Teen advocates for inclusivity in wilderness

AS PART OF the yearlong EmpowHER Camp program, participants work on a local project focused on disability disaster preparedness. For her local project, Hannah Gallivan updated the Green Mountain Emergency Toolkit to include a page for individuals with service animals. Photo courtesy of Hannah Gallivan

BRISTOL — Hannah Gallivan, a rising junior at Mount Abraham Union High School, has spent the past year working to update the Green Mountain Emergency Toolkit and make the disaster preparedness guide more inclusive for individuals with service animals. Her efforts are part of a yearlong program she’s doing with the Disability EmpowHER Network, a New York-based organization that empowers girls and young women with disabilities from around the country through mentorship and learning opportunities.

Gallivan, who lives with cerebral palsy, said she was referred to the Disability EmpowHER Network by a friend and has enjoyed how the network allows her to get to know other young women with disabilities and learn from older women in the disability community.

“It was really important for me because not only did I get to spend time around other girls with disabilities, but I also got to meet women with disabilities who have successful jobs and careers and have done amazing things in their life and set a good example for people like us. That was really helpful to me,” the Bristol resident said.

Gallivan joined the Disability EmpowHER Network in 2021, taking part in its EmpowHER Camp. The camp begins with a five-day camping trip at John Dillon Park, an accessible wilderness campground in the Adirondacks. During the camping trip, participants are taught independent living skills and basic survival skills, and they get a chance to meet the mentors that the network partners them with. Over the next year, participants work with their mentors to complete a local project, specific to their interests but focused on disaster preparedness for individuals with disabilities.

For her local project, Gallivan decided to add a page to the Green Mountain Emergency Toolkit for individuals with service animals. The Toolkit is a resource created through the Green Mountain Emergency Preparedness Project, an undertaking of UVM’s Center on Disability and Community Inclusion. Available in PDF or print formats, the self-help toolkit helps individuals with disabilities prepare for emergencies by filling out the guide with information they or emergency responders may need in case of disaster.

 Gallivan is waiting on a service animal herself and said she and her mentor, Kathryn Carroll of Albany, N.Y., realized there was a need for information about how individuals with service animals can prepare for emergencies.

HANNAH GALLIVAN, LEFT, and Mia Howie joined the Disability EmpowHER Network in 2021 for the network’s five-day EmpowHER Camp at John Dillon Park. The Disability EmpowHER Network offers transformational learning and mentorship opportunities for girls and young women with disabilities throughout the country.
Photo courtesy of Hannah Gallivan

“We both did a lot of Google-diving, and we really didn’t find a ton of information about emergency situations and service animals in Vermont. A lot of my project was about ‘OK, I’m not finding this kind of information so obviously there is a need,’” Gallivan said.

Gallivan and Carroll found the Green Mountain Emergency Toolkit through their search and figured it was the perfect resource to include information about how to handle an emergency with a service animal. They got in touch with members of the Center on Disability and Community Inclusion, the Vermont Center for Independent Living, and the other organizations that worked on the guide and met with them to discuss updating the toolkit.

From there, Gallivan said she and Carroll worked on creating the new pages for the guide with the guidance of the Green Mountain Emergency Toolkit collaborators. The toolkit has been updated to include the pages and is now in the process of being uploaded so that individuals can access the updated version.

Gallivan said now that she’s finished updating the guide, she’s working with the collaborators of the Toolkit to spread the word so individuals with service animals know the resource is available to them.

“I’m specifically in the outreach stage, so just getting the guide out there and the fact that it’s been updated,” Gallivan said.

Gallivan is also preparing to present her work in Washington, D.C., at the end of July, when participants from the Disability EmpowHER Camp meet for a reunion trip to discuss their local projects and speak with members of Congress and leaders in the disability community.

She said she thinks her time in D.C. will be even more fruitful now that her time in the Disability EmpowHER Network has taught her how to advocate for herself and others.

“I really learned a lot about how to be comfortable talking to adults and advocating with them. I was really intimidated at first, but it benefited me so much,” Gallivan said.

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