Sherri Adams is an advocate for Scioto County Developmental Disabilities and a teacher with the Project STIR (Steps Toward Independence and Responsibility) program where she helps others use their own abilities to advocate for their own rights and needs.
“We want to teach people with disabilities how to advocate for themselves. We want them to be individuals and not have to be dependent on other people, but be responsible for themselves. I know some of the students depend on families, guardians, or providers, but we want them to be individuals for themselves,” Adams said.
Adams is an expert on advocating for disability rights. She is a former president of the Southern Ohio Advocacy Group and a paid advocate for Scioto County DD.
“Sherri and her husband, Bill, represent the community as advocates in a variety of ways. They work as advocates for developmental disabilities at Scioto County DD, and they are awesome at their jobs. They attend a lot of the events the county has for the community. They are at those events to educate people and to let people know that you don’t have to hide your light if you have a disability,” said Theresa Rowland, outreach coordinator with Scioto County Developmental Disabilities.
Sherri met her would-be husband in 2011 through a mutual friend at Scioto County DD and they bonded over their shared experience of recently losing a parent.
“He would come from STAR and get off the bus at the Vern Riffe School and he saw me here and said he had to meet me,” Sherri said. “We talked for about two weeks and then we had our first date at LaRosa’s in Portsmouth. He’s very intelligent. He’s very special. He graduated from Shawnee State University with a bachelor’s degree in social science.”
Bill proposed to Sherri during a conference in March of 2014, but soon after they were devastated when they were told that if they got married, Sherri would lose her income benefits because they are on different benefit programs. Sherri wrote letters to the president, senators, and congressmen, but they all told her it was not under their authority to change that rule.
“I told Bill I was going to leave and let him go find someone who he can marry, and I’m going to stay out of this because it hurt so bad that we can’t get married because of our income. But he told me he wasn’t going to quit. He’s stubborn like that,” Sherri said.
The couple continued dating while they fought for disabled rights, until March of 2019 when they discovered they were not on separate benefit programs, but were actually already enrolled in the same SSDI program. That meant they could get married, after all, without losing any of their income. They were finally married in January of 2020.
While the issue was resolved for Sherri and Bill, they both continue to fight for disability marriage rights for the many people who are still threatened with income reduction if they choose to get married.
“There’s a young girl that comes for our meetings and she wants to get married. But her and her fiance are on SSI and they can’t do it. We want to help them, but unless they change the law they can’t do it without losing one of their incomes,” Adams said.
To learn more about the issue of Disability Marriage Equality, visit the Center for Disability Rights at https://cdrnys.org. For more information about the programs and services at Scioto County Developmental Disabilities, call 740-353-0636 or visit online at www.sciotodd.org, and like and follow them on Facebook and TikTok.