Spina bifida “poster boy” will become Malloy’s new advocate for the disabled community

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy today appointed Jonathan Slifka of West Hartford to a new top position in his administration to advocate on behalf of the state’s disability community.

Here’s the news release:

“In the role of Governor’s Liaison to the Disability Community, Slifka will be responsible for increasing outreach on behalf of the Governor and executive branch agencies to people with disabilities in order to provide policy and practical recommendations for advocacy, employment, programs and services, as well as serving as an ombudsperson.


“We have a resilient safety net of community providers in our state, but there are still ways that state government can be a better partner to ensure that we are providing adequate services, while doing so in the most efficient way possible,” Governor Malloy said. “I’m excited to have Jonathan on my team, and look forward to working with him to improve how the disability community interacts with both state government and nonprofit providers.”


Slifka most recently served at Goodwin College in East Hartford, where he worked on behalf of the admissions department.  He serves on a number of volunteer positions in his community, including as a commissioner on the West Hartford Advisory Commission for Persons with Disabilities; as a member on the Miracle League of Connecticut’s Board of Directors; and as a counselor and tennis coach with the Ivan Lendl Junior Wheelchair Sports Camp, where he teaches sports skills to campers with disabilities and serves as a mentor on numerous developmental and life-skill areas.


“It is truly an honor and a privilege to be chosen to serve in the Governor’s administration,” Slifka said.  “I am so proud to be able to go to work every day and advocate for all persons with disabilities across the state.”


Throughout his life, Slifka, who was born with spina bifida and is unable to walk, routinely broke barriers.  He was the first student with a disability mainstreamed through the West Hartford Public School System, the first athlete with a disability to play little league baseball in West Hartford, and the first athlete in a wheelchair to play on a high school tennis team in the state.  He was also the March of Dimes Poster Child from 1985 to 1988, which inspired his mother to start the wheelchair sports camp where Slifka currently serves as a mentor and coach.


In addition to serving as a liaison between the state and residents with disabilities, he will evaluate and recommend improvements in the way the state provides information and access for people with disabilities.  He will also develop, in consultation with the Governor and the Office of Policy and Management, an action plan with varying areas of focus.


While the Governor’s Liaison to the Disability Community is a cabinet-level position, it will be administratively held within the state Department of Rehabilitation Services (DORS), where Slifka will work alongside the department’s staff to improve services to Connecticut citizens with disabilities.
“We are very excited to have a cabinet-level position specifically targeted to advocating on behalf of Connecticut’s residents with disabilities,” DORS Commissioner Amy Porter said.  “Jon’s focus on outreach will better connect people with disabilities to our existing programs, while helping us identify areas where we might be able to strengthen access and services.”


Slifka will begin the position on Friday, January 10, 2014.”