"About Us" Interview With Florida Self-Advocacy Pioneer Frank Shalett
"About Us" is series of interviews with accomplished self-advocates in Florida.
Frank Shalett has been a leader in Florida’s self-advocacy movement for most of his adult life and this North Lauderdale resident has no plans to retire any time soon.
Frank was the first recipient of the Idelio Valdes Leadership and Self-Advocacy Award in 2010 and is currently the presidential adviser to Florida’s first prominent self-advocacy group, People First of South Florida. He also currently leads People First's Broward chapter.
Frank has been involved in the leadership of Florida's self-advocacy group network, FL SAND, since its formation in 2006 and was its first elected president from 2014-2017. He’s also been involved in Special Olympics, working on priorities that govern different areas of that organization, and has sat on the Florida Developmental Disabilities Council.
Representing all of these organizations, Frank has tirelessly walked the halls of the Florida Capitol for years, advocating on disability issues with lawmakers, especially employment and the difference it makes in the lives of people with disabilities.
Question: How important is being a person with a disability to your identity? Frank: It’s always been a part of my life since I was in special education so I deal with it the best way I can.
Question: When did you begin to identify as a self-advocate? Frank: I’ve always advocated for myself but I really got involved when I moved down from New York in 1989. That’s when I got involved with People First in Broward County.
Question: What disability-related issue is most significant to you? Frank: Healthcare, because it’s something we need. Without it, we can’t get to the doctor to take care of ourselves.
Question: Can you share a time when your disability inspired a behavior, comment, or reaction that you found particularly obnoxious? Frank: Not really because people don’t think I am disabled because my disability isn’t visible.
Question: If you could invite one person with a disability, living or dead, to have a conversation over coffee, who would it be? Why? Frank: My person isn’t someone with a disability. It would be Johnny Knoxville because a friend of mine from Special Olympics worked in the movie The Ringer with him.
Question: In 10 years, what would you most like to be different in the lives of persons with disabilities? Frank: Better healthcare and employment options for people with disabilities.
Question: If you could pick one song as your theme song, what would you choose? Frank: “Eye of the Tiger,” the song from the Rocky movies by Survivor.