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People First board members are, from left, Tonya Battles, mentor; Dave Griffin, statewide coordinator; Liz Rice, Mentor; Lexi Shelnutt, treasurer; Josh Kimbrill, vice president; Darius Battles, secretary; Tricia Taylor, sergeant-at-arms; Susan Carr, mentor and front, Vicki Harmon, president.

There’s a new organization creating a new chapter in Coffee County for the rights of those with disabilities.

People First Tennessee is a grassroots membership disability rights group committed to full inclusion of people with disabilities. It has an advisory council led by self-advocates with support from mentors and staff. “A self-advocate is someone with either cognitive or physical disabilities who is speaking for them self,” said Susan Carr, one of the mentors. “Mentors are there to help self-advocates with whatever support is needed.”  Carr said self-advocates run the meetings.  

PFTN addresses issues that affect people with disabilities. These issues include things like living in poverty, seeking employment, and living independently. They address how to get access to services and support they need. PFTN is supporting local chapters all across Tennessee with the help of organizations like The Arc, a nonprofit organization advocacy group to those with disabilities and their families, and other organizations for technical and structural support. The PFTN is an extension of the Arc with only self-advocates as members. 

Some of the topics they are covering include teaching youth and adults with disabilities about their rights and responsibilities, providing support on awareness of issues, leadership opportunities, and how to take action on important disability-related issues and concerns. Carr said PFTN want self-advocates to take part in state, regional, and national policy-making discussions. PFTN encourages anyone to join who has a disability or anyone interested in being a mentor.

The next Coffee County meeting will be Nov 18 at 5:30 p.m. at the Skills Development Center on 704 S. Washington Street.

More information about PFTN can be found at