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Green Mountain Self-Advocates (GMSA)

Green Mountain Self-Advocates (GMSA) is a statewide self-advocacy network run and operated by people with developmental disabilities. The GMSA board includes representatives from the 18 local self-advocacy groups. The group comes together to listen to each other, make new friends, learn about people’s rights and tell politicians and others why people with disabilities are important. Green Mountain Self-Advocates is building a movement for self-advocacy through public education and awareness, peer mentoring, support, advocacy and direct action.

Mission Statement: The purpose of Green Mountain Self-Advocates is for people with developmental disabilities to take control over their own lives, make decisions, solve problems and speak for themselves. We educate and make the public aware of the strengths, rights, wants and needs of people with developmental disabilities.

History: In 1994, GMSA grew out of a self-advocacy group in Burlington. With the help of allies, they connected with other Vermont self-advocates to create a network. Together they started self-advocacy groups in Barre, Middlebury, Rutland and St. Albans. Today hundreds of self-advocates speak up for themselves as members of 18 local groups.



Services Include

  • Clear Messages
    GMSA can help you make your information simple and clear for everyone. Our members are available to review your policies or public education materials and suggest how you can present the information in a way so all people can understand it.


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Program Contacts


  • Green Mountain Self-Advocates
    73 Main Street, Suite 401
    Montpelier, VT 05602

    Phone: 802-229-2600
    Phone: 1-800-564-9990 [Toll Free-VT only]


  • Relay Vermont 711 (TTY)


  • Green Mountain Self-Advocacy Local Groups: 2007


Group Contact Person(s) Contact Information
Meeting Schedule
Advocates for Action Donna Bennett
Kate Berge-Charter
(802) 295-3032 1st Friday of the month
Bennington Peer Support Lisa Rudiakov
Melanie Brunina
(802) 442-5491 2nd Wednesday evening of the month
Burlington Self-Advocacy Club Christian George
Jayne Webber
(802) 488-6331 2nd & 4th Friday of the month
Capitol City Advocacy Association (CCAA) Robert Purdue
Karen Noone
(802) 262-1236 Every Wednesday Morning
and 3rd Thursday Evening of the month
Champlain Voices Paul Nichols
Priscilla Thomas
(802) 655-0511 Mondays
Connections of Peer Support (COPS)
of White River Junction
Helen George
Karen Daley Regan
(802) 886-1833 1st Monday night of the month
Friends Helping Friends Margaret Pearlstein
Kaili Goslant
(802) 479-2502 2nd Wednesday of the month
HEAT Amanda Daniels
Gina Brown
(802) 472-6581
Getting Acquainted Patti Mack (802) 888-6627 2nd Monday of the month
Next Step of St. Albans Jonathan Fitgerald
Syd Boyd
(802) 524-6561 1st & 3rd Mondays of the month
Our Drop In Center Roland Maurais
Gail Rowe
Francine Heywood
(802) 334-8378 They are there every week day.
Randolph Area Peer Support (RAPS) Edwin Place
Sue Gorman
(802) 728-4476 Every other Tuesday
Rutland High School Maggie Rafter (802) 770-1012
Self-Advocates Becoming Empowered of Rutland Patty Czarnecki
Lisa Lynch
(802) 775-1370 2nd Tuesday of month
Self-Advocates Meeting (SAMS) of Springfield Kerry Banks (802) 886-1833 3rd Wednesday of the month
Strong Advocate Voices & You (SAVY) Laura Benton
Rafael Rice
(802) 888-7602 2nd Friday of the month
Speak Up Addison County Delsie Farnsworth
Lindsey Hescock
(802) 388-3381 Every other Monday
Vermont Choices Ryan Whipple
Robin Burnash
(802) 748-3181 Every Wednesday 2 pm to 3 pm


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  • GMSA Newsletter
    The GMSA Newsletters are written by people with developmental disabilities for their peers, family, providers and general public. Newsletters list upcoming trainings and include positive stories about self-advocates contributing to their communities. (If you would like a copy please contact GMSA gmsavt@gmail.comor by phone at (802) 229-2600.)


  • GMSA Self-Advocacy Handbook
    This handbook provides basic information used to establish two new peer-run self-advocacy groups. GMSA Self-Advocacy Handbook includes information on how to start a self-advocacy group, how to run your own meetings, making decisions as a group and learning from the history of the self-advocacy movement. (If you would like a copy please contact GMSA or by phone at (802) 229-2600.)


  • State House Tool Kit
    Includes information on: Ways To Contact Your Elected Officials; Talking Points: What To Say On The Phone, In Person Or When Your Write; How To Write A Story About Yourself; Things To Remember When Making Your Case; Testimony Tips and Sample stories. It supports youth and adults with developmental disabilities to be actively involved in speaking up for their rights and services to elected officials. (If you would like a copy please contact GMSA gmsavt@gmail.comor by phone at (802) 229-2600.)


  • Our Bill of Rights
    A video by Green Mountain Self-Advocates
    • Do you ever feel stuck trying to explain what the word “rights” means?
    • Do you feel frustrated because many people with developmental disabilities talk about speaking up for their rights but have a hard time explaining what that means?
    • Do you want to teach people about their rights but are not sure where to begin?
    • This video is for you!

      There’s never been an easier way to promote disability rights. Green Mountain Self-Advocates made this video to help our members understand their rights and learn how to speak up about them. The script for Our Bill of Rights was written by self-advocates and many of the actors are self-advocates.

      This 18-minute video begins with a short history lesson about the United States Bill of Rights. Self-advocates then describe all the rights and responsibilities that are important to them. This video ends with 3 short stories which demonstrate the rights in everyday life.

      Without question, Our Bill of Rights is entertaining as well as educational. It is an excellent training tool for people with disabilities, support staff, agency boards and the public in general.


      Videographer: Green Mountain Video
      Performance by: The Awareness Theater Company
      Running time: 18 minutes
      Closed captioned
      © 2004 Green Mountain Self-Advocates. All rights reserved.
      73 Main St., Suite 401, Montpelier, VT 05602, 802-229-2600,
      (If you would like a copy please contact GMSA at the contact information above.)


  • Get On Board and Make a Difference!
    Effective Practices for Including People With Developmental Disabilities and New Members On Boards And Committees.
    In the spirit of "Nothing about us, without us!" our members created this manual to increase and improve the quality of participation by people with developmental disabilities on boards and committees.


    This manual includes:

    A. What We All Can Do to Include People with Different Learning Styles

    B. Tips for Being a Support Person

    C. Suggestions for Other Board Members

    D. Suggestions for the Chairperson

    E. Accommodation Checklist

    F. Glossary of abbreviations, acronyms, and definitions of the most commonly used phrases and jargon by boards and standing committees.

    G. Adapted version of Robert's Rules of Order


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Boards and Committees

  • GMSA Board
    Board meetings are held monthly at Vermont Technical College. Two times a year membership meetings are held on interactive television at 10 different sites enabling people from all of the the state to participate.


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Training, Conferences and Events Calendar


Green Mountain Self-Advocates provide practical “how to” tools necessary for anyone who is interested in being a self-advocate and leader in making choices and decisions about how they live their lives.

For information about any of the trainings and events listed below contact GMSA at or by phone at (802) 229-2600.


  • 6 Basic Self-Advocacy Workshops
    • Knowing Yourself
      Your strengths, what you need help with and what to tell others about yourself.

    • Being Part of the Community
      Roles people can have in the community. Ways individual self-advocates and self-advocacy groups can get involved at local, state, regional and national levels

    • Communication
      Learn to be assertive instead of shy or pushy. Learn effective use of body language, listening and other communication skills.

    • Problem Solving
      Learn ways to solve problems, how to identify your emotions and positive ways to work through them, how to act to achieve the outcomes you want.

    • Rights and Responsibilities
      Learn the difference between basic, everyday rights and responsibilities and specific laws about the rights of people with disabilities.

    • How to Be a Strong Self-Advocate
      Empowers people to make personal choices and advocate for themselves.


  • Get On Board and Make a Difference
    In the spirit of "Nothing about us, without us!" our members are available to serve on local and state boards and committees. We do a workshop on how to encourage and support people with developmental disabilities and new members to be effective decision-makers. We put together a manual called “Get On board and Make a Difference!” It includes an adapted version of Robert's Rules of Order written by self-advocates.


  • 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens and Adults
    Steven and Sean Covey's books describing The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and Teens are two of the most widely read self-help books. GMSA choose this curriculum because the 7 Habits provide building blocks to teach our members real steps to take charge of their lives and to develop leadership skills. The teen version translates the 7 Habits curriculum into simple, concrete language, and incorporates hands-on exercises with multiple opportunities for role-playing. The 7 Habits helps teens with developmental and other cognitive disabilities navigate the difficult transition between school and adult life. It assists them to be assertive, achieve goals, resist peer pressure, participate in decision-making about life choices, and practice communication and listening skills.


  • Voices and Choices Conference
    Since 1998, GMSA has organized an annual statewide self-advocacy conference for people with developmental disabilities and their families, providers, and allies. This event includes a keynote address featuring a national leader of the self-advocacy movement and up to 20 different breakout sessions. The program is energized by an awards ceremony and plenty of opportunities to sing and dance.


  • Disability Awareness Workshops
    GMSA offers Disability Awareness Workshops to help students of all ages to understand that people with disabilities are the same as them. Unfortunately a lot of people make fun of people with developmental disabilities. Some people use labels like “retard” and “dummy. Our workshop includes games for students to play and opportunities for self-advocates to who describe the many ways they contribute to their communities and share a story about their disabilities. These stories include how self-advocates work, have friends, have family and have fun. "People with disabilities have a lot in common with people who do not have disabilities. Just because we are people with disabilities it doesn't mean that we are different from anybody else. We just do things a little bit differently. We just want respect like anyone else who does not have a disability."


  • Our Bill of Rights
    This workbook and video was written and produced by GMSA to teach people receiving developmental services about rights and responsibilities. The video is also an excellent tool for training new staff hired to support people with developmental disabilities.


  • How To Stay Safe and Knowing Your Legal Rights and Responsibilities
    Since 1998, Green Mountain Self-Advocates (GMSA), has provided abuse prevention training for people with developmental disabilities, family members, community service providers, and advocates. Our Stay Safe and Know Your Legal Rights curriculum was originally designed by national criminal justice expert Jeri Houchins from Texas who has worked for over 20 years with people with disabilities, human service, criminal justice, and education professionals to teach others how to live and work safely in the community and protect your constitutional rights as United States citizens. In 2004, Stay Safe and Know Your Legal Rights was adapted and expanded for high school students. Maggie Rafter, a special educator from Rutland High School, worked together with her students to create additional activities, role plays, and picture cues to adapt the curriculum to life as we know it in Vermont. Blending their unique perspectives made this a "real life" tool that deals with "real life" situations! We express our appreciation of the VT Division of Disability and Aging Services, who had the insight and confidence to fund Stay Safe and Know Your Legal Rights.


  • Voting Rights Workshop
    GMSA teaches a 1 to 2 hour workshop on voting rights for youth and adults with developmental disabilities. It includes segments on:
    • Voting rights
    • Debunking the myths about why people don’t vote
    • How to register to vote
    • Being an educated voter


  • Train-the-Trainer Retreats
    GMSA offers 2 different train-the-facilitator courses for teams consisting of both people with and without developmental disabilities. A 3-day session provides an opportunity to learn how to teach a series of 6 self-advocacy workshops. A 2-day session provides an opportunity to learn how to teach a workshop on Staying Safe and another workshop called Knowing Your Legal Rights and Responsibilities.


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