March 18, 2022

Izzy Advocates for His Community

A self-advocate works for greater funding and opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

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Israel “Izzy” Cruz has been a long-time self-advocate. For the past thirteen years, he has publicly worked to further the rights and visibility of people with disabilities in New York State.

“I’m always advocating, not just for myself, but for everyone,” says Izzy, whose work has been featured in The Buffalo News. “I’m here to advocate for as many people as possible.”

Izzy spent many years working for the Museum of Disabilities History and has more recently partnered with the Self-Advocacy Association of New York State, Inc. (SANYS). Recently, Izzy created an instructional video for SANYS that teaches people with disabilities how to use Zoom. He also joined the Family, Individual and Caregiver Advisory Board Committee (FICAB) at Person Centered Services, providing insights and advice to an organization that coordinates care for more than 17,000 people.

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Since 2019, Hillary Jelowski has provided Care Coordination through Person Centered Services to Izzy. Her work with him has been life-changing for them both.

“I was new as a Care Coordinator when I started working with Izzy,” says Hillary. “It was a great relationship right off the get-go. I have so appreciated supporting him as he tackles issues. Izzy handles every situation with grace, compassion, understanding, and constructiveness. It has been an incredible learning experience and it’s an honor to be there to close the circle with his providers.”

Hillary is critical in connecting Izzy to the technology and equipment he needs to thrive. During a winter storm, the lift at Izzy’s home was damaged and required expensive repairs. Hillary was able to find funding to get the elevator fixed. Additionally, Hillary worked with Medicaid to secure an updated Permobil power chair to maximize Izzy’s mobility.

“Hillary is very effective in making sure that goals are met,” says Izzy. “I’m glad she’s stuck with me!”

Hillary is very supportive of Izzy’s advocacy work and furthering the causes he cares about. Currently, Izzy is passionate about ensuring that providers have the funding they need to serve people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“There is constant turnover with direct support staff I work with,” says Izzy. “I’ve had many staff members who left over the last few years, even though they didn’t want to, since the pay wasn’t enough. It’s stressful, because you get used to working with certain people and build strong relationships, and you have to start over again when they leave.”

Izzy encourages people to reach out their legislators in support of higher wages for Direct Support Professionals by using a simple advocacy tool found at

In addition to his advocacy work, Izzy also enjoys creating and sharing videos. You can stay up-to-date with what is going on in Izzy’s life by subscribing to his YouTube and following him on TikTok at @izzyslifevlogs.

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