Ellen Perry was born with Cerebral Palsy in Raleigh, North Carolina in the late 1950s. She didn’t realize it at the time, but her self-advocacy started in grade school. When she was 11, she tried to start a Brownie Troop at the Cerebral Palsy center where she attended school from sixth grade on. When her efforts were initially denied, she learned that boys are treated better than girls (they had a Boy Scout troop) and that in general, people with disabilities are not treated with respect. At age 14, she was second-in-command on a weekend camp-out of 19 girls with different disabilities, a life-altering event that still excites her when she speaks of it. Ellen served for ten years as a Girl Scout leader, helping other young women learn independence.
Ellen started Real Advocates Now Emerging (RANE) in 2000. RANE developed while Ellen assisted a person with I/DD living in a state institution. It took five years of petitioning the state, leading rallies and changing policy. Finally he moved into housing in the community. He still resides in the community of his choice. RANE meets monthly with a group of action-oriented self-advocates. Through RANE’s advocacy, the state of North Carolina received a Money Follows the Person grant that continues to this day.
Ellen created Peer Connections, a Health and Wellness Program for persons with intellectual disabilities. This program was modeled in Florida for a year. Ellen was contracted by The Human Services Research Institute of Oregon.
Ellen served as one of the two self-advocates on the Seeing is Believing grant from the North Carolina Council on Developmental Disabilities. This grant transformed provider agencies and helps people move from group home settings into private housing in the community of their choice.
Additionally, Ellen serves on the state and national boards of the Association for Persons with Supported Employment (APSE) and has served on the North Carolina Council on Developmental Disabilities, NC Association of Self-Advocates, the Southern Collaborative (an 11-state board addressing disability issues), her local Transportation Advisory board, and state and local Consumer Family Advisory Committees. In her most recent undertaking Ellen established a state-wide self-advocacy group called People First of North Carolina. Ellen currently sits on a multi-state board dealing with People First groups.
Ellen has been adviser for the Triangle Self-Advocate Network for six months; however, she has been coordinating Lunch and Learn (a branch of TSAN) for five years. This self-advocate group offers individuals with Intellectual and/or Developmental Disabilities an opportunity to learn and make connections in their community.