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NEW YORK — Dedicating your life to help others, that’s what direct support professionals, or DSPs, do every day.

DSPs play a vital role in helping people with disabilities achieve their life goals.

“Direct support professionals are basically walking side-by-side in partnership with people with disabilities on their life’s journey,” explained Joe Macbeth, the CEO & president of the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals, also known as the NADSP. “They’re there every step of the way.”

Macbeth spent more than 35 years in the field, starting out as a DSP himself.

“The DSP role is very complex,” he said, “helping people make important decisions for themselves, teaching people important life skills…safety skills.”

The NADSP was created in 1996, and for nearly 25 years, the organization has been laying the groundwork for Direct Support Professionals by setting standards for training and education in the industry, including certification and accreditation programs.

The NADSP works alongside organizations like the ADAPT Community Network, which employs many DSPs.

“We help them by offering a set of validated competency areas, skills standards that every profession has, and also a code of ethics,” explained Macbeth.

He was instrumental in helping create the Code of Ethics and National Competency Areas which are used as a framework for DSPs across the country.

“The competency areas are the foundation of the work, the skills of the work that you need to demonstrate that you understand, and you implement them daily,” said Macbeth.

The NADSP engages with more than 10,000 direct support professionals each year.

COVID-19 has shifted that engagement to virtual platforms.

The organization has also spent years fighting for higher pay for DSPs and more recognition of their skills and value as essential front-line workers.

“I’m hopeful that we can take what we learned from this pandemic, “explained Macbeth, “and how critically important direct support professionals are, and use this horrible gift to make change.”

Macbeth said there’s still a lot of work to be done to remove the physical and societal barriers people with disabilities face, but the roughly 1.4 million DSPs across the nation are right in the cross-hairs of that fight alongside people with disabilities.

To let more about the NADSP, you can visit their website by clicking here.