Vance has made it his life’s mission to advocate for those with disabilities and has helped change the way governmental organizations around the world respond to individuals with access and functional needs before, during and after crisis situations.

Vance was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy at age seven and has been in a powerchair since the sixth grade. He is originally from California but spent time living on the east coast for school and working for two members of congress. His passion and drive for helping others has led to a very successful career in the emergency services sector. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Vance saw that many individuals with disabilities were being overlooked. “I saw that the access and functional needs of individuals with disabilities needed to be addressed. That’s how I got started in emergency management,” said Vance. “I wanted to advocate for those that couldn’t advocate for themselves.”

Today, Vance serves as the Chief of the Office of Access and Functional Needs at the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services, a role he has held since being sworn in three years ago. “When I started I wanted to figure out a way to tackle the issue of access and functional needs head on and find ways that we could prepare and get ahead of it,” said Vance. “We needed to determine the needs of people with disabilities before, during and after a disaster and how to best integrate those needs.”

By bringing stakeholders into the process ahead of time, Vance has found that it helps to lessen the impact of those with disabilities during a disaster. “I get the unique opportunity to work with all members of the community,” said Vance. “We staff and partner with non-profits, independent living centers and community stakeholders to tackle the access and functional needs challenges. Together, the result is lives saved.”

When asked about some of the challenges of the job, Vance said, “It can be challenging trying to change the way our culture views people with disabilities. We come in with checklists of what people need to do to address access and functional needs for those with disabilities, but at the same time, we are trying to educate others that people with disabilities should not be viewed differently. It’s a balance trying to get people to understand what they are required to do and what they should do.”

In the last three years, the state of California has been in a transformative period. “We have had an increase in the number of disasters and the severity of disasters in the last three years,” said Vance. “Because of that we have been able to move from a theoretical approach to a more hands-on approach and actually put our plans to work. California has become a global leader for planning and integration as a result.”

The hard work of Vance and his team has been shared not only with other state agencies but with other countries around the world. “It’s been pretty remarkable to have other states call and ask for help and best practices because they have seen the work we are doing,” said Vance. “We had individuals visit from Australia who were looking to us for help. In some countries there is no ADA, so you have to start the education process at a different point and change the way people view those with disabilities. I am not there to judge them, I am there to help.”

While Vance has been able to make tremendous strides, it is not always easy. “I speak at a lot of meetings, conferences and on panels, anywhere I can get in front of people and help educate others on the importance of providing resources and support for those with access and functional needs,” said Vance. “I have to continue to fight the things that need to be fought and think about the consequences of what could happen if we don’t push and keep moving forward. The consequences are real and grave.”

As a power wheelchair user, Vance knows the importance adaptive equipment plays in increasing mobility and independence. If a disaster occurs in California, Vance is deployed and needs to quickly spring into action. Having a chair that is reliable and a CRT company he can depend on for repairs and parts is critical. “I put a lot of miles on this chair and a lot of wear and tear – it’s in disaster zones. For tires, batteries, replacement parts and everything in between I rely on Numotion to be able to get me where I need to go,” said Vance. “Numotion is a technology provider, and for people with disabilities, they rely on technology. Without my chair, I wouldn’t be able to do my job.”