Chester Finn: Nationally Recognized Disability Rights Advocate, and Special Assistant with OPWDD

Chester wearing a stripped scarf standing with an older man also wearing a stripped scarf. They are smiling.

 Chester Finn of Albany has been leaving his mark as a strong advocate for people with developmental disabilities for more than 20 years.

In addition to working as a special assistant with OPWDD since 1997, Chester has been appointed to, and continues to serve on, numerous state and national boards, helping to advise disability policy.

One accomplishment that Chester is most proud of is being appointed by former U.S. President Barack Obama to serve two terms on the board of the National Council on Disability (NCD). The NCD is an independent federal agency that advises the president, Congress, and other federal agencies regarding disability policy.

“I rode on Air Force 2 with Joe Biden (when he was vice president), my family, Martin Luther King Jr., and his son,” Chester says. “We talked about how to be more effective with disability policy and civil rights.”

Chester is the co-founder of the Community Empowerment Programs Inc., which provides community service and educational programming for people with disabilities. He previously served three terms as president and chairman of the National Self Advocates Becoming Empowered (SABE) and has been a past president of the Self Advocacy Association of New York State (SANYS) and advisor to SANYS. He is also a member of the Self-Advocacy Resource and Technical Center board and the Southern Poverty Law Center.

In addition, Chester was recently named to the Commission on Quality and Leadership (CQL) board of directors. The CQL has been a national leader in working with human service organizations and systems to continuously define, measure and improve quality of life and quality of services for youth, adults and older adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities and psychiatric disorders. Chester also serves as vice chair for the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals (NADSP) board of directors.

How does one person accomplish all this while also advocating for people with developmental disabilities? Chester says he does it by simply being himself.

“I inspire others by listening to them and then advocating for them,” Chester says.

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