Q&A with Presidential Committee Appointee & SourceAmerica Employee James Trout
James Trout is a SourceAmerica Procurement List Management Specialist and has been with our organization since 2019. In March, he was appointed to the President's Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities by President Joe Biden. The committee advises both the president and the Secretary of Health and Human Services on topics that affect people with intellectual disabilities.
James is one of 34 committee members and one of its 21 citizen members; the 13 remaining members represent the federal government. James will serve the committee for a maximum of two years and plans to remain at SourceAmerica—committee members are all volunteers and are not compensated for their involvement. Read on to learn what this opportunity means to James personally and professionally.
Q. What does this opportunity to serve on the President's Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities mean to you, and how does it make you feel?
A. It's an honor to serve on this committee. It's something that I've long wanted to do as someone on the autism spectrum. It feels great to be on this committee and show my support for the disability community of 62 million and growing. Disability is the only minority group that people can join at any point in their lives. It's a community that has sadly been ignored and neglected for too long.
Q. What are some of your responsibilities as a member of this committee?
A. I will partially be responsible for assisting the citizen members and the federal government members with creating a plan for addressing disability issues, including infrastructure, employment, housing, community living, and more.
Q. Can you tell us how you came to the attention of the President and/or his staff?
A. I've been involved in advocating for disability issues since June 2015. To some extent, it was out of the blue. For two years, I was involved with a nonprofit called RespectAbility. Based in Rockville, Maryland, it's a nonprofit with a similar mission to SourceAmerica—to increase employment prospects for persons with disabilities. One of the highlights of this experience was traveling to Iowa and New Hampshire during the 2016 and 2020 primaries. I met with all the presidential candidates from both political parties to discuss their plans for improving employment prospects for people with disabilities.
Q. What does it mean to collaborate with the committee?
A. It's an excellent opportunity to meet with other people with disabilities. It will broaden my exposure to people with disabilities since the disability community is far from monolithic. For example, for someone like me on the autism spectrum, it means addressing social needs; and for someone with Down syndrome, it may mean addressing their intellectual needs. For someone with a physical disability, it would primarily address their physical needs.
Q. What would you like to accomplish during your time on the committee?
A. I want to emphasize adults with disabilities and their needs, such as employment, housing, and community interaction. Society generally does much better addressing the needs and wants of children with disabilities. When it comes to adults with disabilities, there's still a sentiment that adults with disabilities are children in adult bodies who will never be able to function in society and therefore don't deserve the same opportunities as anybody else—the need to overcome stereotypes for people with disabilities, even positive ones. For example, some programs work to address employment for people on the autism spectrum. Many of the jobs they offer are in coding or science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. There are few, if any, opportunities that exist for people who are interested in other areas such as government and communications.
Q. What advice would you give to someone interested in serving in an advisory role similar to yours?
A. Make sure you are there - not to serve yourself – but to help others. Ultimately, this is about serving the 62 million people with disabilities; make sure your focus is on that. Work hard and take a genuine interest in what's happening in the world and your local community to be better informed. You're able to better advocate for people with disabilities.
Q. Is there anything else you'd like people to know about the committee or your role as a committee member?
A. When it was initially founded, the committee focused on issues related to food and housing and later focused on de-institutionalization, housing, and employment opportunities. In the present day, the committee's focus will depend on our members and who we'll be working with.