Gabriel “Gabe” Martinez, project aide and peer navigator in the University of Arizona Sonoran Center for Excellence in Disabilities, was recently appointed to the President’s Committee For People with Intellectual Disabilities by President Joe Biden.
Martinez’s work at the Sonoran Center is focused on helping people with disabilities become self-advocates in all aspects of life. The center, which is housed within the UArizona College of Medicine – Tucson’s Department of Family and Community Medicine, works closely with university, state and local disability agencies and community groups to ensure individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities have the supports they need to participate fully in their community.
“We are all excited for Gabe’s appointment,” said Wendy Parent-Johnson, PhD, executive director of the Sonoran Center. “He has time and again demonstrated his leadership as a role model for youth and as an advocate for disability inclusion in local community organizations. Arizona’s disability community is lucky to have Gabe as its representative on this national platform.”
Martinez graduated from the Sonoran Center’s Project SEARCH, an employment preparation program, in 2016 and joined the center two years ago. He talks to youth and young adults with disabilities about employment and is a guest lecturer in the College of Medicine – Tucson.
“I’m excited to represent Arizona’s disability community,” Martinez said. “It is a great opportunity for me because I have always wanted to make a big, positive impact on people with disabilities.”
Sonoran Center visitors can expect a kind greeting and welcome from Martinez, who sits at the front desk. Co-workers often stop by his desk to chat and discuss project ideas.
“Gabe takes his advocacy and leadership role seriously and is always willing to put in the hard work to help us meet challenges,” said Kimberly Rogan, Martinez’s supervisor and a senior program coordinator in the Sonoran Center. “He is a consistently friendly and helpful team member. I can’t think of anyone better to serve on this important committee.”
Former President Lyndon B. Johnson established the President’s Committee For People with Intellectual Disabilities in 1966 to advise the president and the secretary of Health and Human Services on matters that impact the disability community. The committee works to improve the quality of life of people with disabilities, upholding full citizenship rights, independence, self-determination and lifelong participation within the broader community.
Between 7 and 8 million Americans, or 3% of the general population, experience intellectual disabilities, according to the Administration for Community Living. Nearly 1 in 10 families in the U.S. are directly affected by a person with intellectual disabilities at some point in their lifetimes.