Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Northstar?

North Star Polaris—is famous for staying still in our sky while the entire northern sky moves around it. 

The disability community’s Northstar is to ensure that every person with a developmental disability in Washington State has what they need to thrive in the community, no matter where they live. We thrive when our families and people with disabilities have the resources they need to live full and meaningful lives in the community. Currently, even if a person receives services, they are usually not enough to meet a person’s basic needs. The State of Washington relies on families to provide unpaid care to their loved ones, making it very hard for a family to survive. Further, only about 1 out of 3 people who are eligible for services receive them.

Northstar is a coalition (group) of people with disabilities, the families who love and support disabled loved ones, and service and advocacy organizations. Together they are trying to create an omnibus (large) legislative bill to address our community’s urgent needs. We are working together to create a vision for everything we need, from transportation to residential services to health care. We are doing this because for many years, our community hasn’t done a very good job of working together and explaining clearly to legislators what our community needs to thrive. Northstar will create a legislative proposal that addresses everyone’s needs. Anyone who wants to make home and *community-based* services better for people can and should be involved.

Who is “in charge?”

Everyone. Everyone is in charge, so everyone is responsible for the success of this work. Everyone is in charge, so everyone is going to spend time and effort working on it. Everyone is in charge, so everyone is responsible for making sure that nobody gets left behind. Everyone is in charge, so everyone will work together in good faith, and make space at the table for people who might not know what is happening or how to get involved. The Washington State Developmental Disabilities Council is taking the lead on organizing the work in a collaborative, transparent way.

Our listserv is open and new people are added almost daily.

Who can join?

This work is very difficult, so anyone who is part of our disability service system in some way, and who wants to help create solutions, is welcome. There are no fees or costs, no secret handshakes, and no meetings where only a few people make important decisions.

Our work is on an open platform (Google Suite) to make this accessible to as many people as possible.

What will be the outcome or end result of all this work?

Hopefully, this is a new way for our community to work together to create a yearly legislative proposal. For the 2022 legislative session, our group hopes to identify a sponsor and have a draft proposal ready to share by October 1, 2021. This will give us time to educate legislators about the importance of our bill.

When are the meetings?

The Northstar coalition has about 30 community groups represented from across the state. The main group meets the second Friday of each month, and smaller workgroups have meetings on different days, depending on the needs and goals of the workgroup. Currently, everyone receives an invitation to all groups so that nobody is left out.

This may change if the group decides to do something differently. Email to join the list.

How are people meeting?

Currently, all meetings are happening on Zoom. However, when we start meeting in person again, we plan to offer a Zoom option for those who cannot attend in person or who prefer to attend online.

Email to join the list.

Do I need any special knowledge or training in order to join the Northstar?

No. It is important to bring people who are new to this work along with us. Some people need help understanding the process, and some people are experienced experts who can help guide others. The new folks and the experts are working together to create the ideas for a community that works for everyone. The Developmental Disabilities Council (DDC) will make sure it is as easy as possible to participate.

We know that every person is an expert on their own lived experiences. We ask people to listen carefully to each other’s stories. Our system has caused harm, trauma, and financial challenges for many people and families,. Some of us can show up and tell our stories because we have privilege—meaning we benefit from things-- in ways that others do not. That doesn’t mean people with privilege and benefits should not share, but it is important to remember that many disabled people and their families are too financially broke, too traumatized, and too tired to change the whole system because they’re focused on staying alive or keeping their loved ones alive.

Why are things being done in this way?

For many years, decisions about disability services in our state were made by people who were not service recipients or who were not themselves impacted by developmental disabilities. When an impacted community creates their own Northstar, the whole community benefits because the legislative solutions will more closely meet the needs of the community. This approach is sometimes called “collective activism”, which means centering or paying extra attention to the voices of people with disabilities and their families who have been traditionally

marginalized or left out. That means any proposals that come from the Northstar workgroup will come from those who are most impacted by the problems.

How do I participate?

Our Northstar spreadsheet has been open and accessible to anyone who wanted to contribute since March, 2021.

How do I add more questions to this FAQ?

If you have questions that you think should be answered for the whole group, please feel free to email them to

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Upcoming Meetings

Full Group Meeting

November 12, 2021


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