the ADA requires all commercial, but this is for housing and making housing more acceptable regarding children's education. We've obviously done those regarding the work and getting individuals employed. And so really what we need to do and what I plan on doing and continue to work on is making sure that now that we've gotten these laws on paper, making sure that they're actually being enacted, making sure that they're being followed through, and making sure that we really are doing what we said we were going to do on paper because that's the other part of it. We can pass a law that looks good on paper, but if it's not being implemented, then it really didn't do anything so that's where I'm working, if you want to call it, more in the trenches.

   And also now, I'm working greatly with our budget committees to just see how we can do more with the funding issue. For example, every state has been hit hard with the federal sequestration this year, cut some funding. Our division of rehab office was one which was cut so myself and the chair of the budget committee, we got together and discussed it, and we, of course, were able to find additional funds to basically put it back in so that now we can take individuals who were on waiting lists off of those waiting lists and so that's actually going on right now as we speak. That list of waiting is now getting dwindled down and the goal was, of course, to get to where there is no waiting list anymore for anybody that can use our services.

   So we're just going to keep the fight to keep listening and making sure that people within Delaware have a voice which they desperately need, and then also hope that we can continue the message to other states and that they can utilize some of the things that we've done as a blueprint, much like what the governor is trying to do with his initiative and giving states and got some people to work, made life better, and just overall improved the quality of life.

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  Well, you know what? That is so great. I love the part you said about, you know, not just talking about it, but implementing it because this is what I talk about all the time. Don't tell me how great I am. Hire someone.

   >> QUINN JOHNSON:  Right.

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  Don't talk about how you want to help. Hire them because if you just have a big convention or whatever it is that you have, but you don't really do anything, you know, what's the point? I mean, that's what I love about Governor Markell. He really followed through with everything, every commitment, every meeting, and was very forthright in what he wants to do in the state and is moving forward. But I love that because this has been one of our problems is that everyone talks about it, but we don't need white papers. We need paychecks.

   >> QUINN JOHNSON:  Exactly.

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  So, you know, I think that is so great that you're doing that, and I commend you for it.

   When I think about all these great things you're doing and the integrity you have for people just in your office or people that are statesmen or women, obviously, you had a role model that had an impact on you. Who was that?

   >> QUINN JOHNSON:  Well, the impact really is I've got to say my son. My son has been my role model, my reason for doing the things that I do. I know that, of course, the things that I do, unfortunately, it is kind of like a lag meaning it was my experiences and, of course, I want to make sure that no one else has to experience it, but knowing that he was the one, you know, I was the parent, but he was the actual child that had to go into this new school, had to go into a new environment where he didn't know anybody, had to go in and didn't know anyone where no one spoke his language and had to translate into that issue and that was saying if my son can do that, I can do that. I can certainly accomplish something to help other individuals that come behind us. Whenever I look at his accomplishments, it just shows me that I can, of course, continue to work and accomplish anything as well.

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  Well, listen. Since I've started this show, because I frequently ask this question. In all of these years you're the first person who has ever said your son. So how about that?

   >> QUINN JOHNSON:  Yeah. I'm proud of him.

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  I can tell you're proud of him. And as you said, he is heading off to college and, you know, we wish him the best, but I have no doubts, from everything you said, that with his initiative and his dreams, he will be able to move forward.

   >> QUINN JOHNSON:  Absolutely. One of the things I often chuckle about is I mentioned earlier, he was the class president of student body government and very involved in making sure his life and basically advocating for himself, but he has said he has no interest in politics, and, in fact, feels politics is boring. But he certainly understands and appreciates all the things that go on, and he obviously advocated for things for his fellow student body as well.

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  Yeah. One thing I wanted to mention when you were talking about deaf people being integrated into society is that many churches, synagogues, mosques have forgotten about deaf people and do not have sign language interpreters.

   >> QUINN JOHNSON:  Correct.

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  And I just pushed and pushed this at my church, and now, they do have a sign language interpreter. But I always say if you want people to come to your church, your synagogue, your mosque, or your company, keep in mind that the more people that are deaf or the more accessibility due to a sign language interpreter, the more you will see that increase.

   >> QUINN JOHNSON:  Absolutely. I mean that was a challenge for us as he was growing up in which it was going to church was certainly a battle because of the fact there wasn't any interpreting services so naturally, it's hard enough on children to go to church, but ultimately to say you're going somewhere and you can't hear anything that's going on, it was just a challenge so I don't blame him for not wanting to go. It was just an issue, meetings or churches, like you said, pop up. It is good to see.

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  Well, the U.S. State Department sent me to Panama just this past week because the embassy called them, and they wanted an expert on the employment of people with disabilities. And, boy, Third World country, I feel for people with disabilities. It is so far back. They don't even have access. But in this whole area I was in throughout Panama City, they only had three interpreters.

   >> QUINN JOHNSON:  Wow!

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  And I had the privilege of going to the University of the Americas and meet with students who are deaf. There is a population that is in partnership with Gallaudet to teach how to be sign language interpreters and let me just tell you, they were so thrilled, so hopeful, about the opportunities in the United States. Do you know, it was easier for us to talk to them than the people of Panama who, of course, speak Spanish.

   >> QUINN JOHNSON:  Wow!

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  It was just wonderful, and it was wonderful in how they have excelled under absolutely adverse situations. You know, so, you know, it just really inspired me. It really did. But we do need to think about that. Someone who works in my office, one time she went to the doctor and they said, hey, your stepmother. We remember she could sign. Bring her next time. They're relying on others. You know how hard it is for us hearing people to understand what a doctor is telling you. Now imagine you are a person who is deaf and you go through that same situation and they don't provide an interpreter.

   >> QUINN JOHNSON:  It's there and also when you see the difference, especially in the education system, but oftentimes what they try to do is to have multiple students with one interpreter in a class or through the day for the entire day, and yet, if you go out to any type of program outside of an education system, there's often two interpreters that then split time between one another. And to me, you know, yes, obviously, if you go to a graduation ceremony, there are two interpreters up there for an hour or hour and a half ceremony whereas this is their child's education and this person's content knowledge of what's going on in the classroom, it is very challenging for them to be able to keep up and in addition all the additional learning that goes on from the side conversations that, of course, can't be picked up because the interpreter is too busy in just trying to stay up with what's going on. It is funny the differences in our expectations and what we are allowing to be the case.

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  Right. It really is. Well, Representative Johnson, you have already done so much. It is amazing that you have accomplished so much at a young age, but to tell someone what you would say what is your greatest accomplishment, what would that be?

   >> QUINN JOHNSON:  My greatest accomplishment, that's a tough one for me to be able to say because I just feel that. I've got a wall full of laws that have been passed that were all as a result of issues that means these issues are no longer going to be affecting anybody else in the future. Certainly, to me, that makes me feel good about what we've been able to do, but I will say again that I can't say that I'm completely fulfilled because we unfortunately still have to have these conversations. It's not what I've accomplished so far, but it's what I can accomplish to make my job and my need for my job obsolete, the lack of access, all the issues that our disability community encounters. That day, if it ever comes, which we're going to fight for, that will be when I figured we accomplished the most.

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  Yeah. I agree. By the way, that includes, really includes employment which is what Governor Markell talks about. But, you know, sometimes even in that area, people give terrible advice to people because I met with someone right at the event that Governor Markell had who is an attorney who told me that what they told him at the school was that would be too hard for him. Maybe he should try something else.

   >> QUINN JOHNSON:  Right, without giving him the chance to see whether that was or wasn't too hard.

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  They would be wrong because he is an attorney. It is amazing the things that they tell people, and I mean you experienced that yourself from what you went through.

   >> QUINN JOHNSON:  Absolutely.

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  I'm sorry. Go ahead.

   >> QUINN JOHNSON:  That's one point I want to make all the listeners understand that if you hear the word no or can't, don't accept it. Continue fighting for what you believe is right. Continue to not allow any part of bureaucracy and/or the system to build a wall that you're not going to be able to climb. Keep climbing and don't give up. Ultimately, you will get to the top and you will get to the other side and ultimately, an advocate. Sometimes it may not mean -- if you don't have the resources, that's not really the issue at hand. Just keep finding people who will help and work with you because they are out there, a lot. As I'm sitting here, we have seven of my fellow colleagues all with personal experiences with individuals with disabilities and their family structure that are all, of course, working, and because their personal lives aren't out there to that level, people don't know to maybe reach out and understand that when they say, I understand, they truly do understand because they've lived it as well. I think that's one of the reasons why we've been successful in Delaware for being able to accomplish those things. So never give up.

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  First of all, I want to say thank you so much for being our guest today.

   >> QUINN JOHNSON:  It is my honor and privilege, and I want to thank you for all you do. I think it is an awesome thing to have this show to be able to talk and make sure individuals and listeners have access to information on what's going on elsewhere in the country and to hopefully get inspiration or ideas they can take back to wherever they are and continue to improve the lives for all individuals.

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  Well, thank you and also, I want to tell you I hope your aspirations continue on in politics because you know what? We need people like you. Without people like you, we can't change things because you know we're not always at the top of the list which is why Governor Markell is so awesome, but you're one of those champions we need so we'll be behind you, and you can be sure that people with disabilities in Delaware will all be behind you.

   >> QUINN JOHNSON:  That's awesome. Thank you so much.

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  We end every show with a quote from someone who has impacted our lives in the United States or throughout the world and today, it just has to be I. King Jordan, first president who was deaf at Gallaudet University and he said, "Deaf people can do anything hearing people can do except hear," and isn't that the truth.

   This is Joyce Bender, America's voice, where disability matters at voiceamerica.com. Talk to you all next week.

   (Broadcast concluded 1:55 PM DST)

This is being provided in a rough-draft format. Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) or captioning are provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings.

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