Billy Altom: Helping Rural Residents with Disabilities to Thrive

Welcome to the first episode of the The Bottom-Up Revolution podcast in 2022. It’s great to be back with you, and we’ve got an exciting episode to kick off the new year.

Billy Altom is the executive director of APRIL, which stands for Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living. It’s a national nonprofit consisting of over 260 members from centers for independent living for people with disabilities, specifically located in rural areas. Altom has been involved in disability advocacy on a number of levels, including testifying for state and federal legislatures, working for multiple independent living organizations and now leading APRIL. He’s also a musician.

In this conversation, he talks about the importance of peer support—of seeing someone who looks like you and knows what you’re experiencing, whether that’s encountering a fellow wheelchair user on the bus or meeting another deaf person at school. This is particularly essential in rural areas where the population of people with disabilities can be fairly small and services can be quite sparse. Altom knows from personal experience the power of simply connecting with someone who also has a disability. He talks about rural transportation and housing challenges in particular, as well as the impact of COVID, both positive and negative for people with different abilities.

Throughout the interview, you’ll learn that he holds a deep commitment to engaging the people who are impacted by his work and ensures that his organization is always rooted in community needs—something we’re always advocating for at Strong Towns. Altom is such an engaging and dynamic speaker; we know you’re going to appreciate hearing his story and will learn something from his perspective.

Click here to view a transcript for this show.

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