People of Plano: Dylan Rafaty

Dylan Rafaty // courtesy Steven Jeffers

Dylan Rafaty hasn’t let personal disabilities hold him back from making a difference in the world. From an early age, he was instilled with the values of giving back and treating others with kindness and respect. He is passionate about promoting inclusion for people with disabilities. Since graduating from the special education program at Plano West Senior High School in 2009, Dylan earned his associate’s degree at Collin College, started his own company and has joined countless organizations as an advocate for people with disabilities.

How did you get to be an advocate for the disabilities community? 

I am deaf in the right ear and hard of hearing in the left ear with a hearing aid. I also have spinal back and neck fusions that limit my ability to move in certain ways. Throughout my years in public school, I participated in many clubs and activities that enabled me to get closer to the community. I self-published a book, “Occupy Special Education – Children Should Be Seen and Heard,” which is a memoir about my life, including my family and my time floundering in special education. Since it was published in 2012, I’ve been inspired to become an advocate for special education reform, get actively involved in disability rights and public policy, and to run for local office.  

Dylan Rafaty at the grand opening of the all-abilities Liberty Playground at Windhaven Meadows Park // courtesy Dylan Rafaty
Dylan Rafaty at the grand opening of the all-abilities Liberty Playground at Windhaven Meadows Park // courtesy Dylan Rafaty

What are some of the organizations you’re working with now?

I am working as the director of business development and partnerships for C-Hear, Inc., a company that has developed a way to make digital images be heard. I’m also the founder of DylanListed, a consulting company providing individuals and families with guidance on employment, housing, transportation and training.

I proudly serve as vice chair for the Texas Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities. I also serve as chairman for the Social Responsibility Committee at the International Association of Ice Cream Distributors and Vendors. This committee is aimed toward providing members best practices in inclusive hiring of people with disabilities and our veterans. 

Other commitments include serving on two Plano ISD advisory committees, serving on the Community Relations Commission for the City of Plano and serving as a board member for the Care and Mercy Foundation. 

Tell us about the Susan M. Daniels Disability Mentoring Hall of Fame.

The National Disability Mentoring Coalition’s Susan M. Daniels Disability Mentoring Hall of Fame was established to honor those who are making a significant difference in the lives of youth and adults with disabilities through mentoring. The Hall of Fame’s namesake devoted her life to improving the lives of others with disabilities.  

I am proud to say that I’ve been chosen as one of the inductees into the Susan M. Daniels Disability Mentoring Hall of Fame, class of 2019. This will be the fifth class of inductees. 

What are some of your goals for the future?

I am currently collaborating with the City of Plano to establish an advisory committee on people with disabilities in our community. I also want to work on a program to encourage people with disabilities to run for local, state and federal offices. Additionally, I am working on an initiative to build an adaptive sports and fitness center in North Texas to provide people with disabilities ease of access to workout equipment, certified trainers and occupational therapists. 

What do you hope others learn from you? 

I’ve learned a lot through personal experiences and working with the experts in the community: Let’s work inclusively. Do not reinvent the wheel. Relationships are key to successful outcomes. We are stronger together. Be kind. 

I want to leave the planet knowing that I’ve made instrumental change, positive impact and provided growth for our community. 

To contact Dylan, email him here.

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