Disability Day - Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities

2015 Disability Day Honors the Americans with Disabilities Act

LSI 4173“Each year, I’m inspired by the crowd that gathers for Disability Day at the Capitol, a crowd that’s as diverse as the State they call home,” said Governor Nathan Deal to Making a Difference. “This level of support demonstrates that disabilities affect us all. I hope that all Georgians will take the time to listen to and advocate for all citizens with disabilities in our State.”

Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities (GCDD) opened March by hosting the popular 17th annual Disability Day at the Capitol, on March 5th at Liberty Plaza. March is also Disability Awareness Month.

Even with low temperatures and steady rain, the event was met with excitement from advocates, people with disabilities and supporters. To show the power of the collective voice and advocacy, GCDD’s Disability Day theme commemorated the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by titling this year’s event, “Fulfilling the Promise of the ADA.”

In front of the crowd, Deal proudly proclaimed that March would officially be Disability Awareness Month and recognized July 26th as the 25th anniversary of the ADA.

“We must preserve the past by remembering those who fought for your rights. We must also celebrate our present by commemorating the 25th anniversary of the ADA, and we must continue to educate others about accomplishments and barriers that still exist for people with disabilities,” said Governor Deal, who has spoken at Disability Day for the past five years.

The Governor’s proclamation was presented to GCDD at the event that brought together advocates from across the State to promote access, opportunity and meaningful community living for Georgians with disabilities and their families.

A variety of groups brought their enthusiasm to the annual kick-off at the Georgia Freight Depot to raise awareness about the rights and concerns of people with disabilities. At the gathering, attendees made posters advocating for equal opportunities in education and the workplace knowing that the contributions of people with disabilities are important to the community.

GCDD Executive Director Eric E. Jacobson kicked off the event with a rousing speech highlighting the importance of how the ADA and the civil rights efforts of the 1960s were tied together.

“There wouldn’t be an ADA if Americans had not fought for civil rights in the 1960s. While Dr. [Martin Luther] King and Rosa Parks fought in Montgomery to get a seat on the bus, there are many people here who couldn’t even get on the bus, and especially here in Atlanta where they fought to make sure that people who use wheelchairs could get on the bus,” said Jacobson.

Jacobson also announced GCDD’s continued support for closing all institutions in Georgia, and the Council’s goals for the following year. “Kids and people don’t belong in institutions. They belong in communities with the rest of us. They belong by having a job, going to school, living in their own homes with their own keys to their own doors. They belong as a part of being able to build a church or synagogue or temple or mosque or wherever they want to pray,” said Jacobson. “They belong in our communities and it’s time that Georgia closed those doors to make sure that nobody ever again is locked up somewhere for no crime at all.”

GCDD will be working over the next year to create a report card on how well Georgia is doing as it relates to employment, community living, students graduating from high school and transitioning into adult life, healthy living and early childhood. The report card will be based on national goals established by Six by ’15.

Six by ’15 is a national campaign celebrating the 40 years of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and 25 years of the ADA. The initiative is building a new future by joining efforts to achieve six national goals in the following areas by the end of 2015:

• Employment
• Community Living
• Education
• Transition
• Healthy Living
• Early Childhood

As this year marks the anniversary of the ADA, it is also an important milestone in the civil rights movement. 2015 celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Selma-to-Montgomery march that took place in Alabama in 1965. Tying in the ADA anniversary’s message of “Disability Rights are Civil Rights,” this year’s Disability Day received a special message from a civil rights activist and leader who has paved his own history along the way, and was present on that historic day in Selma.

US Representative John Lewis (D-GA 5th District) sent a message of support to the crowd at Disability Day remarking on the importance of continuing the fight and causing “good trouble, necessary trouble.”

“None of us, not one of us, not any of us must be left out or left behind. I will continue to stand and fight for what is right and fair and just,” said Lewis in a recorded statement. (Read his complete statement on page 11 or watch the video at gcdd.org.)

The event also saw the talents of Joey Stuckey, an award-winning guitarist and vocalist who is blind and advocates for accessible music education for everyone. Stuckey sang “The Star-Spangled Banner,” “Georgia On My Mind,” the official state song of Georgia and “This Little Light of Mine.” Stuckey is also the official music ambassador of Macon, GA.

Reverend Susannah Davis, pastor at Kirkwood United Church of Christ, inspired the crowd by reminding them although the ADA has brought the community a long way, there is still much to be done.

“ADA was a beginning – a strong and safe way for everyone to be able to attend, to participate, to create, to contribute, to live fully and faithfully, but we’ve still got a long way to go,” she said. “We’ve got more ramps to build, more elevators to purchase, more lifts to put in place, and that’s not all. We need more accessible ways to belong to the workforce and service organizations, to be leaders in government, to blaze the trail for public policy, to shine our light in arts and entertainment, to make a way in whatever it is you dream about, a way for you to be you fully and wholly.”

Disability Day at the Capitol is an opportunity for the disability community and their supporters to connect with each other and their elected officials. This year’s focus on the ADA coincides with GCDD’s mission and legislative agenda that concentrates on achieving inclusive communities, voting rights and access to education and jobs.

In Making a Difference’s Winter 2015 issue, GCDD outlined areas such as education, employment and Unlock The Waiting Lists! where they would be advocating for more services and supports during the legislative session.

At the time of this writing, some advocacy successes included the Georgia House of Representatives funding 75 new NOW/ COMP waiver slots and a 50-cent-per-hour increase for personal support services in ICWP Waivers.

Employment First had a big achievement as Georgia House Resolution 642 created the Joint Study Committee on Postsecondary Education and Employment Options for Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. (For complete coverage on the legislative session, read the Legislative Recap on page 18.)

Furthermore, continuing advocacy for inclusive post-secondary programs has resulted in the growth of programs across the State. In addition to the program at Kennesaw State University, post-secondary programs are now at Georgia State University, East Georgia State College and Columbus State University.

Frequent Disability Day guest Senator John Albers (R-District 56) brought cheer to the crowd to remind them of the importance of Disability Day.

“You have got our commitment to help you to just give sunshine to this cause,” said Albers. “We have lots of good things happening, and I tell you this every year that if the world saw everything through the lens of somebody with special needs, it would be a better place to live.”

GCDD Chair Mitzi Proffitt called for a recommitment to the ADA in the remaining months of the 25th anniversary celebration. “Across the country people are signing
the pledge with the goal of getting 2,500 signatures by July 26th recommitting to the legislation,” said Proffitt.

The goal of the pledge is to reaffirm the principles of equality and inclusion and recommit efforts to reach full ADA compliance. Organizations and faith communities are being encouraged to sign the ADA proclamation.

Closing the rally was Mark Johnson, director of advocacy at the Shepherd Center and chair of The ADA Legacy Project. He organized the crowd as they marched back to the Georgia Freight Depot, and reminded them of the 2003 Free Our People March from Philadelphia to Washington, DC and the historic Selma-to-Montgomery march.

As the crowd gathered to go back to the Depot, Johnson reminded everyone that, “We need to go forward. Let’s quit saying, and let’s start doing.”

To sign the Americans with Disabilities Act pledge, visit www.adaanniversary.org/pledgeon.

2015 Disability Day: Fulfilling the Promise of the ADA

disability-day-schedule217th Annual Disability Day at the Capitol
This year's theme celebrates the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act! Be a part of the state's largest, disability advocacy event by gathering to promote access, opportunity and meaningful community living for all Georgians in a new location! This year's event will be on Liberty Plaza, the Capitol's new "front door." It's an outdoor area adjacent to the state Capitol that provides a safe space for crowds to gather for rallies and events including the 17th Annual Disability Day at the Capitol.

Don't miss out on what is set to be an exciting year for disability rights! Register online by February 27 or download the form and we look forward to seeing you at Liberty Plaza at the Georgia State Capitol on March 5, 2015!

disability-day-photos


2015 Advocacy Days at the Capitol!
Location: Central Presbyterian Church, 201 Washington Street SW, Atlanta, 30303

Leading up to the 17th annual Disability Day at the Capitol, GCDD is hosting Advocacy Days at the Capitol and workshops to advocate for waivers and more support for the disability community! Check out the schedule below and sign up for the workshops and Disability Day!

We Need Waivers Day
Wed., Jan. 21, 9 AM-12 PM
Did you know over 7,000 Georgians are on the waiting list for a NOW or COMP waiver? Join us as we advocate to get more waivers!

ICWP Raise the Rate Day
Thurs., Jan. 29, 9 AM-12 PM
Georgia families are in crisis because they cannot find caregivers who will work for as little as $8 an hour. Join us as we advocate to raise this impossibly low rate!

Kids NeedReal Homes, Not Nursing Homes Day
Wed., Feb. 4, 9 AM-12 PM
Right now, 39 school-aged children in Georgia live in nursing homes or facilities for people with disabilities. Join us as we advocate for 39 COMP waivers to bring these children home!

Employment First Day
Wed., Feb. 11, 9 AM-12 PM
Working age Georgians with disabilities want real jobs in their communities. Join us as we advocate for real jobs with Employment First!

Youth Day
Thurs., Feb. 19, 9 AM-12 PM
Calling all youth with disabilities! Come advocate for yourself and your friends and enjoy the excitement of the legislature in action! We will start the day with a fun, interactive advocacy training to teach you all you need to know about speaking to your legislators. Then, we’ll go over to the Capitol together to educate our legislators about what they can do to support individuals with disabilities and their families.

17th Annual Disability Day at the Capitol
Thurs., March 5, 9 AM-2 PM
Be a part of Georgia’s largest, disability advocacy event by gathering to promote access, opportunity and meaningful community living for all Georgians. Disability Day will be held at Liberty Plaza, across from the Capitol. All are welcome but due to limited space, you must register in advance.


Disability Day Sponsorship!
Your sponsorship will support one of the largest statewide events that provide an opportunity for advocates to unite in support of legislation that will promote the independence, inclusion, productivity and self-determination of people with disabilities. Each year, thousands gather at the Capitol to meet with lawmakers, celebrate growth in community and reignite the bonds of friendship. The success of the event depends on sponsors like you. Please let us know of your commitment no later than February 11, so that you may receive full recognition of your support as a Disability Day 2015 sponsor.

Download the form or register online to become a Disability Day 2015 sponsor.

 

2015 Disability Day: Governor Nathan Deal Speaks to Disability Advocates

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal spoke to the crowd at Disability Day at the Capitol on March 5, 2015 to commemorate the the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Text of Georgia Governor Nathan Deal's speech at Disability Day at the Capitol:

Welcome to the Georgia state Capitol and our new Liberty Plaza!  It’s a privilege to take part once again in Disability Day with all of you.  I would like first to thank the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities for sponsoring this event and bringing us all together today.

Twenty five years ago, then President George H.W. Bush signed into law the Americans with Disabilities Act [ADA] to ensure the civil rights of those citizens with disabilities. This legislation established a clear message throughout the nation and in Georgia that discrimination based on disability must end.  President Bush remarked upon signing the bill, “Let the shameful wall of exclusion finally come tumbling down."  Like those who participated in the Civil Rights movement, many people with disabilities were willing to protest and sacrifice to end the segregation of people with disabilities.  

This year, Georgia will be at the center of the national celebration of the ADA.  
    •    At the National Center for Civil and Human Rights there is an exhibit celebrating disability rights.  
    •    The National ADA Symposium and the international Society for Disability Studies will hold their conferences in Atlanta.
    •    There will be several opportunities to see the ADA Legacy Bus during these events.
 
In Georgia, we are committed to improving facilities managed by the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities and creating opportunities for those with disabilities to return to their respective communities as active citizens.  In addition, we strive to make sure that no children under the age of 22 are living in nursing facilities, but rather reside with loving and stable families.  We continue to make progress by opening new programs on college campuses, like those at Kennesaw State University, Georgia State University, East Georgia State College, and Columbus State University.  Next year programs will begin at Georgia Tech and the University of Georgia.  I am also proud to say that we have made progress toward increasing the number of work opportunities for people with disabilities throughout our state.
 
As your exhibit inside the Capitol reads, we must preserve the past by remembering those who fought for your rights.  We must also celebrate our present by commemorating the 25th Anniversary of the ADA, and we must continue to educate others about the accomplishments and barriers that still exist for people with disabilities.  

With all of this in mind, I was happy to proclaim March as Disability Awareness Month in Georgia and recognize July 26th as the Anniversary of the ADA.

[Presents proclamation] 

2016 Advocacy Days

Join Us for Advocacy at the Capitol!

GCDD AdvocacyDays2016headerRSPECIAL ALERT: The Wildcard Advocacy Day scheduled for March 1 HAS BEEN CHANGED TO THURSDAY, MARCH 10. All other details remain the same. If you are already registered for the March 1 date, you will be contacted or you can re-register yourself for March 10.

No matter how robust our legislative agenda, we cannot be successful in our efforts without YOU – the voices of the people with disabilities, their families, and other allies. We will be holding a series of advocacy days along with our annual Disability Day at the Capitol. Each advocacy day will have training, visits with legislators and networking with others in our community.

Registration: Please review the information below and fill out the registration form at the bottom of the page to register for all days EXCEPT for Feb. 9 (Intellectual Disability and the Death Penalty), Feb. 18 (Disability Day at the Capitol) and Feb. 24 (ABLE Act). Registration for those days is by separate contacts listed below.


2016 Advocacy Days

Time: All advocacy days will run from 8:30 AM till approximately 12:30 PM (unless otherwise noted below).
Location:
Central Presbyterian Church across from the Georgia State Capitol at 201 Washington Street SW, Atlanta, GA 30303
(except for the ICWP day as noted below). 
Each attendee MUST be registered individually to provide an accurate count. If you are a group leader or are bringing a support person, you will be able to register additional people after you submit YOUR registration.

We Need More DD (NOW/COMP) Waivers Day
Wednesday, January 20
Register on form below:For additional info, contact Stacey Ramirez at
(sponsored by GCDD and UNLOCK, formerly “Unlock the Waiting Lists”)
Download the NOW/COMP Waiver Fact Sheet here.

Independent Care Waiver Program (ICWP) Raise the Rate Day
Wednesday, January 27
Location: Georgia State Capitol in Room 125 at 8:30 AM, NOT the church as we do on the other days. Plan to arrive at least 30 minutes early (by 8 AM) to allow plenty of time to go through the screening that is required at the Capitol.
Register on form below:For additional info, contact Stacey Ramirez at
(sponsored by GCDD and UNLOCK)
Download the ICWP Fact Sheet and rate card.

Inclusive Post-Secondary Education (IPSE) Day
Tuesday, February 2
Register on form below:For additional info, contact Stacey Ramirez at
(sponsored by GCDD, UNLOCK and the Georgia Inclusive Post-Secondary Education Consortium)
Download the IPSE Fact Sheet here.

Intellectual Disability and the Death Penalty
Tuesday, February 9, 9 AM - 12:30 PM
You cannot use the registration form below for this day. For more information and to RSVP, please register, here.
For additional info, contact Kathryn Hamoudah at or 404-688-1202.
(sponsored by GCDD, PAPE Coalition and GFADP)

Employment First Day
Thursday, February 11
Register on form below:For additional info, contact Stacey Ramirez at
(sponsored by GCDD, UNLOCK and the Employment First Coalition)
Download the Employment First Fact Sheet here.

18th Annual Disability Day at the Capitol
Thursday, February 18
Click Here for more info or to register.
(sponsored by GCDD)

ABLE (Achieving a Better Life) Act Coalition Day
WednesdayFebruary 24
You cannot use the registration form below for this day.For more information and to RSVP, please register here.
(sponsored by GCDD, AADD and the Georgia ABLE Coalition)
Download the ABLE Act Fact Sheet here.

Wildcard Day! End-of-Session Advocacy
Please Note this date has been changed. The new date is:
Thursday
, March 10
Register on form below:
For additional info, contact Stacey Ramirez at
(sponsored by GCDD and UNLOCK)

WE NEED VOLUNTEERS!
To make each advocacy day a success, we are in need of many volunteers. The number of volunteers we will need to help on a given day will depend upon how many people register. If you are interested in helping if needed on the days for which you are registered to attend, please indicate this on the registration form and we will contact you with specifics.

Please see below additional information about parking and accessibility. Thank you for your interest in Advocacy Days!
- Parking around the Georgia State Capitol: https://gba.georgia.gov/general-public-parking
- Map of parking locations: http://1.usa.gov/1NnBRvz
- Information on Public Transportation: https://gba.georgia.gov/transportation
- Capitol Hill Accessibility Guide for Visitors with Disabilities: http://1.usa.gov/1TNQr12


2016 Disability Day at the Capitol

The Disability VOTE – Feel the Power!

18th Annual GCDD Disability Day at the Capitol, Feb 18, 2016, 9 AM to 2 PM, Liberty Plaza2016

Register now to participate in GCDD’s 18th Annual Disability Day at the Capitol. More than one million Georgians have some type of disability and approximately 652,000 are voting-age. Exercise your right to vote this election year. Your vote, and your voice, are critical to the political decision-making process. Come to LIBERTY PLAZA and join advocates, meet with state legislators, make your voice heard and your VOTE COUNT.Don't miss out on what is set to be an exciting year for disability rights!

Register Online
Register online by February 5
or download the form. If you need assistance with registration or encounter technical difficulties, please call 404.657.2121. A staff member will assist you. Groups of 20 or more MUST register online.

We look forward to seeing you at Liberty Plaza at the Georgia State Capitol on February 18, 2016!

Schedule Overview
9 AM - 11 AM: T-Shirt distribution, activities and exhibits at the Georgia Freight Depot before the rally - first come, first served.
11 AM - 12:30 PM: Rally program in Liberty Plaza, Capitol Avenue & MLK, Jr. Dr.
12:30 PM - 2 PM: Box lunch and exhibits at the Georgia Freight Depot - first come, first served.


Disability Day Sponsorship!

Your sponsorship will support one of the largest statewide events that provide an opportunity for advocates to unite in support of legislation that will promote the independence, inclusion, productivity and self-determination of people with disabilities. Each year, thousands gather at the Capitol to meet with lawmakers, celebrate growth in community and reignite the bonds of friendship. The success of the event depends on sponsors like you. Please let us know of your commitment no later than February 5, so that you may receive full recognition of your support. (Information received after this date does not guarantee your organization’s placement on any printed materials.) For more information, contact Kim Person at GCDD, 404.657.2130 or email

Download the form to become a Disability Day 2016 sponsor.


2016 Advocacy Days

During the 2016 Legislative Session, GCDD is hosting Advocacy Days at the Capitol and workshops to advocate for waivers and more support for the disability community! Check out the schedule below. Registration here for Advocacy Days: http://gcdd.org/advocacy/

We Need More DD (NOW/COMP) Waivers Day
Wednesday, Jan. 20
(sponsored by Unlock, formerly “Unlock the Waiting Lists”)

Independent Care Waiver Program (ICPW) Raise the Rate Day
Wednesday, Jan. 27
(sponsored by Unlock, formerly “Unlock the Waiting Lists”)

Inclusive Post-Secondary Education (IPSE) Day
Tuesday, Feb. 2
(sponsored by GCDD)

Intellectual Disability and the Death Penalty
Tuesday, February 9
(sponsored by the PAPE Coalition and GFADP)

Employment First Day
Thursday, February 11
(sponsored by GCDD)

ABLE (Achieving a Better Life) Act Coalition Day
WednesdayFebruary 24
(sponsored by AADD and Georgia ABLE Coalition)

Wildcard Day! End-of-Session Advocacy
Tusday, March 1
(sponsored by GCDD)


2017 Advocacy Days

IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT!  The Inclusive Post-Secondary Education (IPSE) Advocacy Day has been rescheduled for February 1. It will NOT take place this Wednesday, January 18.

This change is due to the Georgia General Assembly not being in session this upcoming week.                     

We hope to see you on February 1 where we will discuss with legislators both the need for more DD waivers and the need for increased funding of Inclusive Post-Secondary Education here in Georgia.

GCDD AdvocacyDays2017Regbanner

REGISTER NOW for the 2017 Georgia Councilon Developmental Disabilities' Advocacy Days!

Learn how to speak to your legislators. Then visit the Capitol to educate them about the issues you care about. Each day has a specific topic; we welcome you to register for as many days as you would like!

Let's show Georgia legislators that we have a voice - a voice that must be heard! We will not be put to the side and ignored. We Georgians care about our community and know that these topics are of vital importance to the health of our great state. As a community we have achieved much in the past fifty years. Now as a community we need to keep up the good fight and make Georgia a place where all of us, regardless of our ability, can live, learn, work, play and worship in our community.

So come out, bring a friend or two, and let your voice be heard! Register today to reserve your spot. Space is limited, so don't delay! Please be sure to register your support staff if needed so we will have an accurate head count.

Register online at http://bit.ly/2fRxoYX

2017 Advocacy Days

Dates & Topics of 2017 Advocacy Days
Time: All advocacy days will run from 8:30 AM till approximately 12:30 PM
Location: Central Presbyterian Church across from the Georgia State Capitol at 201 Washington Street SW, Atlanta, GA 30303

January 18: Inclusive Post-Secondary Education (IPSE) Day (PLEASE NOTE: This event has been rescheduled for February 1. It will NOT take place this Wednesday, January 18.)
February 1: DD Waivers Day 1 & Inclusive Post-Secondary Education (IPSE) Day
February 7: DD Waivers Day 2
February 23: Employment Day
February 28: Enable Work and Families Day (Family Care Act, PeachWork, and Phillip Payne Personal Assistance Program)
March 9: Home & Community Day (Elder & Disabled Abuse Registry, Offensive Language, Transportation, Residential Housing Study Committee)

Daily Schedule Overview
8:30 - 9:00     Arrival & Registration
9:00 - 9:20     Welcome & Understand the Issue
9:20 - 9:40     Demonstration of a visit with a legislator
9:40 - 10:10     Break into teams to practice the legislative visit
10:10 - 12:30     Go to the Capitol in teams to call legislators to the ropes
12:30 approx.     Drop off legislative visit form to Dawn, Hanna or Stacey

We will have CART available at all Advocacy Days. We are dedicated to all Advocacy Days being accessible for all, so please let us know if you have any specific needs or accommodations. Please note, sign language interpreters require at least 7 business days of notice to arrange.

Questions? Problems Registering? Contact Hanna at 404.657.2124 or

WE NEED VOLUNTEERS!
To make each advocacy day a success, we are in need of many volunteers. The number of volunteers we will need to help on a given day will depend upon how many people register. If you are interested in helping if needed on the days for which you are registered to attend, please indicate this on the registration form and we will contact you with specifics.
Please see below additional information about parking and accessibility. Thank you for your interest in Advocacy Days!


Deal Emphasizes Jobs, Higher Access for Post-Secondary Education for People with Disabilities

The following is an edited transcript of Governor Nathan Deal's Disability Day speech from February 20, 2014.

It's privilege to once again take part in Disability Day with all of you, and I want to extend a warm thank you to the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities for sponsoring this event.

My main goal has been to create job opportunities for Georgians, and there's a reason for that. A job serves as the launching point for independence, financial stability and,
in many instances, a sense of purpose. My desire for people to have access to these benefits of employment certainly extends to those in our State with disabilities.

But it's not just jobs we're focused on. We long to give Georgians, with or without disabilities, the chance to live in real homes in real communities and to have access to quality learning that leads to meaningful careers.

This is why we have included in our budget new waivers and support services for an additional 500 families through the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD). We have also added 125 new elderly and disabled waiver slots through the Department of Community Health. These waivers provide crucial services and support to those individuals in Georgia who are leaving institutional living to enjoy the benefits of community living.

Yet, true self-sufficiency does start with a job. While the unemployment rate has dropped significantly since I took office, we know that it is still too high for people with disabilities. The majority of high school students with disabilities graduate without work, and end up sitting at home during what should be the most active and productive part of their lives.

To help those with disabilities get the skills needed to find employment, we took an important step last year. We provided funds for post-secondary inclusive education to expand the existing program at Kennesaw State University while also funding a new one in South Georgia's East Georgia State College starting in the fall. Access to higher learning offers Georgians with disabilities the opportunity to pursue competitive employment, which all individuals in our State should be afforded.

As such, we must continue to make sure our education, training and support systems have the policies and resources needed to prepare individuals with disabilities to enter the workforce and become contributing members of society.

To address the barriers to employment confronting people with disabilities, we have
a work group in the DBHDD looking into these issues and working on how we can move
forward with an Employment First Initiative in Georgia. It is in this way that I hope to see more individuals able to pursue their own path to a job, a career or another form of participation in community life.

This year marks the 15th Anniversary of the US Supreme Court Olmstead Decision. Already, we have made great strides in moving more individuals from institutional care to community-based care, and we're not done yet. It is for this reason and for the benefit of Georgians that I am committed to finding ways to make an independent life a more attainable life.

Disability Day 2014: Thousands Gather to Advocate for Meaningful Living

By Devika Rao

On February 20, 2014, in front of nearly 2,500 people, Governor Nathan Deal stood proudly on the Georgia State Capitol steps to announce that the day would be officially proclaimed, "Disability Awareness Day."

The Governor's proclamation was presented to the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities (GCDD) at its 16th annual Disability Day rally held at the Capitol to bring together thousands of advocates from across the State to promote access, opportunity and meaningful community living for Georgians with disabilities and their families.

Various groups brought their enthusiasm to the annual kick off at the Georgia Freight Depot to raise awareness about the rights and concerns of persons with disabilities. Gathering at the depot, attendees made posters advocating for equal opportunities in education and the workplace knowing that the contributions of people with disabilities in the community is not only wanted, but also needed.

This day also had an additional, and equally, important tone as it celebrated the 15th anniversary of the US Supreme Court landmark decision upheld in 1999, Olmstead versus L.C. The Supreme Court case, which found its roots in Georgia, states that people with disabilities have the right to live in the community rather than institutions or nursing homes.

Lois Curtis, the surviving plaintiff in the Olmstead case joined the Disability Day Rally and celebration. Her story of victory was not only a victory for herself; it is, to this day, a victory for all. To show the power of the collective voice and have people share personal stories of freedom and independence was the objective of GCDD's Disability Day theme, "We All Have a Story...What's Yours?"

GCDD Executive Director Eric E. Jacobson kicked off the event with a rousing speech highlighting the many efforts that GCDD is throwing its support behind in the new legislative session. One of the most important policy objectives he drew attention to was that of employment.

"We are talking about people going to work," he said. "Jobs are the most important thing that any individual can have. A job allows you to have a home. A job allows you to go out and have a good time. Because, it is about having a job, and it makes you a valuable
person."

The statement rang true as Jacobson announced that GCDD would work with the advocacy community to push for passage of legislation to make "employment the first option for all people in the State of Georgia."

Employment opportunities for people with disabilities is why Josette Akhras from Putnam County was at her fourth Disability Day event. Advocating for her son Riad, Akhras, a GCDD executive committee member, came to the Capitol to stand up for people who, like her son, want to expand their horizons.

"My son is capable," she said. Her son was working with a close family friend, but otherwise, Riad had no options after he completed high school.

In his address to the crowd, Greg Schmeig, executive director of Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency (GVRA), emphasized the importance of employers hiring persons with disabilities and their valuable contribution to businesses. As the State continues to grow economically, Schmeig highlighted that the unemployment rate for people with disabilities is way too high across both the country and Georgia.

Today, approximately 70 to 80 percent of working-age Americans with disabilities are unemployed, according to Schmeig. Schmeig noted that Georgia's economic recovery and growth needs to include employment for citizens with disabilities. "For every one dollar that a state spends on helping a person with a disability get a job, the return for that state is anywhere from three to 16 dollars," added Schmeig. "Hiring someone with a disability is not only good for business, but it's good for Georgia."

Support for more job opportunities also came from inside the Capitol. Governor Nathan Deal, in a keynote address, spoke of his commitment to employment for all Georgians, including people with disabilities. In order to address the employment barriers for people with disabilities, Deal informed everyone that, "we have a working group in the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities whom I have asked how we can move forward with an Employment First initiative in Georgia."

According to its website, Employment First Georgia (EFG) is a statewide resource promoting innovative, customized employment practices. Each individual will be supported to pursue his or her own unique path to work, a career, or his or her contribution to participation in community life. EFG provides technical assistance and consultation to individuals and their "team" (family, job coach, etc).

GCDD is part of a coalition of organizations that support EFG. Dawn Alford, GCDD's planning and public policy development specialist, highlighted the progress made for employment during this legislative session. The Georgia House of Representatives had included $250,000 for 64 people to access supported employment, which was increased to $500,000 by the Senate.

Deal also touched on another important initiative and advocacy movement that is garnering support from GCDD and advocates alike. Post-secondary education made waves in 2013 as Kennesaw State University kicked off its Academy for Inclusive Learning and Social Growth, which is the only program in Georgia that provides a two-year college experience for individuals with intellectual disabilities.

In addition to the program at Kennesaw State University, post-secondary programs are expanding and in fall 2014, a new one will open its doors at East Georgia State College in Swainsboro, GA. Advocates are also seeking progress on accessibility. Working closely with advocacy groups, Representative Keisha Waites (D-Dist 60) announced that the groups are teaming up to increase accessibility to electronic textbooks for the visually impaired. Access to tangible and attainable postsecondary opportunities proves beneficial for future successful access to employment opportunities for all people, with or without disabilities.

That is what disability advocate and leader Jennifer Lazlo Mizrahi brought to Disability Day...to be a voice that inspires engagement and moving forward for equal rights.

Mizrahi launched RespectAbility USA in July 2013 and has broken great ground in her selfadvocacy for disability rights. Its mission is to "reshape the attitudes of American society so that people with disabilities can more fully participate in and contribute to society, and empower people with disabilities to achieve as much of the American dream as their abilities and efforts permit."

The same rights, Mizrahi emphasized, need to be present in pushing for post-secondary and workplace opportunities for people with disabilities. The Emory University alumna noted that local employers such as The Georgia Aquarium have at least 10 employees with disabilities and her own alma mater employs 35 people with disabilities who work in the nursing, anesthesia, administration and other various departments.

"They are models of inclusive employers," she said as she listed The Atlanta Braves, The Home Depot, Publix and many more who embrace equal opportunity amidst all groups for hiring.

As she spoke about landmark social justice movements and leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr. that have shaped social policies in the country, Mizrahi recognized Lois Curtis in the audience and acknowledged the value of Curtis' activism and Olmstead triumph as the crowd responded with a warm round of applause.

Rep. Katie Dempsey (R-Dist. 13) referenced Olmstead and encouraged the crowd to tell their story to legislators. "We all have a story, you're right. Your personal story is what you need to share with each and every person in that building behind you," she said in reference to the Capitol.

To help document the upcoming 15th anniversary celebration of Olmstead and the impact this landmark Supreme Court ruling has had on thousands of individuals living in Georgia and across the nation, NPR's StoryCorps was onsite to record and collect more "I am Olmstead " Stories of Freedom narratives from people who are living full lives in the ommunity rather than institutions.

Among the six storytellers was Andrew Furey, a self-advocate, artist and Eagle Scout from Lula who fought a long, frustrating battle to receive nursing supports in his home. "I didn't want to be in a nursing home; I wanted the right to stay in
my own home."

"I am Andrew Furey and I am Olmstead ," he declared.

Mizrahi also brought attention to the current federal legislation in Congress that is close to passage with the need of five more votes, at the time of this writing.

The ABLE Act uses tax cuts to help provide for savings for people with disabilities and noted US Senator Johnny Isakson's support behind the legislation. She encouraged people to reach out to the senators to have their voices heard on this bill to make a difference in the lives of people with disabilities.

Like Mizrahi, Jacobson and Deal, many state representatives and senators took the podium to encourage civic engagement by letting the voice of the people be heard.

Representative Alisha Thomas Moore (D-Dist 39) reminded the crowd that, "whether it comes to housing or employment or whatever your issues, it is important that policymakers know the issues that are important to you."

In addition to post-secondary education and employment rights, the Unlock the Waiting Lists! Campaign is a cause that is garnering much attention to open more waiver slots for services for people with disabilities.

"This is your State, my State, and we deserve these services," said Representative Winfred Duke (D-Dist 154).

As legislative leaders such as Senator John Albers (R-Dist 56) and Representative E. Culver "Rusty" Kidd (I-Dist. 145) spoke to the gathered crowd, their message was in the same spirit.

"You don't have disabilities. We do," said Albers, who is chairman of the State Institutions and Property committee. "If we can see life the way you do, the world would be a better place."

Kidd reminded the crowd gathered that advocacy doesn't stop at Disability Day. He emphasized that the fight forges on for equal rights in education and employment as well as the Unlock the Waiting Lists!
Campaign. "One phone call makes a difference!" Kidd said.

The rally gatherers adjourned to the Georgia Freight Depot for lunch, legislator visits, exhibits and other activities including the Disability Day banner signing, an accessible voting machine demonstration, and a special listening station set-up presenting the "I Am Olmstead – Stories of Freedom," organized by the Atlanta Legal Aid Society.

During this time, self-advocate Andrew Furey shared his Olmstead story of freedom and the Tumlin family presented Ralph "Robbie" Breshears from Augusta the Georgia Outstanding Self-Advocate of the Year Award--In Loving Memory of Natalie Norwood Tumlin. Breshears is a certified work incentives coordinator and after a battle with leukemia, he now advocates and fights for medical gaps in insurance.

With substantial support from Georgia legislators and the community, GCDD's 16th annual Disability Day at the Capitol proved the old adage of "strength in numbers."

Disability Day: 2,500 Advocate for Jobs at 16th Annual GCDD Disability Day at the Capitol

Gov. Deal Commits to Jobs, Higher Education, Community Life, Freedom from Institutions GA Legislators, RespectAbility USA Hail Opportunities, Supports for People With Disabilities

ATLANTA (February 27, 2014) – More job opportunities and employment supports for people with disabilities was the overarching message of GCDD's 16th Annual Disability Day at the Capitol on Thursday, February 20. Governor Nathan Deal pledged continued support, GCDD announced re-energized focus for Employment First initiatives, and keynote speaker Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, President and CEO of RespectAbility USA called for the necessary votes to push the ABLE Act through the U.S. Senate (Achieving a Better Life Experience Act: H.R. 647).

"Today, more than two decades after the ADA was passed, 47% of working age Americans with disabilities are outside of the workplace compared to 28% of those without disabilities," Mizrahi said. "But we are not statistics, we are human beings with power, with education, and with value. And we know that together we can make changes a reality." RespectAbility USA is a new national, non-profit, non-partisan organization with a mission to correct and prevent the current disparity of justice for people with disabilities.

Governor Deal said, "A job serves as the launching point for independence, financial stability and...my desire for people to have access to these benefits of employment certainly extends to those in our state with disabilities. To address the barriers to employment confronting people with disabilities, we have a work group in the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities looking into these issues. I am asking them to recommend how we can move forward with an Employment First Initiative in Georgia."

"It is in this way that I hope to see more individuals able to pursue their own path to a job, a career or another form of participation in community life," Deal added.

"Governor Deal has been a friend to the disability community but today, I am proud to announce that GCDD has undertaken a process that, regardless of who is governor, we'll be talking about the passage of legislation to ensure that employment is the first option for all people of the state of Georgia," Eric Jacobson, GCDD Executive Director, said.

Rep. Keisha Waites (D-Dist 60) said to the swelling crowd, "I stand with you... to increase accessibility for every individual that may be disabled throughout the state of Georgia. I want to pull out two pieces of legislation that I have been working on with many of you in the audience...that will increase accessibility to electronic textbooks for the visually impaired and... will provide increased accessibility to your capitol, as well as the legislative office buildings next door."

Other legislators who attended the Rally included Sen. John Albers (R-Dist 56), Rep. Katie Dempsey (R-Dist 13), Rep. Winfred Dukes (D-Dist 154), Rep. Michele Henson (D-86), Rep. E. Culver Rusty Kidd (Ind-Dist 145), Rep. Alisha Thomas Morgan (D-Dist 39), Rep. Jimmy Pruett (R-149), Rep. Carl Rogers (R-Dist 29) and Rep. Dexter Sharper (D-Dist 177). They thanked the crowd for attending the Rally and encouraged people to contact their legislators about their needs and desires.

Rep. Dempsey, said, "We all have a story, you're right. Your personal story is what you need to share with each and every person in that building behind you."

"Know that it is time to unlock the waiting list. This is your state, my state and we deserve these services. Make no mistake about it, the people on the third floor and the second floor know that you are here," Rep. Dukes said.

2,500 community leaders and disability advocates gathered near the Capitol Steps and , in a collective voice, rallied for jobs, support for post-secondary education and release from institutions for people with disabilities. Governor Deal and Jacobson each praised the expansion of Georgia's post-secondary inclusive education program sponsored by GCDD, the Academy for Inclusive Learning and Social Growth at Kennesaw State University and noted the expansion of similar programs to four campuses in Georgia with the newest one slated to open this fall at East Georgia State College.

This year's Disability Day Rally also recognized the 15th anniversary of the landmark 1999 Olmstead Decision in which the US Supreme Court ruled it was unconstitutional for two Georgia women with developmental disabilities, Lois Curtis and Elaine Wilson, to be institutionalized against their wishes. Curtis, the sole surviving Olmstead plaintiff, was in attendance at last Thursday's Rally. In the spirit of the Olmstead Decision, the Atlanta Legal Aid Society (ALAS) and GCDD facilitated an opportunity for six individuals who have achieved freedom from institutional life to tell their stories at a dedicated StoryCorps recording booth created on-site especially for Disability Day.

Among the six storytellers was Andrew Furey, a self-advocate, artist and Eagle Scout from Lula who fought a long, frustrating battle to receive nursing supports in his home. "I didn't want to be in a nursing home; I wanted the right to stay in my own home." "I am Andrew Furey and I am Olmstead," he declared.

ALAS and GCDD presented "I Am Olmstead – Stories of Freedom" in conjunction with StoryCorps to recognize the triumph of individuals like Andrew and provide an opportunity for others in attendance to sign up to record their own stories in the future. StoryCorps partners with the Atlanta History Center and Georgia Public Broadcasting to record, preserve, and share the stories of communities in Atlanta. Selected StoryCorps recordings air weekly on National Public Radio's Morning Edition and every recording is archived in the American Folklife Center in Washington DC. The GCDD Disability Day 2014 theme, "We All Have A Story, What's Yours?" was echoed throughout the day and could be seen on the hundreds of t-shirts that covered the State Capitol grounds in a sea of blue.

Dawn Alford, GCDD's Planning and Policy Development Specialist, gave an overview of GCDD's 2014 Legislative Agenda and noted the house approved $250,000 to be used for supportive employment for 64 individuals with disabilities.

"Georgia's economic recovery and growth must include employment for citizens with disabilities. For every single dollar that a state spends on helping a person with a disability get a job, the return is anywhere from $3 to $16," Greg Schmieg, executive director of the Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency (GVRA), said. "Hiring someone with a disability is not only good for business, it's good for Georgia."

Reverend Susannah Davis, pastor of Kirkwood United Church of Christ, led a prayer and a moment of silence to recognize and honor the memory of 10 Fallen Soldiers, Georgia's disability advocates recently deceased. After the rally small groups as well as groups of more than 250 from all over Georgia, adjourned to the Georgia Freight Depot for lunch, legislator visits, exhibits and other activities including banner signing, an accessible voting machine demonstration and the "I Am Olmstead – Stories of Freedom" listening station.

During this time, GCDD awarded Ralph "Robbie" Breshears from Augusta the Georgia Outstanding Self-Advocate of the Year Award - In Loving Memory of Natalie Norwood Tumlin. Disability Day at the Capitol is made possible by a host of partnering organizations and volunteers from Georgia's disability community. For a list of sponsors, visit www.GCDD.org.

GCDD, a federally funded independent state agency, works to bring about social and policy changes that promote opportunities for persons with developmental disabilities and their families to live, learn, work, play and worship in Georgia communities. A developmental disability is a chronic mental and/or physical disability that occurs before age 22 and is expected to last a lifetime. Visit www.gcdd.org for more information.

CONTACT:
Valerie Meadows Suber, Public Information Director 
Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities 
404-657-2122 (office); 404-226-0343 (mobile) 
 
www.gcdd.org2014 Disability Day Photos: http://on.fb.me/MBngkY

Disability Day: Over 2,000 at Rally Speak Up for More Jobs and Education

On February 20, over 2,000 people rallied at the Georgia State Capitol steps to speak up for more jobs and access to post-seconday education for people with disabilities. The rally, which started at the Georgia Freight Depot, received motivation and inspiration from keynote speakers Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, founder, CEO and president of RespectAbility and Governor Nathan Deal, who also declared the day as Disability Awareness Day.

CBS Atlanta was on site for Disability Day and spread the message that people with disabilties should receive the same opportunities as everyone else.

CBS Atlanta News

Disability Day: We All Have a Story

In its 16th year, Georgia Council for Developmental Disabilities and its advocates will gather at the Georgia State Capitol building on February 20 at 8 a.m.

Disability Day at the Capitol features a community rally, sponsored by GCDD to promote access, opportunity and meaningful community living for all Georgians, including people with disabilities and their families. Citizens with and without disabilities gather on the steps of the State Capitol to join advocates and meet with State legislators to make their voices heard.'

We hope you are able to join us for the 16th Annual Disability Day at the Capitol on Thursday February 20, 2014! This year's theme is "We all have a Story... What's Yours?" Plus, GCDD and the Atlanta Legal Aid Society celebrate the Olmstead Decision's 15th anniversary with individual "I Am Olmstead" Stories of Freedom," recorded on-site by StoryCorps.

To register for the 16th annual Disability Day, visit http://www.ciclt.net/sn/events/e_signup.aspx?ClientCode=gcdd&E_ID=500049&RegType=ATT

First Thursdays: Join us at Disability Day!

The following is the fourth installment of the GCDD First Thursdays blog series, a monthly blog that will share the thoughts and ideas of GCDD staff members. 

February 20, 2014. Mark this date on your calendar because it is the 16th annual Disability Day at the Georgia State Capitoland you do not want to miss it. We expect over 2,000 people with disabilities, family members, providers, and advocates to attend. We also have a great line up including a keynote address by Governor Nathan Deal and Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi from RespectabilityUSA will be another dynamic keynote speaker.


RespectabilityUSA was formed last July to become a national voice for increasing employment for people with developmental disabilities. They have been working with governors across the country to become Employment First states, which means that employment should be the first option for people with developmental disabilities. Also, Atlanta Legal Aid's Director of the Disability Integration Project Talley Wells will speak about the new "I am Olmstead" campaign that is working to get people to tell their stories. StoryCorps will have a booth inside the Capitol to capture stories from people with disabilities.


And of course, there will be the annual camaraderie of thousands of people from across our state coming together, dressed in the Disability Day at the Capitol T-shirts, waving signs and cheering making this one of the most important aspects of the annual event. The relationships that are built by people who come from the mountains of North Georgia to the southern coasts; from the peanut and cotton farms of south Georgia to the metro Atlanta area come together to say we are all Georgians. We all care about people with disabilities, and we think that our elected officials should make meeting the needs of people with disabilities a priority.


I know you are saying, Eric, I would love to come, but what about the weather? I am not a weatherman but I have looked at several forecasts and most of them have predicted we will have a pretty nice day with temperatures in the upper 50's and at this point, no chance of rain or SNOW. Now I know we just had SNOWJAM 2014, so I will not guarantee anything, but even if the forecast is wrong, you can expect to have a great day!

So, register for Disability Day at the Capitol and I look forward to seeing you on February 20th: Click here to register for Disability Day

Eric Jacobson

Executive Director, GCDD

Fulfilling the Promise of the ADA – 2015 Disability Day

 Mitzi Profitt and Eric Jacobson Disability dayLet's Continue the Fight – 17th Annual Disability Day at the Capitol

On a cold and wet March 5th morning, hundreds of people with developmental disabilities, family members and advocates gathered at the Liberty Plaza for the 17th annual Disability Day at the Capitol. While we were cold and wet, our enthusiasm was not dampened. Those in the crowd cheered, sang, clapped and marched as speakers presented news about what is happening in Georgia and what the future might look like.

The theme this year was “Fulfilling the Promise of the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act)” and celebrating the 25th anniversary of this civil rights legislation for people with disabilities. Much progress has been made and yet we still come up short when it comes to equal rights for people with disabilities. Many are still warehoused in institutions and nursing homes. Many still do not have jobs and many are still isolated in communities with only paid staff as friends. Yet as Governor Nathan Deal commented, we are making progress in getting more students on college campuses. We are working to get children out of nursing homes and the possibilities seem endless.Advocates brave the rain for the 2015 Disability Day at the Capitol.

But we must continue to fight. As US Rep. John Lewis said in his video message to the crowd, “We must continue to get in the way and cause good trouble.” That is our role and must be central to the strategies that we use to continue creating a better place for everyone. We must continue to fight for more funds and Medicaid waivers. GCDD fought successfully with others for passage of medical marijuana legislation to help children and others live normal lives. We must make sure that staff is paid a living wage so that the threat of poverty is removed not only from people with disabilities but all Georgians. This is the kind of trouble we must make and we must get in the way of those who keep us from achieving this effort.

Over the next few months, Atlanta will host several national and international conferences related to disability in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the ADA and the opening of the National Center for Civil and Human Rights. Let’s show the world once more why Atlanta is such a great and welcoming city.

Eric Jacobson, GCDD Executive Director


 US Representative John Lewis spoke to the crowd at Disability Day at the Capitol on March 5, 2015 to commemorate the the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Click here to read the text of his speech.

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal spoke to the crowd at Disability Day at the Capitol on March 5, 2015 to commemorate the the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Click here to read the text of his speech.

 

Thanks to Our Disability Day Sponsors!

  • AlbanyARC
    AmeriGroup
    The ARC of
    Bleckley County
    Beacon Health Options
    Briggs &
    Associates

  • Diversified
    Enterprises
    Fulton County Government Georgia Chambers
    Resource Center
    GA Adv Office Georgia Association of
    People Supporting
    Employment First (GAPSE)
  • Ga Assoc of Community Svc Boards GSFIC ADA Coordinators OfficeR Healthcare Georgia Foundation  Jewish Family &
    Career Services

    Nobis Works

  • Omni Visions SILCGA Logo Web Medium Unison
    Behavioral Health
     United Cerebral Palsy of GA
    View Point Health

GCDD Receives an Exclusive Message from Rep John Lewis, Welcomes Gov. Nathan Deal and Disability Advocates at Disability Day at The Capitol, Recaps the 2015 Legislative Session and Focuses on Community Building in the Spring issue of Making a Difference

ATLANTA, GA, April 30, 2015 -- Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities’ (GCDD) Spring edition of Making a Difference quarterly news magazine provides in-depth coverage of the 17th annual Disability Day at the Capitol. The day welcomed a speech by Governor Nathan Deal, and brought together the disability rights community across the State to highlight advocacy during the 2015 legislative session.

The annual event also received an exclusive message from US Rep. John Lewis (D-District 5) on continuing to advocate for equal rights and honoring the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The magazine recaps the legislative session and GCDD’s advocacy successes for post-secondary education, the Unlock the Waiting Lists! Campaign and other legislation affecting the disability community. The magazine brings attention to the execution of Warren Lee Hill and how the community needs to come together to lower Georgia’s burden of proof through its Expert Update and Straight Talk essays.

Making a Difference also continues its yearlong commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) with an article from guest writer Mark Johnson, the director of advocacy at the Shepherd Center and chair of The ADA Legacy Project.

GCDD hosted its 17th annual Disability Day at the Capitol on March 5 at the new Liberty Plaza. Governor Deal spoke to the crowd about the newest universities to have post-secondary education options for students with disabilities, highlighted continued work to get Georgians with disabilities into communities rather than institutions and proclaimed March as Disability Awareness Month. Deal also commemorated the 25th anniversary of the ADA at this year’s Disability Day, which was themed “Fulfilling the Promise of the ADA.”

During the 2015 legislative session, GCDD’s advocacy team hosted Advocacy Days encouraging people to learn and discuss disability issues with state legislators. The team focused on Employment First, Inclusive Post-Secondary Education, The Family Care Act and the Unlock the Waiting Lists! Campaign, which is a coalition of organizations to get more Georgians waivers for the supports and services they need.

The team’s efforts resulted in the passage of House Resolution 642, led by Rep. Katie Dempsey (R-District 13), which formed a study committee on the benefits of an Employment First policy and Post-Secondary Education options for Georgians with disabilities. Under Unlock the Waiting Lists!, GCDD addressed the low reimbursement rate for caregivers under the Independent Care Waiver Program (ICWP). The advocacy brought a $.75 increase under ICWP. GCDD also advocated more waivers under the New Options Waiver (NOW) and the Comprehensive Supports Waiver Program (NOW/COMP) resulting in 75 new waivers under the 2016 fiscal budget.

Making a Difference covered the annual Georgia Winter Institute retreat held in Columbus, GA that brought together over 150 people in the disability community and professional fields. The event works to cultivate new ideas and practices towards inclusive and integrated communities.

In Perspectives, Reverend Bill Gaventa and Community Café developer Robin Higa share their thoughts on how to use communities to build and strengthen relationships. Gaventa highlights the partnership of inclusive faith-based communities and employment opportunities while Higa approaches building relationships to make connections and growing networks for more opportunities.

Lesa Hope, an evaluator on disability-related issues in criminal and civil cases, discusses Warren Lee Hill and the need to change Georgia’s burden of proof for an intellectual disability in the court system in Expert Update. Currently, Georgia has the toughest burden of proof in the nation.

GCDD’s next quarterly meeting will be held in Atlanta on July 16-17, 2015.
All meetings are open to the public.

Media links:
To read Making a Difference Spring 2015, visit http://bit.ly/1I1gI8W
For photos of Making a Difference Spring 2015, visit http://bit.ly/1PqQnDi
For videos and photos from the 17th annual Disability Day at the Capitol, visit http://bit.ly/1aWhbM8

About Making a Difference:
Making a Difference is published by the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities (GCDD). Current and past issues can be accessed online at gcdd.org and hard copies can be requested by contacting the GCDD Office of Public Information.
Making a Difference is available online in accessible PDF and large print format, as well as on audio by request. www.gcdd.org/news-a-media/making-a-difference-magazine.html  

About Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities (GCDD):
The mission of the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities (GCDD) is to bring about social and policy changes that promote opportunities for persons with developmental disabilities and their families to live, learn, work, play and worship in Georgia communities. www.gcdd.org

CONTACT:
Valerie Meadows Suber, Public Information Director
Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities
404-657-2122 (office) 404-801-7873 (mobile)

www.gcdd.org

###

 

GCDD's 16th Disability Day at the Capitol

 

MEDIA ADVISORY 
Jobs, Education Among Legislative Priorities 2,000 People Will Meet, Tell Stories, Call To Gold Dome For Support 

WHAT: One of the largest public gatherings held annually during the official legislative session emphasizes the statewide need for community-based services and vital supports for people with developmental disabilities. The event is themed "We All Have A Story...What's Yours?" and in the spirit of the day, attendees will be encouraged to rove through the crowd sharing stories. Select "I Am Olmstead" stories will be recorded by StoryCorps and, at the Freight Depot, people can sign up for future StoryCorps sessions as well as hear pre-recorded narratives of "I Am Olmstead – Stories of Freedom" at listening stations.

WHY: Georgia is a focal point for disability rights and home state of The Olmstead Decision, the 1999 landmark US Supreme Court case brought by the Atlanta Legal Aid Society, on behalf of two Georgia women, affirming the right of people with disabilities to live in the community rather than institutions and nursing homes. Freedom for people in institutions is part of GCDD's 2014 legislative agenda along with:
• Supported employment in the community
• Inclusive post-secondary educational opportunities
• Unlock the Waiting Lists! Campaign, Children's Freedom Initiative (CFI), housing voucher programs, changes in the standard to prove intellectual disabilities in capital punishment cases, and the Family Care Act (HB 290).

Over 7,500 Georgians are on the waiting list to receive funding of community-based services and vital supports. One in five Georgians and about 57 million Americans have some type of disability as an occurrence of birth, injury or longevity.

WHO: Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities (GCDD, www.gcdd.org), Sponsor/Host: Eric E. Jacobson, executive director; Mitzi Proffitt, chair

Capitol Rally at 11 am:
• Governor Nathan Deal will address the gathering.
• Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, founder, CEO and president of RespectAbility, will deliver keynote about "empowering people with disabilities to live the American dream" through jobs and voting rights.
• Talley Wells, director of the Disability Integration Project, Atlanta Legal Aid Society.
• Andrew Furey, self-advocate, artist and Eagle Scout from Lula who fought a long, frustrating battle to receive nursing supports in his home.
• State legislators and other elected officials.

WHEN: Thursday, February 20, 2014
9:00 am – Registration and Exhibit Hall: accessible voting machine demonstration, creation of a giant collective story narrative collage, sign-making, plus StoryCorps listening / sign-up station and other activities Georgia Freight Depot
11:00 am – Rally at the Capitol Steps
12:00 pm – Lunch (Legislators, Constituents, Advocates) Georgia Freight Depot
12:45 pm – Advocacy Awards

WHERE: Capitol steps, Atlanta: Washington Street side and adjacent Georgia Freight Depot

Media packets available for pick up at white "Media Tent" on Capitol steps behind the podium.

CONTACT:
Valerie Meadows Suber, Public Information Director 
Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities 
404-657-2122 (office); 404-226-0343 (mobile) 
 
Follow Updates on Twitter at #GCDDAnnualDisabilityDay

Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities (GCDD) to Host State’s Largest Gathering of Disability Advocates and Supporters

MEDIA ADVISORY:March 5, 2015
17th Annual Disability Day at the Capitol Theme Pays Tribute to the Americans with Disabilities Act 25th Anniversary

WHAT: GCDD’s Disability Day at the Capitol Rally will unite thousands of Georgians who travel across the state in support of legislation that will promote the independence, inclusion, productivity and self-determination of people with disabilities. Each year they gather with family members, policy makers, business leaders and service providers to celebrate growth in community, advocate for effective legislation and reignite the bonds of friendship. The theme of this year’s event is “Fulfilling the Promise of the ADA”; in addition to celebrating the significant milestone of this impactful legislation, Disability Day continues a year-long schedule of activities throughout the State that will commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The days' activities include the following:

  • ADA Pledge: Attendees will be encouraged to sign an official pledge to actively recommit to the fulfillment of the ADA and become part of the nationwide series of events that will pay tribute to the passage of this historic disability rights legislation.
  • ADA Proclamation: Gov. Nathan Deal will recognize the anniversary by announcing Georgia’s ADA Proclamation that recommits the State to reaching full ADA compliance while reaffirming the principles of inclusion and equality.
  • ADA Exhibit in the Rotunda of the Capitol: A three-panel banner displaying the “preserve, educate and celebrate” slogan of the National ADA Legacy Project will be presented by GCDD with a table of informational material that includes current copies of its quarterly news publication Making a Difference magazine.
  • Advocacy 101 Training at the Georgia Freight Depot: GCDD’s public policy team will provide a primer on GCDD’s legislative priorities and offer first time advocates tips on how to speak to legislators at the Capitol.

WHY: More than 1 million people with disabilities live in Georgia, representing one of the fastest growing socio-economic segments of the State. Each year they gather with family members, policy makers, business leaders and service providers at the State Capitol to celebrate growth in community, advocate for effective legislation and reignite the bonds of friendship.

The theme of the event supports GCDD’s mission and 2015 legislative agenda of promoting social justice, ensuring voting rights and encouraging accessible employment, all of which are necessary elements for independence and inclusive communities. The 2015 legislative agenda also includes support of:

  • An Employment First policy in Georgia - Employment in the general workforce at or above minimum wage is the priority service outcome for individuals with disabilities in the publicly funded service system.
  • The Unlock the Waiting Lists! Collaborative - Unlock the Waiting Lists! advocates investing in Georgians with disabilities so they and their families can live full lives and contribute to Georgia communities and the Georgia economy.
  • Inclusive post-secondary education - Inclusive post-secondary education provides opportunities for students with intellectual disabilities to access higher education.
  • The Family Care Act - This would allow Georgians who have earned sick leave to use up to five days of that leave to care for sick or injured members of their immediate family.

WHO: Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities (GCDD, www.gcdd.org), Sponsor/Host (Mitzi Proffitt, chair and Eric E. Jacobson, executive director)

Capitol Rally at 11 am: Fulfilling the Promise of the ADA

  • Governor Nathan Deal to address the gathering
  • Exclusive first showing! Disability Day ADA 25th anniversary video message to GCDD from Congressman John Lewis
  • Mark Johnson, national chair, ADA Legacy Project and Shepherd Center Advocacy Director delivers keynote
  • Rev. Susannah Davis, Kirkwood United Church of Christ leads a moment of silence to honor the memory of "Fallen Soldiers," Georgia’s recently deceased disability advocates
  • Joey Stuckey, known as the Music Minister of Macon, sings the Star Spangled Banner acappella and Georgia On My Mind self-accompanied on guitar
  • State legislators and other elected officials bring greetings and join constituents

WHEN: Thursday, March 5, 2015

9:00 am – Registration and Exhibit Hall, Georgia Freight Depot:
11:00 am – Rally at Liberty Plaza, the Capitol’s new “front door”.
12:00 pm – Lunch (Legislators, Constituents, Advocates), Georgia Freight Depot

WHERE: Liberty Plaza: Capitol Rally. The new venue is located at the intersection of Capitol Avenue and Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard
Georgia Freight Depot: Exhibit Hall, Advocacy 101 training, t-shirt distribution & lunch

Media packets available for pick up at white "Media Tent" adjacent to stage.

CONTACT:
Valerie Meadows Suber, Public Information Director
Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities
404-657-2122 (office) 404-801-7873 (mobile)

www.gcdd.org
Follow Updates on Twitter at #GCDDAnnualDisabilityDay
# # #

Over 2,000 Georgians Expected to Meet at the Capitol Steps on GCDD's annual Disability Day

GCDD's 16th Annual Disability Day at the Capitol: Over 2,000 Georgians Expected to Meet at the Capitol Steps and Affirm "We All Have A Story...What's Yours?" 
Governor Deal to Address the Rally Marking 15th Anniversary of The Olmstead Decision 

ATLANTA, GA (Feb. 10, 2014) –Governor Nathan Deal will speak and Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, founder, CEO and president of RespectAbility, will deliver the keynote address to Georgians with disabilities, their families and advocates at the 16th Annual Disability Day at the Capitol, sponsored by the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities (www.GCDD.org), on Thursday, February 20 at 11am. The event also celebrates the 15th anniversary of The Olmstead Decision, the June 1999 landmark ruling that paved the way for people with disabilities to leave institutions and live in the community. An anticipated 2,000 people will gather to share with legislators how disability affects their lives and tell personal stories at the event themed "We All Have A Story...What's Yours?"

"Each year thousands of Georgians look forward to GCDD's Disability Day at the Capitol because they know legislators will hear us when we speak with one voice," Eric E. Jacobson, GCDD Executive Director, said. "This year, we'll share stories of the common threads of disability that touch and unify us. GCDD advocates for opportunities for jobs and post-secondary education which are critical components in this movement toward social justice."

Laszlo-Mizrahi will talk about of "empowering people with disabilities to live the American dream" through jobs and voting rights. She is a proven social entrepreneur and change agent who founded RespectAbility, an organization dedicated to unlocking the potential of all Americans, including people with disabilities, who want to contribute to growing our nation's prosperity.

People at the rally will share their stories and practice deep listening to foster conversation, understanding and appreciation for the varied gifts, skills, dreams and contributions of all people. Students from Partnerships for Success, a GCDD-sponsored statewide high school student leadership program promoting community service and peer relationship-building between youth with and without disabilities, will serve as volunteers throughout the day. At the Freight Depot, individuals will be able to sign up for future opportunities to share their stories on StoryCorps, a program heard weekly on National Public Radio's (NPR's) Morning Edition and archived in the American Folklife Center.

As part of the 15th anniversary celebration of the landmark Olmstead Decision, the Atlanta Legal Aid Society will host a dedicated StoryCorps recording booth inside the Gold Dome where people who have moved out of institutions will tell their personal "I Am Olmstead – Stories of Freedom." The landmark Olmstead Decision by the US Supreme Court ruled it was unconstitutional for two Georgia women with developmental disabilities, Lois Curtis and Elaine Wilson, to be institutionalized against their wishes.
Freedom for people in institutions is part of GCDD's 2014 legislative agenda along with the Unlock the Waiting Lists! Campaign and the Children's Freedom Initiative (CFI). Other GCDD legislative priorities include support and expansion of inclusive post-secondary education opportunities such as Kennesaw State University's Academy for Inclusive Learning and Social Growth and ASPIRE (Active Student Participation Inspires Real Engagement), a Department of Education program that encourages self-determination. Four other priorities round out GCDD's 2014 agenda: supported employment in the community, housing voucher programs, changes in the standard to prove intellectual disabilities in capital punishment cases, and the Family Care Act (HB 290).

"Our legislative agenda priorities seek Real Learning, Real Careers, Real Homes and more...rights all Georgians should expect and enjoy, whether they happen to have a disability or not," Jacobson said.

GCDD Chairwoman Mitzi Proffitt introduce Governor Nathan Deal and legislators from both sides of the aisle are expected to address the crowd during the Rally. Talley Wells, director of the Disability Integration Project at the Atlanta Legal Aid Society, will provide an overview of the "I Am Olmstead – Stories of Freedom" project. He will introduce a self-advocate who will tell the story of living in an institution and leaving it for a better life in the community.

GCDD's Disability Day at the Capitol begins at 9 am on February 20 with t-shirt pick up, activities, information and exhibits including an accessible voting machine demonstration and listening stations for "I Am Olmstead – Stories of Freedom" with pre-recorded narratives. After the 11 am Rally, legislators from both sides of the aisle will join attendees for lunch around 12:15 pm (first come, first served) at the Georgia Freight Depot.

About GCDD:

GCDD, a federally funded independent state agency, works to bring about social and policy changes that promote opportunities for persons with developmental disabilities and their families to live, learn, work, play and worship in Georgia communities. A developmental disability is a chronic mental and/or physical disability that occurs before age 22 and is expected to last a lifetime. Visit www.GCDD.org for more information

CONTACT:
Valerie Meadows Suber, Public Information Director 
Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities 
404-657-2122 (office); 404-226-0343 (mobile) 
 
Follow Updates on Twitter at #GCDDAnnualDisabilityDay

Over 2,500 Advocates Will Rally in Liberty Plaza at Americans with Disabilities Act 25th Anniversary Tribute March 5

Governor Nathan Deal’s Keynote Pledges Full ADA Compliance in Georgia Plus Exclusive 17th Annual Disability Day Message from Congressman John Lewis

ATLANTA - More than 2,500 disability advocates and supporters are expected to attend the 17th Annual Disability Day at the Capitol rally hosted by the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities (GCDD) on Thursday, March 5, at 11 am. Disability Day is among the largest public gatherings held each year when the Georgia General Assembly meets. Advocates travel from across the state to unite in support of legislation that will promote the independence, inclusion, productivity and self-determination of people with disabilities. The theme of this year’s event is “Fulfilling the Promise of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).”

“It sends a powerful message to have the participation of so many advocates and supporters of disability rights at this Rally, as we mark 25 years since passage of the ADA,” said GCDD Executive Director Eric Jacobson. “Each year, Disability Day at the Capitol grows in size and scope. We are particularly honored to have Governor Deal return and we are very proud to have the authentic Civil Rights voice of Congressman John Lewis speak to us about Social Justice, as only he can.” Congressman Lewis shares his personal family connection to disabilities in an exclusive Disability Day message.

Governor Nathan Deal will deliver the Keynote address and present an ADA Commendation which recommits Georgia to reach full ADA compliance. Mark Johnson, National Chair of the ADA Legacy Project (www.adalegacy.com) and Shepherd Center Advocacy Director, will speak about Disability Rights as Civil Rights, including the ADA Legacy Tour and campaign to spread the ADA message, “preserve,” “educate” and “celebrate,” throughout the nation. Rev. Susannah Davis, Pastor of Kirkwood United Church of Christ, will lead the audience in recognition of “fallen soldiers,” members of Georgia’s disability community who died within the last year. GCDD chair, Mitzi Proffitt will emcee with Jacobson throughout the Rally program which ends at 12:30 PM

Award-winning guitarist and vocalist Joey Stuckey (www.joeystuckey.com), the official Music Ambassador of Macon, will perform three standard selections: Star Spangled Banner acappella, Georgia on My Mind and This Little Light of Mine. He has studied a range of music genres with many accomplished professors and renowned musicians, including jazz guitarist Stanley Jordan. Stuckey lost his eyesight and sense of smell as an infant as result of a brain tumor and he developed an early love of music from his mother’s enthusiasm for opera and his father’s penchant for country and western. In addition to performing and managing his recording studio, Shadow Sounds Productions, Stuckey teaches music, delivers motivational talks and advocates for access to music education for blind children. His new single, Blind Man Drivin’, will be released during a 10-day tour of the UK later this month.

Closing the program, Rally leaders will rouse the crowd with chants promoting the themes of the day as they march past the Capitol to the Freight Depot. One in five Americans lives with disabilities as an occurrence of birth, injury or longevity, representing one of the fastest growing socio-economic sectors in the country. Georgia has one million children and adults living with disabilities.

GCDD’s annual Disability Day at the Capitol is an opportunity for members of the disability community and their supporters to connect with each other, their elected officials and the broader community. This year’s focus on the ADA coincides with GCDD’s mission and legislative agenda for achieving inclusive communities, voting rights, access to education and jobs. GCDD’s 2015 legislative agenda includes:

  • An Employment First policy in Georgia – promotes employment in the general workforce at or above minimum wage as the first option for individuals with disabilities.
  • The Unlock the Waiting Lists! Campaign - advocates for community based services and supports for individuals with disabilities to live free in the community rather than reside in institutions. (www.unlockthewaitinglists.com)
  • Children’s Freedom Initiative - works to bring children out of institutions and into the community in homes with loving families. (www.georgiacfi.org)
  • Inclusive post-secondary education - provides opportunities for students with intellectual disabilities to access higher education and social growth.
  • The Family Care Act - allows flexibility for families to use their sick time to care for each other.

Disability Day activities begin at 9 am at the Georgia Freight Depot with t-shirt pick-up, sign-making, exhibits, including accessible voting machine demonstrations, and signature collection for the official ADA Pledge (www.adaanniversary.org/pledge) for those who want to sign-up to actively recommit to the fulfillment of the ADA. The GCDD Public Policy Team will offer Advocacy 101 training beginning at 9:30 am followed by visits to the Capitol to meet legislators. Attendees will also have the opportunity to visit an ADA Exhibit in the Rotunda of the Capitol that will highlight the “preserve,” “educate,” and “celebrate” slogan of the National ADA Legacy Project and a table of source materials including current issues of GCDD’s quarterly news magazine, Making A Difference.

The 11 am Rally will take place in Liberty Plaza, the Capitol’s new “front door”, located at the intersection of Capitol Avenue and Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard.

About GCDD:
GCDD, a federally funded independent state agency, works to bring about social and policy changes that promote opportunities for persons with developmental disabilities and their families to live, learn, work, play and worship in Georgia communities. A developmental disability is a chronic mental and/or physical disability that occurs before age 22 and is expected to last a lifetime. Visit www.GCDD.org for more information.

CONTACT:
Valerie Meadows Suber, Public Information Director
Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities
404-657-2122 (office) 404-801-7873 (mobile)

www.gcdd.org
Follow Updates on Twitter at #GCDDAnnualDisabilityDay
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Photos capture Disability Day 2015

Neighbor Newspapers captured the 2015 Disability Day at the Capitol through photos. Click here to see the photos and below are text captions describing the photos' contents.

1) Special / Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities / Disability rights advocates recently participated in the 17th annual Disability Day at the Capitol in downtown Atlanta, hosted by the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities. Nearly 1,500 individuals with disabilities, family members, friends and supporters withstood gusty winds and chilling rain to show unity and support of legislation that will promote the independence, inclusion, productivity and self-determination of people with disabilities. The theme of this year’s Disability Day Rally was ‘Fulfilling the promise of the Americans with Disabilities Act,’ to mark 25 years since passage of this landmark disability rights legislation. Eric Jacobson, center, executive director of the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities, with State ADA Coordinator Mike Galifinakis and event attendees.

2) Special / Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities / Attendees of the 17th annual Disability Day at the Capitol show signs they made with Disability Day themes: ‘Fulfilling the Promise and Disability Rights are Civil Rights.’

3) Special / Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities / From left, Gov. Nathan Deal, Eric Jacobson, executive director of the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities, and council chair Mitzi Proffitt show the official document proclaiming March as Disability Awareness Month in Georgia.

4) Special / Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities / From left, Atlanta Legal Aid Director Talley Wells stands with event attendees in Liberty Plaza.

5) Special / Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities / The Rev. Susannah Davis leads the tribute to ‘fallen soldiers,’ members of the disability community who have died in the last year.

6) Special / Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities / Disability advocate Carol Jones waves the Disability Flag at the event.

7) Special / Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities / Event attendees show signs they made for the rally at Liberty Plaza: Quality equals Equality. (Note from J.: Carmine is included in this image)

8) Special / Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities / Event attendees show their support by wearing T-shirts designed and provided specifically for the day’s rally.