Press Release
November 25, 2015
Contact: Will Krueger
(512) 463-0121
Senator Zaffirini Named Advocate of the Year by Access College Texas
Group Advocates for Post-Secondary Opportunities for Students with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

(AUSTIN) — Access College Texas (ACT), a consortium of post-secondary education programs for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities, on Saturday (Nov. 21) named Senator Judith Zaffirini its 2015 Advocate of the Year for her relentless pursuit of enhanced higher education opportunities for this population.

"I am thankful for this recognition, especially because I share ACT's goal of achieving expanded post-secondary education for persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities, a group that long has been underserved," Senator Zaffirini said. "Education is a right, not a privilege, and Texans of all backgrounds and abilities deserve access to opportunities to enhance their job skills, improve their quality of life and enjoy lifelong learning."

ACT, which comprises Austin Community College's STEPS Program, Houston Community College's VAST Academy, The University of Texas at Austin Continuing Education Department and the Texas Center for Disability Studies at UT-Austin, presented the award at its first annual conference geared for advocates and parents of students with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

"The members of Access College Texas were thrilled to honor Senator Judith Zaffirini with our Advocate of the Year award for her dedication to good public policy regarding intellectual and developmental disability issues, and in particular the two pieces of legislation she authored and passed in the 84th legislative session." said Gerard Jimenez, Government and Public Affairs Director for Access College Texas.

This year Senator Zaffirini continued her multi-session effort by successfully passing bills that enhanced data collection regarding the participation of students with intellectual and developmental disabilities in higher education and required the state to create an inventory of the postsecondary services and opportunities available to these students and their families.

A member of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee and a former Chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee, Senator Zaffirini is a lifelong champion for improved education and health and human services, especially for the very young, the very old, the very poor and persons with disabilities. In 2013 she passed important legislation helping students in public school special education programs transition to college and careers.

She also has passed bills promoting the option of independent living, improving disability awareness training, encouraging state agencies to consider vendors that employ persons with disabilities, improving services for children with special needs and protecting persons with disabilities from abuse and neglect.

Dr. Zaffirini holds B.S., M.A. and PhD degrees from The University of Texas at Austin, and though she bleeds orange, she is a champion for students of all backgrounds and abilities at all Texas institutions of higher education.

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ACCESS COLLEGE TEXAS presents Senator Zaffirini its Advocate of the Year Award. Shown are (L-R) Austin Community College (ACC) STEPS Program Director Mariah Lossing; ACC Vice President of Instruction Mike Midgely; Senator Zaffirini; Access College Texas Public Affairs Director Gerard Jimenez; ACC Continuing Education Workforce Director Nancy Laudenslager; and ACC Trustee Barbara Mink.