Going to Press

Real Stories, Real People went to press on Friday. I traveled to Monroe, Georgia, the location of Walton Press Inc., where I witnessed the production of the publication. I arrived as the printing crew was proofing the publication for alignment and color. It was a fascinating procedure to witness. I will take you through the steps as I captured them.

Walton Press-1Real Stories, Real People was printed on the large roll of paper on the right.

Walton Press-2This is the initial run of the publication on the printing press.

Walton Press-3Rick evaluates the alignment of the pages.

Walton Press-4Kenneth is evaluating the color of the individual pages and has proofs that have been created by the prepress team which he uses to match the color.

Walton Press-5Kenneth makes adjustments to the color which he evaluates by eye. Although it appears as if he is taking his time, the process occurs at lightening speed. As the publication comes off the press, individual copies are snatched up to evaluate and adjustments are inputted into the system within seconds.  These changes affect the printing instantaneously.

Walton Press-6Terry grabs all the publications that have faulty color and/or alignment and dumps them into the recycling box. There was probably more paper consumed as the color and alignment were tweaked than what was actually used to print the final version of the publication.

Walton Press-7

This is the back page of the 2000 copies.

I want to extend my sincere gratitude to all the staff at Walton Press. I am thankful for their assistance in helping me prepare Real Stories, Real People for press and the crew on Friday for their expertise in creating a high quality publication.

More to come.

Rachael’s Story

Rachael -2

Rachael participates in a variety of activities at the day program she attends. Her favorite activity is working at the front desk a few hours a day as a greeter.

“When I first met Rachel she was very quiet, seldom spoke up or offered insight into what she wanted, other than to not be in the nursing home. Now you can’t get a word in edgewise and she just bubbles! She and her house-mother have a personal handshake and she has a housemate that is near her own age that she can talk to. She shops, talks, takes pictures on her phone, and has a job she is proud of. The best way to describe it is that she is alive. She literally glows and is now interested in everything.”

Paralegal at Atlanta Legal Aid Society

View Rachael’s full story at


Mae’s Job Training at Agnes Scott

Mae at AS

Mae works in the cafeteria at Agnes Scott College once a week through a job training program at her high school. Over 80% of adults with intellectual disabilities are not employed. Approximately 63% of people with disabilities who are unemployed want to work. The majority of special education students who age out of high school could be successful at working paid jobs in the community but supported employment is needed to ensure their success. Earning an income would steer these individuals away from a life of dependence and poverty. For every dollar invested in supported employment there is a return of $1.61.

Once Mae ages out of high school in November our focus will be on job training. Mae is very capable of working but she will need perhaps a year of social skills, community navigation and job training before she would be ready to be placed, then who knows how many months of job coaching? However, at some point I believe she will make a good employee and by working, she will begin to return Georgia’s investment in her. She has participated in a number of internship positions through her high school program and the common denominator is that she is a pleasure to work with so I am hopeful she will be able to find a position suitable for her, with time and help.

Bob (Mae’s father)

A Father’s Perspective


When you have a child or children with life-long disabilities, it changes the nature and indeed, the definition of child rearing in a profound and lasting way. Raising children becomes a decades long process, with tangible concerns moving well beyond the parent’s actual lifetime. Friendships are impacted. In the end, we navigate the path much more alone than do parents of typical children.

Bob (Mae’s dad)

Bob’s daughter Mae was featured in blog posts on July 19 and August 1, 2015 at




Barometer marked

Rickey and Video Game-1Rickey spends much of his day playing video games at home.

I am very grateful for the generosity of those who have donated to my project “Real Stories, Real People”I will use these funds to create a publication that will be distributed to the public and Georgia policymakers free of charge. This publication will include the photo essays I am creating about individuals who are living with a developmental disability (DD) and their families and information about DDs. I have embarked on this project because Georgia is in a state of crisis as it pertains to funding and providing supports to individuals with a DD. There are over 7,500 people on the waiting list for a Medicaid waiver in Georgia and this past legislative session our policymakers appropriated funds for only 75 additional waivers. What this means is that people like Rickey Armstrong (blog post from April 14) risk loosing their lifeline to the community because they do not have the supports in place to ensure their success. Rickey has a job at Golden Corral, 12 hours a week, but has come close to loosing his job because he cannot consistently get to work. His family does not own a car, there is no public transportation in his community and it is difficult to rely on neighbors for a ride. If Rickey had a Medicaid waiver he would have access to supports that would provide transportation to work and supports to assist him in developing the skills he will need in order to live an independent and integrated life in his community. Without funding for supports, Rickey could potentially end up sitting on his couch for 12 hours a day playing video games. This is not a life.

Please support my project so I can be the voice for the thousands of people in Georgia who are living with a DD and who are in dire need of funding for supports. Educating the public and Georgia policymakers is paramount in creating change. You can help! To make a tax-deductible donation please connect to the link below.

Honoring a Legacy

Donald and tattoos-1I

In my last blog post I introduced you to Donna Armstrong, a grandmother who has been raising her three grandsons for 19 years. Despite the many challenges she has faced, she has persevered and has been successful in raising  three wonderful young men, including 24-year-old Rickey who is living with a developmental disability. The second time Ms. Armstrong was diagnosed with breast cancer was especially frightening for her 20-year-old grandson, Donald (on right) and daughter, LaKisha (on left).

When my grandma was diagnosed with breast cancer for the second time it was kind of heartbreaking because it was a crucial moment in my life. I was about to graduate from high school. It was very difficult for me to think about the situation and imagine what it would be like if she didn’t survive. I thought about how I could still have her around if something happened to her.  So I thought why not get a tattoo, something she would appreciate, something to keep her legacy going. Therefore, I went and got the tattoo. It hurt a lot but love hurts.”


Shortly after Donald got his tattoo, LaKisha got hers.

A Courageous Woman

Donna Armstrong

Ms. Armstrong keeps an eye on her grandsons on the basketball court from the kitchen table.

Rickey and Reggie

Rickey (right) with brother, Reggie.

In a post from April 14th, I shared Rickey’s story about his job at Golden Corral. This post is about Donna Armstrong, the courageous and dedicated woman who raised her grandson, Rickey. Before Ms. Armstrong took custody of five-year-old Rickey and his two younger brothers she had been in a relationship and was getting ready to get married.

“He had been there all this time, while the babies had been born, sitting at the hospital with me, changing diapers. But as soon as I got custody of them, it was a different thing. So when he left it was just me and those babies, no job, no income, no transportation, no nothing, just me and the babies. I couldn’t work because there was no one I could trust to watch them. So I had to wait for federal assistance, welfare and food stamps to kick in. I got these babies in May, I didn’t get food stamps until September. I got no money until October. That was the lowest part of my life. Knowing that I had the responsibility for those kids and seeing no resources coming.”

Since that time, 19 years ago, Ms. Armstrong has successfully raised three boys single handedly. She has survived breast cancer twice and has undergone brain surgery that impaired her short-term memory. Despite these challenges Ms. Armstrong has always been there for her grandsons and still is.

The hard part now it is that they are growing up and becoming more independent. The area we live in isn’t the best. Like a lot of times when they go to the basketball court, I sit here. That’s why it is my favorite spot. I can hear when something’s going on. Like I can hear, “Yeah, yeah, I made a basket.” But if there is a mess going on, someone is trying to fight, their tone gets different. Just being a mama I get tuned in. I’ve got three of them so that’s when I’m going up there to see what is going on. That’s the most difficult, like with any parent, turning them loose and giving them that independence. You just have to have your faith and belief that what you’ve told them and taught them will stay with them. Because when they leave out this door I’m sitting right here. The young men have to find their way, but there is too much out here you don’t want to just turn them loose.”

At the completion of my interview with Ms. Armstrong I asked her what she hoped to portray and share with others. This was her response:

“We have had challenges and obstacles in our way that could have really kept us from being a family and staying together as a family unit but I’m a praying woman and I believe in the Lord. It has been my faith that has carried me through. It’s been just me and the three of them. The four of us together is like a fist. We have to stick together. When one can’t do then the others gotta come and wrap their arms around them and keep them right there. When one ain’t got, then we got to see what the other one got. If there ain’t but one piece of bread then it gets cut up into four pieces. It’s just that simple. But they know about family. I’ve instilled that in them. There is nobody but us. I’ve given all that I can give them.”

Supported Employment

Patrick in baseball stands-1

The legislative session in Georgia is coming to a close. Support to fund additional Medicaid waivers was nominal. After learning that the House approved no funds for supported employment I was disheartened. Fortunately, a week later, the Senate voted to appropriate $980,000 for supported employment. If approved by the Conference Committee, these funds will provide support for 125 people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (DD) to work in an integrated setting. Supported employment is critical in helping people with developmental disabilities find and keep a job. A job coach works closely with their client in finding a job that is of interest to the individual in addition to a job that utilizes the individual’s strengths and gifts. Furthermore, a job coach trains the employee, works with the employer to provide job adaptations and accommodations, provides on-the-job coaching and ongoing follow-up and support. Over 80% of adults with intellectual disabilities are not employed. An estimated 63% of people with a DD, ages 18-64 who are unemployed want to work. Last summer, I photographed Patrick working at a Gwinnett Braves game. Funding for a job coach made it possible for Patrick to secure this job. In the absence of support Patrick would have been relegated to sitting in the stands instead of doing what he valued most, working and taking home a pay check.

Welcome to Real Stories, Real People

Eric at Halloween

Six months ago I started working on an advocacy project entitled Real Stories, Real People. My commitment to this project lured me away from photographing people on the streets and into people’s homes and day to day lives. Although I have missed my weekly ventures on the streets of Atlanta, I have found fulfillment in photographing the lives of families and persons living with a developmental disability. Their stories are inspiring, joyful, poignant and at times heart-wrenching, and they demand to be told. I feel privileged to be entrusted with these stories and am honored by the new friendships I have made. You can learn more about this project and view the photo essays I have created thus far at I hope you will sign up to follow this blog and join me on this new journey as I continue to bring these stories to you.