Keyes brings intensive background in disability rights to Carmel advisory committee • Present Publishing
The newest member of the City of Carmel on the Disability Advisory Committee has an extensive background.
Melissa Keyes has been the executive director for Indiana Disability Rights since November 2019. She started as Legal Director for the organization in January 2014.
“I’ve worked in a variety of roles in and around the disabled community for over 20 years,” said Keyes, who recently attended her first Carmel Committee meeting. “I’ve worked at the national and state levels and wanted to participate as a local resident. As a person with my own struggles, as a parent, and as a professional in the field, I felt that my perspective was beneficial and that I could have an impact on this community. “
Keyes suffers from attention deficit disorder, as does her 6 year old son.
“It was in college and law school that I first decided to seek help with what I was going through,” she said. “I’ve tried medication and different coping strategies. But it was still very stigmatized. Nobody wants to be a lawyer who identifies as ADS or something like that. When I figured out what I needed to be successful, I realized that it was more like a different mindset and a different way of processing. I didn’t want my son to grow up thinking he should be ashamed or ashamed of needing help, or think about things and process them in other ways. Ultimately, we all need help in some form. “
She said she would like her son to embrace the unique qualities he has and not feel like he is hiding anything.
“He’s a unique thinker and he’s very smart,” Keyes said. “He’s got a lot of creativity.”
Keyes, who moved to Carmel from Indianapolis in 2018, earned her Masters in Clinical Rehabilitation Psychology from IUPUI in 2007. In 2011 she graduated from Indiana University School of Law.
“I really would like to see more involvement of people with disabilities in decision-making at the local level,” Keyes said. “As for my role, I’m still trying to figure out the goals for the committee and how I can best use my skills and perspectives to advance the group’s mission.”
A friend of the Fishermen’s Advisory Committee on Disability told Keyes that there was a similar group in Carmel.
“I was keen to learn more, so I reached out to (committee coordinator) David (Littlejohn) for information on openings or opportunities to participate,” she said.
Carmel Councilor Laura Campbell, who helped found the council in 2019, nominated Keyes for the role.
“She has extensive experience in dealing with accessibility issues and the employment of people with disabilities. These are two of the three sub-committees that the committee will focus on and she has already helped us with some of the legal issues in these areas to understand, “said Campbell.
In her role as Executive Director of Indiana Disability Rights, Keyes attended numerous policy meetings that covered a variety of topics.
Early in her career, Keyes said her focus was on removing obstacles.
“I don’t like bullies or unnecessary barriers or anything,” she said.
According to Keyes, Indiana has great lawyers at the state and local levels.
“The hardest part is addressing the cultural and historical stereotypes and barriers that affect the actual inclusion of people with disabilities,” she said.