Austin Nugent has built bridges between many different parts of the disability community, and she’s about to put those connections to use.
Nugent, who is a Disability Program Administrator at HDI, has been named an At-Large member for the National Disability Rights Network’s (NDRN) Board of Directors. That means that she’ll help provide oversight to an organization that protects and advocates for people with all sorts of disabilities nationwide, focusing on ensuring that people’s rights are protected.
“I will be not only helping to provide oversight to NDRN to make sure that their mission is in line with their services, but it’s also to make sure that the NDRN is aware of the issues happening in our communities,” she said.
And that is a position that Nugent is well-suited for. She has friends and family in multiple corners of the country and is connected to numerous diverse disability communities. Nugent brings a number of different skill sets to her role, including expertise in disability policy – a field in which she’s currently working on her master’s. She’s excited for the opportunity to be involved in helping build supports for her family, which is not based in Kentucky.
“My north stars are my brothers, and sometimes it feels like I’m so far removed from the systems that are supporting them,” she said. “The fact that I get to be involved with NDRN feels like I get to be a part in shaping the systems that are ultimately impacting their lives in Arizona.”
For now, she’s serving as an alternate, meaning that she votes on issues when other At-Large board members aren’t available. However, in October, the terms for the other At-Large board members end and she becomes a full board member.
“Like HDI, NDRN is a cross-disability organization focused on a variety of issues – education, healthcare, supported decision-making, etc. They support people with all types of disabilities, including Down syndrome, mental health disorders, and various health conditions, she said. “All things that are part of my life or the life of someone I know. So the fact that I get to bring together all my experiences, and wear all my different hats at a national level is so exciting!”
Current board member, and Executive Director of Kentucky Protection & Advocacy (P&A), Jeffrey Edwards, who nominated Nugent, said that he worked with her as part of the mental health advisory council for P&A. Frequently, Edwards looks at those boards for NDRN candidates.
“All of us can be self-advocates, but there are those of us who are born with it inside,” Edwards said. “It’s just that fire in your belly to make the world a better place, and I think that’s what Austin brings to it…That’s who she is.”
And for Edwards, those traits exemplify what Nugent is capable of – and the kind of attitude she’ll bring to the board.
“Those are people who bring something to the table,” he said. “They’re a known advocate, they’re passionate, they’re willing to go the extra mile, they share their experience and disclose the things that impact them. Austin does all those things in spades.”