What our ABLE Ambassadors are saying about the Oregon ABLE Savings Plan.

ABLE Ambassadors Stories

Corinne Brown's Story

When Corinne Brown graduated from Eastern Oregon University in 2013, she was ready to join the workforce. But she was stuck in a Catch-22 – an absurd problem people with disabilities face all the time.

Brown knew that in order to be successful at her new job, she would need help navigating the complexities of work. She would need to start receiving developmental disability services so that she could have a job coach. When she went to apply, she was told, “You’re over-resourced, dear.”

She would have to spend down her savings and make sure she would never have more than $5,000. All this so that she could work and earn money that she wasn’t allowed to save. It made no sense to her.

“Having disabilities doesn’t mean that you took a vow of poverty,” said Brown, who lives in Springfield. “We’re people with disabilities, not monks and nuns!”
— Corinne Brown

She found another way. Brown opened an Oregon ABLE Savings Plan account in 2018 to help manage her money. The use of an Oregon ABLE account allowed her to qualify for Oregon Medicaid’s Employed Person with Disabilities program, which lets higher-earning workers buy into Medicaid and receive services. Corinne was then able to get a job coach to help her navigate her new career as an accountant.

“You don’t have to have limits just because you have a disability,” Brown said. “You don’t have to sacrifice your dreams to meet your needs.”

Brown identifies as a person with multiple invisible disabilities. She doesn’t meet many people’s stereotype of what a person with a disability looks like. Brown, who grew up in rural Douglas County, is used to having to fight for what she needs.

One of Brown’s favorite parts about ABLE is that she’s in control of her own money. She doesn’t have to go to a trustee or ask someone for permission to make a withdrawal. It’s her money and she can manage it however she wants. Right now, she’s saving up to buy a house or a condo.

“ABLE is about freedom,” Brown said. “So, you can live the best life possible for you.”

Daphne Ann Marie's Story

The Oregon ABLE Savings Plan welcomes Daphne Ann Marie as one of our ABLE Ambassadors. Daphne will be using her ABLE story to share the power and possibility of ABLE accounts with underserved ABLE-eligible people with disabilities, their families and their communities!

I want to tell people that they too can succeed, and that an ABLE account can be a powerful tool to help you move your life toward your goals.
— Daphne Ann Marie

Daphne, who is 28-years-old and lives in Hillsboro, Oregon describes herself as “completely blind, hard-of-hearing, trans-feminine/non-binary.” She comes from a Spanish-speaking family and has experienced about every possible barrier to employment and higher education because of her intersecting identities. Daphne adds, “My pronouns are she/they, and I've been actively involved with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual community, (LGBTQIA+) since July of 2013.”

Daphne heard about ABLE accounts from a friend who lives in Colorado. “I was ecstatic to learn that there was a way to save and invest at the same time!” She opened her Oregon ABLE Savings Plan in June 2020. Her initial hope was to use her account to save and pay back her SSI overpayment and credit cards. Beyond paying down her debts, she has learned a host of other new ways to use her ABLE account to support herself. Daphne’s first action item as an Ambassador is to bring the message about the benefits of ABLE to others in her immediate circle. She shared, “I would really like to help my family, especially my older brother, get an ABLE account, so that his representative payee can save some money for him without it affecting his SSI eligibility.”

Daphne explored employment options with her Vocational Rehabilitation counselor to explore more targeted opportunities and land on a job that would be the best fit for her. She was successful and was hired as a public relations associate by Your Lessons Now, an LLC that provides voice training to the transgender community. Voice-training helps transgender individuals to make their voices sound more typical of their gender. This job is important to Daphne, not only for the income it provides, but also because it supports transgendered individuals and is transgender-owned. As Daphne gets closer to paying down her debt, she is planning on moving into her own apartment and using her ABLE account to save toward rental deposits and other supports that will allow her to thrive in a new home.

Daphne is excited about the opportunity to be an Oregon ABLE Savings Plan Ambassador and is looking forward to spreading the word about how ABLE accounts can change people’s lives, stating, “I would love to help people open ABLE Accounts—people who might be in a similar position to where I was before opening my account. I have been able to find employment that was affirming to my identity. I also have good experience building and managing credit for the past four years and maintain a blog with my journey.”

Artist Saves for Own Home Using Oregon ABLE Account

Marie Blanchard's Story

Having grown-up in a home nicknamed the “Art House,” it’s no surprise that making art has always been an important part of Marie Blanchard’s life.

Now, the 30-year-old uses her creative side to help build a home of her own. Marie is a professional artist who is saving money in her Oregon ABLE Savings Plan account to buy into a community where she will have the kinds of supports she needs.

Early in 2023, Marie will move into her own one bedroom place in the WeBuilt community in Clackamas. There she will have her independence, and also a community around her, with very cool on-site staff.

Marie, who experiences cerebral palsy, is proud of who she is and what she’s accomplished. She’s been educating people about disability her whole life. She’s spoken at conferences and visited her old second-grade classroom to teach children that we’re more alike than we are different. But she’s excited to live in a community that’s specifically built around the needs of people with disabilities.

“I want to live there so I don’t have to explain my disability to everyone,” she said. Instead, she’ll be able to simply be her full, authentic self.

Marie has been saving in her Oregon ABLE account since 2018. Half of the money she earns through her art business gets transferred into her Oregon ABLE account twice a year. She paints and sculpts ceramic creations that she sells through her Etsy Shop (Butterfly Heart 44) and at conferences.

Marie loves how Oregon ABLE allows her to make more purchases than she could if she had to keep her money below the $2,000 asset limit for her benefits.

“It allows people to be able to have bigger dreams than before,” she said.

Marie talked about her Oregon ABLE account so much that it convinced her best friend, Nirvana, to open one, too.

“It’s so great talking about our ABLE account together,” Marie said.

Erin Chapman's Story

In the two years she’s had her service dog, Erin Chapman has made more progress managing her panic attacks than she’s had in a decade of treatment with her wonderful providers.

Valor, who is specifically trained to help people with PTSD, can smell when Erin is getting anxious. He’s been known to knock her laptop out of her lap to intervene. He’ll put his head or whole body on her to perform deep pressure therapy to help her calm down.

He even alerted her to sensory overloads before Erin even knew she had autism and sensory sensitivities.

All this means that Erin, who has multiple co-occurring disabilities, has been able to go out in public much more and has seen a huge decrease in her levels of anxiety.

But service dogs can cost more than $10,000. Erin is using her Oregon ABLE Savings Plan account to save for a new service dog for when Valor retires.

The tax-free growth in her ABLE account ends up meaning they haven’t paid as much for disability-related expenses, she said. That’s certainly helpful when US households with one disabled adult must spend 28% more income to obtain the same standard of living as a household with no disabilities, according to the National Disability Institute.

Being a statistician, Erin is very aware of the low employment rates for people with her disabilities. She knows it’s likely she’ll run into future discrimination issues in the workforce as she has in the past.

Her Oregon ABLE account serves as an emergency plan that helps protect her family in case that happens.

“It’s reassuring in a way,” Erin said. “It’s one less thing I have to worry about because I know we’re setting this money aside. We don’t need this money right now, but one day we might.”

— Erin Chapman

Erin also has a young son who is neurodiverse, so her and her husband opened an ABLE account for him. They’ll use it to pay for calming and focusing tools that insurance doesn’t cover, and if he needs more occupational and physical therapy visits than insurance will pay for.

“It’s that safety net for when you hit problems with health insurance, and they won’t cover things,” she said.

Like all parents, they want to make sure he has the resources he needs as an adult to successfully transition into college and independent living. Oregon ABLE lets them focus on “the current” instead of worrying about the what-ifs or what happens when he turns 18.