Join GCDD in Celebrating 18 Years and Final Disability Day at the Capitol Rally February 18
THE DISABILITY VOTE – FEEL THE POWER
ATLANTA (February 17, 2016) – Witness a powerful and unforgettable scene as 3,500 disability advocates from across the state meet with lawmakers, rally at Liberty Plaza and march to the Georgia Freight Depot on the final Disability Day at the Capitol, sponsored by the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities (GCDD) on Thursday, February 18, 2016. The Disability Vote – Feel the Power is the theme of the day, beginning at 9:00 AM with exhibits at the Georgia Freight Depot, followed by the main Liberty Plaza rally at 11:00 AM, returning to the Freight Depot for lunch with legislators at 12 Noon.
Governor Nathan Deal will address the gathering during the main rally and deliver a proclamation declaring March as Developmental Disability Awareness Month in Georgia. Given the day’s focus on voting, GCDD Chair, Mitzi Proffitt, will welcome the crowd with a message to be mindful of the importance of their vote as Super Tuesday (March 1) quickly approaches.
Eric Jacobson, the GCDD Executive Director who has taken the organization’s 18 year journey of sponsoring consecutive annual Disability Days, will address the growth and changes for the future of the event that has become the largest annual rally at the Capitol held to coincide with the State’s official legislative session. Keynote speaker Ted Jackson, a GOTV elections strategist and the Community Organizing Director for the California Foundation for Independent Living Centers, will share insights on the importance of learning what works to gain real attention for effective advocacy and why voting matters.
Jackson, who is also a member of the California Secretary of State’s Voter Accessibility Advisory Committee, talks about electoral power, the ability to have a measured and visible affect on an election. “Learning from the success of the Suffrage Movement, the rise of union domination through the Workers’ Rights Movement, the achievements of the African-American Civil Rights Movement and accomplishments of the Marriage Equality Movement, we must look at their common denominators for triumph,” Jackson said. “It took decades of painstaking detail in connecting with voters one-on-one and in blocs, finding out what motivates them and using those messages to drive them out to vote.”
GCDD is the State’s leader in encouraging advocates while helping connect the disability community to State lawmakers and local civic leaders. To that end GCDD Executive Director, Jacobson said “Let it be clear Disability Day at the Capitol served a good purpose, it worked and it is time to go to the next level. So, we will build on what we have learned from this advocacy process and set our sights on the future.” Jacobson continued, “Our new framework for legislative advocacy will allow GCDD to support more intensive, advocacy trainings and coordination of visits to the Capitol for more targeted participation. An incremental two-year phase-in of the new approach, called GCDD Advocacy Days, has shown us that this strategy will help build stronger advocates who are likely to impact lawmakers more effectively.”
The goal is to focus Georgia’s disability community to have an impact on the 2016 general election cycle. Exhibits and activities include:
Voter registration, demonstrations of accessible voting machines designed for persons who are blind, low-vision, deaf, hard of hearing and wheelchair users.
Georgia Disability History Archive: The Georgia Disability History Alliance, a coalition of advocates and organizations working to preserve and celebrate Georgia’s rich disability history, will gather memorabilia from attendees who want to donate items to the Disability History Archive which will be housed at the University of Georgia.
Trace Haythorn, GCDD council member and parent advocate, will lead the moment of silence honoring Georgia’s “Fallen Soldiers,” recently deceased disability advocates.
State legislators and other elected officials will bring greetings and hear from constituents.
More than one million Georgians have disabilities and approximately 652,000 are voting-age. Their voices, and their votes, are critical to the political decision-making process. One in five, or 20 percent of all Americans have some type of disability as an occurrence of birth, injury or longevity; chances are, if a person does not have a disability themselves, they have a loved one, friend, neighbor or co-worker who does or will acquire a disability in their lifetime.
Disability Day at the Capitol is made possible by a host of partnering organizations and volunteers. For a list of sponsors, visit www.GCDD.org.
Disability Day at the Capitol is open to the public and media packets are available for pick-up at the white “Media Tent” adjacent to the Liberty Plaza stage.
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.
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: #GCDDAnnualDisabilityDay #VoteDisability
17th 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.
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.
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!
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
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 Wednesday, February 24 (sponsored by AADD and Georgia ABLE Coalition)
Wildcard Day! End-of-Session Advocacy Tusday, March 1 (sponsored by GCDD)
REGISTRATION NOW OPEN for the 2018 Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities' Advocacy Days!
Join GCDD at the Capitol this legislative session to learn about policies affecting people with disabilities and join advocates from across the state in speaking with elected officials about these very important issues. We need your help to educate Georgia’s lawmakers about topics important to our community, like the DD Waiver Waiting List, Employment, Inclusive Post-Secondary Education, the UNLOCK! Coalition and Medicaid.
GCDD's First Advocacy Day was held on January 23rd and we'd like to share a video from that event.
Our first video features GCDD Council Member Parker Glick and GCDD Public Policy Director Dawn Alford discussing NOW/COMP waivers and the waiting list. Click on the video above to view a short segment, or watch the entire video at: https://youtu.be/KvGl0RoGL_k
Watch for more videos coming soon!
Continue to read for more information about Advocacy Days.
2018 GCDD Advocacy Day Themes
Advocacy Day #1 DD Waivers (January 23) - If you are on the waiting list for a NOW/COMP waiver OR you are currently enjoying the benefits of the waiver, then this is the day for you.
Advocacy Day #2 Employment (January 31) - Let’s talk Jobs. Come educate your legislator about your integrated & paid community job, or the barriers standing in your way!
Advocacy Day #3 Medicaid (February 14) - Medicaid is the lifeline for people with disabilities to live in their community. Come join us in educating our legislators about the importance of Medicaid in our lives. Remember in GA, Medicaid goes by many names: NOW/COMP Waiver, ICWP, CCSP, SOURCE, Katie Beckett, and GAPP just to name a few.
Advocacy Day #4 Inclusive Post-Secondary Education Programs (February 22) - If you attend, graduated from, or hope to one day attend one of GA’s Inclusive Post-Secondary Education Programs, then this is your day!
Advocacy Day #5 UNLOCK Coalition (February 28) - Join the UNLOCK Coalition down at the Capitol to educate on the many importance of community integration.
Advocacy Day #6 Medicaid (March 15) - Medicaid is the lifeline for people with disabilities to live in their community. Come join us in educating our legislators about the importance of Medicaid in our lives. Remember in GA, Medicaid goes by many names: NOW/COMP Waiver, ICWP, CCSP, SOURCE, Katie Beckett, and GAPP just to name a few.
2018 Advocacy Day Agenda
8:30 AM – 9:00 AM Arrival & Registration 9:00 AM – 9:20 AM Welcome & Understand the Legislative Ask 9:20 AM – 9:40 AM Demonstration of a visit with a Legislator 9:40 AM – 10:10 AM Break into teams to practice the Legislative Visit 10:10 AM – 12:30 PM Go to the Capitol in teams to call legislators to the ropes
Are there ID requirements to enter the event? Bring photo identification. You will need it to pass through security in the Capitol.
What are my transportation/parking options for getting to and from the event?
MARTA: Take Blue line to Georgia State MARTA Transit station and use the MLK Jr. Drive exit. Head right on MLK Jr. Drive for 1.5 blocks. Central Presbyterian Church will be on the corner of MLK Jr. Drive and Washington Street.
Parking options: Steve Polk Plaza 65 Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive, Atlanta, GA Located near Underground Atlanta & Georgia Railroad Freight Depot.
Capitol Lot Daily 218 Capitol Avenue, Atlanta, GA Located on Capitol Avenue near the State Capitol.
Pete Hackney 162 Jesse Hill Jr., Drive, Atlanta, GA Located at the corner of Jesse Hill Jr. Drive and Decatur Street.
Archives Surface Lot/Fraser Street Surface Lot 359 Fraser Street, Atlanta, GA
What can I not bring into the event? Weapons are not allowed in the State Capitol. Please leave all knives, guns and other such items at home.
What if I don't know who my State Senator or State Representative is? You can find out at https://openstates.org
Who can I contact the with any questions? Contact Hanna Rosenfeld at or 404.657.2124
As this article goes to print, there are still two legislative days left until the cries of “Sine Die,” the official end of the legislative session. This is the first time in a few years that the final day did not occur before April Fool’s Day. In fact, the 2015 session will end almost two weeks after last year’s session. Although only two days remain, there are still several issues that are unresolved, including the final outcome of the FY 2016 budget.
Please continue reading to learn some highlights of what happened in the 2015 General Assembly and what advocates are working toward. Note that the information is current as of this issue’s print deadline, so please be sure to go to www.gcdd.org and click on “Public Policy” to read the final legislative wrap-up edition (Issue 8) of GCDD’s newsletter Public Policy for the People for the final outcome of the budget and other highlights.
FY 2016 Budget A quick overview: This is the second year since the recession hit that state agencies were not asked to reduce their budgets. For the fourth year in a row, Georgia’s economy has shown modest growth. The total budget for FY 2016 is $21.8 billion state dollars, and since Georgia operates with a balanced budget approach, any funds that are added in one area must be taken away from somewhere else. Major funding priorities of this budget were education and transportation. Two of the many controversial issues heavily debated were whether or not non-certified, part-time Georgia school employees, such as school bus drivers, can remain eligible for the State Health Benefit Plan as well as a proposed excise tax (for transportation).
Governor Nathan Deal also added to the state’s “Rainy Day” fund because the actual revenue was greater than what had been anticipated. Just as in recent years’ budgets, the 2016 budget essentially provides small measures of relief.
GCDD Advocacy Days The FY 2015 budget was the final year in which the Georgia state budget had a prescribed number of waivers required by the Department of Justice Settlement Agreement, which largely focused on individuals leaving institutional settings. Further, since the Governor did not include any of the Unlock the Waiting Lists! asks that focus on addressing needs of individuals with disabilities needing services in their communities within his budget recommendations, this made our legislative advocacy, alongside our grassroots advocates, all the more critical. And advocate we did!
GCDD held five separate advocacy days leading up to our annual Disability Day at the Capitol: We Need Waivers; ICWP Raise the Rate Day; Kids Need Real Homes, Not Nursing Homes Day; Employment First Day; and Youth Day. These advocacy days were a huge success! Almost 200 attendees participated in our advocacy days, and many spoke of being able to find their voice for the first time. Furthermore, legislators learned about issues facing Georgians with disabilities. Keep reading to see the fruits of our labor.
Unlock the Waiting Lists! Campaign The Unlock the Waiting Lists! Campaign focused on a small number of key additions to the budget. One of these key issues was to address the impossibly low Medicaid reimbursement rate of the Independent Care Waiver Program (ICWP). ICWP, allows young and middle-aged adults with significant physical disabilities or Traumatic Brain Injuries to live in the community instead of nursing facilities. Currently, the state Medicaid reimbursement rate for ICWP Personal Support is between $11 and $15 an hour, making it by far the lowest reimbursed Medicaid waiver in Georgia. After a home health agency takes their cut, working caregivers can get as little as $8 an hour. This low rate makes it almost impossible to find qualified caregivers. Further, it endangers the lives of Georgians who receive ICWP and increases the likelihood that they will suffer abuse at the hands of poor caregivers. Likewise, it causes waiver recipients or their family members to miss valuable work time due to caregiver issues.
The House put in a $.50/hour increase for Personal Support Services for ICWP, and the Senate put in an additional $.50/ hour for a total increase of $1/hour with language that the increase must be directed toward the direct support professionals (those working caregivers providing the direct care to individuals with disabilities). We hope that we keep the full $1 per hour increase in the final budget, but the final outcome is not known as of print time.
Another major issue that Unlock tackled was the enormous waiting list of over 7,500 for the NOW/COMP waivers. If you are a Georgian with significant developmental disabilities, you have three choices. One is to spend your life in a facility, like a private intermediate care facility or a nursing home, and your second choice is to get a NOW or COMP waiver. These waivers are only available to people whose disabilities are significant enough to qualify for ongoing care in a facility, and provide services and supports that allow people with developmental disabilities to live in real homes in their own communities. Virtually everyone would choose a life with a waiver rather than be stuck in a facility.
But there’s a problem – just because you qualify for a waiver doesn’t mean that you get one. And that’s the third choice … to hang on as best you can, wait, hope and pray for a waiver. The House put in 75 new NOW/COMP waivers, and the Senate agreed. This agreement lets us be hopeful that these slots will remain in the final budget, but as stated before, the final outcome is not yet known as of print time.
Below is a summary of these Unlock the Waiting Lists! requests and what happened in the Georgia General Assembly: Employment First Policy The Employment First Advocacy Day had the largest number of attendees of all the advocacy days. We are so excited about the momentum that the Employment First advocacy has gained and have received so many positive comments from legislators.
“Employment First” means that employment should be the first and preferred option for all people, regardless of their disability. Under an Employment First policy, employment in the general workforce at or above minimum wage is the first and preferred option for all working age citizens with disabilities. Not only would it benefit Georgians with disabilities who could realize their goals, but also family members of people with disabilities who would have peace of mind for their loved ones, Georgia employers who would gain excellent employees, and Georgia taxpayers who would gain more taxpaying citizens.
GCDD wishes to thank Rep. Katie Dempsey (R-District 13) for her leadership on Employment First. We thank her and all her co-sponsors for House Resolution 642, which will initiate a study committee on the benefits of an Employment First policy and Post-Secondary Education options for Georgians with disabilities. HR 642 PASSED and we anticipate a study committee will be appointed sometime after session ends. We are exploring ways for members of the Georgia State Senate to be involved as well.
Inclusive Post-Secondary Employment On Monday, March 9, the Georgia Inclusive Post-Secondary Education Consortium (www.gaipsec.org) along with students and staff from various inclusive post-secondary education (IPSE) programs in Georgia gathered at the State Capitol to thank the Georgia General Assembly for its appropriations support in the Georgia state budget over the past two years. Senator Butch Miller (R-District 49) and several co-sponsors introduced Senate Resolution 276 to commend the Georgia Inclusive Post-Secondary Education Consortium for its work to create opportunities for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Georgia who have historically not had access to postsecondary education opportunities.
Legislation In order to pass, a piece of legislation must have passed both chambers in identical form by midnight on Sine Die. Governor Deal has 40 days to sign or veto bills that were passed. If he does not act on a bill within this time period, the bill becomes law. Since the 2015 session is the first year of a two-year cycle of the Georgia General Assembly, bills that do not make it this year will still be alive for consideration in 2016.
Haleigh’s Hope Act (medical cannabis)/House Bill 1 – PASSED This legislation sponsored by Rep. Allen Peake (R-District 141) allows the limited use of medical cannabis oil (no more than 5% or possess no more than 20 fluid oz. of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), an active ingredient) to treat eight disorders: cancer, Crohn’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS), mitochondrial disease, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, seizure disorders and sickle cell disease. Before Georgians can begin using CBD oil the state will still have to set up the Low THC Oil Patient Registry. The Department of Public Health is charged with establishing procedures, rules and regulations to assist doctors in making the certifications that a patient has a qualifying condition.
Family Care Act (HB 92 and SB 242) This legislation would allow individuals whose employers provide sick days the option of using up to five sick days to care for family members. The lobbying efforts for this are led by the Georgia Job Family Collaborative (www.gaworkingfamilies.org). HB 92, sponsored by Rep. Tommy Benton (R-District 31) stalled in the House Industry & Labor Committee. Within days of the end of session, a new bill, SB 242, was dropped by lead sponsor Senator Mike Williams (R-District 27). We will follow this bill closely in the 2016 legislative session to see what happens.
HB 86 – PASSED This legislation transfers the Division of Aging Services (DAS) from the Department of Human Services (DHS) to the Georgia Adult and Aging Services Agency.
Ava’s Law (SB 1 to be attached to HB 429) It was announced in a press conference within days of the end of session that SB 1, the autism insurance bill known as Ava’s Law, sponsored by Senator Charlie Bethel (R-District 54), would be attached to HB 429 with some modifications. Prior to attaching the autism bill language, HB 429, sponsored by Rep. Ron Stephens (R-District 164), prevents health benefit plans from restricting coverage for prescribed treatment based upon an insured’s diagnosis with a terminal condition.
This announcement comes after an agreement was reached between the chairmen of the House and Senate insurance committees that will allow some children with autism to be covered by insurance. Both chairmen expect that the combined bill will easily pass the Senate, and the modified bill should be accepted by the House.
Many disability advocates are passionate supporters of Ava’s Law and the therapies it would cover, but there are some advocates who object to the bill, particularly its inclusion of Applied Behavior Analysis therapy.
While we remain incredibly grateful for the strides we made, we have only begun to scratch the surface of the real work that needs to be done in Georgia to improve the lives of people with disabilities. So please join our advocacy network to see how you can be involved!
GCDD Needs YOU –Join our Advocacy Network TODAY! Go to www.gcdd.org, scroll down to the bottom, and click on the green button “Join our Advocacy Network” and follow the instructions.
Over 1,000 people from across the country are meeting at the Grand Hyatt Hotel to hear about the policy issues important to people with developmental disabilities and their families. For two days we are hearing about the issues in preparation for visits to Capitol Hill on Wednesday. There are two important themes to this gathering. The first is about how to support a bipartisan atmosphere. This may seem like an altruistic idea given the current political climate where on many issues Democrats and Republicans cannot agree. However there are many people who think that we can get disability related legislation passed because it is a bipartisan issue. We have argued for years that disability does not care if you are Republican or Democrat.
GCDD Executive Committee Member Josette Arkhas, GCDD Chair Mitzi Profitt, and Eric Jacobson advocate at the nation's capital for disability rights.Yet, there are several significant pieces of legislation that have not passed and many argue it is simply because of the current climate. The United States still remains one of the only developed countries to not ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. Senator Tom Harkin, one of the authors of the ADA has pleaded for this to take place during the week of July 21 as his outgoing legacy before he retires. The Senate is just six votes shy of having enough votes to pass the legislation and both Senators Chambliss and Isakson have indicated they will vote against this Bill. Our job, my fellow Georgians is to convince them that they should vote in favor. Please call their offices and encourage them to vote for the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. the ABLE Act, and Employment First.
Many of you will remember that Ambassador Gallegos spoke at Disability day at the Capitol a few years ago. He was one of the primary authors of the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. The Senate is six votes shy of passing this Treaty. Neither Senator Isakson or Chambliss have signed on as a supporter. They tell us they have not heard from people in Georgia who support the Treaty. We need you to call their offices today and ask them to vote in favor of giving people with disabilities the same rights as those in the US.
The second theme was about thanking our champions who are retiring and trying to identify our next champions. Senators Harkin and Rockefeller have both fought hard for the rights of people with disabilities and both will leave the Senate in January. We have several representatives who are running for the Senate seat being vacated by the retirement of Senator Chambliss. We thank Senator Chambliss for his many years of service to our State. Now is the time to ask Rep Brown, Kingston, and Gingrey where they stand on issues related to disabilities. How has their voting record supported people with disabilities?
This is a critical time for many ideas that will improve the lives of people with disabilities and their families. I am sure that we can have a positive impact.
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."
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
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.
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.
The Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities will stop in Gainesville today to hear from people living with disabilities.
Representatives including D'Arcy Robb, the council's public policy director, and Dawn Alford, policy development specialist, at 6 p.m. will be at Lanier Charter Career Academy on Tumbling Creek Road to hear from people with disabilities regarding the 2015 legislative agenda for the council.
Council leaders hope to hear concerns, ideas and opinions from the public, according to a news release. The stop is one of several on a statewide tour leading to the 2015 General Assembly, which begins in January.
Approximately 20 percent of Americans have a disability due to birth, injury or longevity, according to the news release. The council is a federally funded, independent state agency that promotes and creates opportunities for people with disabilities through public policy initiatives, public awareness and advocacy programs.
The Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities (GCDD) has made integrated employment of individuals with disabilities a top goal in its Five Year Plan.
That’s why State Representative Sheila Jones (D-District 53) saw first-hand how Matthew Roush, an operations analyst at SunTrust, has been so impactful to his team. The visit was part of GCDD’s third annual Take Your Legislator to Work Day (TYLTWD), which kicked off during October’s National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM).
TYLTWD is an opportunity for employees with disabilities in Georgia to invite their legislator(s) to visit them at work. The goal is to show the far-reaching benefits to employers, employees and communities alike of hiring people with disabilities and create opportunities to form and nurture relationships with their elected officials.
Through a partnership program between Briggs & Associates and Atlanta Public Schools, Matthew Roush interned in several different departments at SunTrust. He is now a permanent employee with benefits. The SunTrust team learned what Roush needs to be successful; accommodated his visual impairment by providing double monitors with large text that enable him to work as efficiently as possible; and supports his growth as a person and an employee.
Rep. Sheila Jones (D-District 53) visited Matthew Roush at SunTrust Bank in Atlanta where he works as an operations analyst.His job as an operations analyst includes data entry, document scanning and monitoring quality control while using assistive technology to help with his visual impairment. Roush also has a hearing impairment and an intellectual disability.
Through TYLTWD, Rep. Jones met Roush, visited his workplace and spoke to him about his job duties and great coworkers.
“I was so thrilled when I received the invitation to participate in this special day. I enjoyed the time I spent at work with Matthew. It was great to see him at his desk working on a computer and using the scanner without assistance. It showed me that with job training, people with disabilities can perform their job just like everyone else. Matthew’s work is necessary and needed at the company where he is working,” said Rep. Jones.
In Peachtree Corners, GA, Jack Prettyman welcomed State Representative Scott Hilton (R-District 95) to his place of work, Wesleyan School, to advocate and show the work he does as a member of the facilities and ground crew.
Prettyman, 23, who is diagnosed with Down syndrome, works weekdays from 8 AM to noon and is one of the busiest people on Wesleyan’s campus. He walks nearly 15,000 steps a day crossing the grounds while he handles recycling, sweeping mats, mopping the gym floor, setting up cafeteria tables and dusting benches.
He also took Rep. Hilton on a full campus tour, pointing out sites at the private school as well as his job duties.
“It was awesome to see the critical role Jack plays in Wesleyan’s operations. Jack is a valuable member of the team,” Rep. Hilton said. “I loved the positive impact he has on everyone around him from students, faculty and administration. It was great to see the joy Jack experienced in his work environment – the work is really important to him.
“I am proud of Wesleyan School for seeing opportunities to employ those with disabilities.”
The Council is working to strengthen meaningful employment opportunities that include a livable wage with career advancement; strengthen financial inclusion and asset development efforts for individuals with developmental disabilities; and educate businesses about the diverse workforce.
State Senator Elena Parent (D-District 42) agrees. “I’d like to see more businesses recognize that hiring individuals with disabilities is a win-win. My biggest takeaway was that jobs for people with disabilities are vital. The business gets a dedicated employee and the employee gets self-confidence and a sense of purpose.”
Sen. Parent spent TYLTWD with Christine Sass at Taziki’s Mediterranean Café located in Decatur. Sass, 26, is diagnosed with autism and cerebral palsy.
“Christine is doing great work for Taziki’s. She knows her duties and moves through them efficiently. The job also gives her the ability to practice her interpersonal skills and to be part of a team,” Parent explained.
“I prepare the dining room for opening,” Sass said, which includes tasks such as putting down chairs, wiping down tables, rolling and placing silverware, bagging cookies, setting up the drink machine and sweeping the floor.
To Sass, the best part of her job is getting paid and adds the greatest thing about the company she works for is that her colleagues are friendly.
Through her experience and opportunity, Sass wants people to know that, “People with disabilities want to work; but, it is important to find the right job.”
The Legislative Impact
While building these meaningful relationships are important and benefit both the employer and employee, TYLTWD allows elected officials to understand the positive impact of publicly funded employment supports when they see people with disabilities in action.
Rep. Hilton, who participated for the first time in TYLTWD, shared that he “would love to see the Georgia legislature find ways to incentivize the private sector to encourage the hiring of individuals with disabilities.”Hannah Hibben was visited by Rep. Dale Rutledge (R-District 109) at the Great American Cookie Company in McDonough
Georgia has begun focusing more on employment for people with disabilities. While a handful of organizations are working on finding employment for individuals with developmental disabilities, the work needed to make Employment First happen in Georgia continues to need a strong advocate push – engaging with both the community and legislators about employment issues.
Employment First is an approach to promote the full inclusion of individuals with varying degrees of abilities in the workplace and in the community. Currently 32 states have an official Employment First policy (based on legislation, policy directives, etc.).
While Georgia has Employment First efforts and initiatives underway, no official policy has been created just yet to make integrated employment the preferred service option.
Sen. Parent also explained that the legislature needs to make progress in eliminating the backlog of people waiting for Medicaid waivers, which can enable more people to take advantage of employment.
In 2014, the Home and Community Based Settings (HCBS) Rule, passed down from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, focused entirely on community living and inclusion. The HCBS waivers work to make sure individuals are given full access to the greater community – including opportunities for competitive and integrated employment, a community life conducive to all abilities, control over their own finances and the same services anyone receives.
The passage of the HCBS Rule in 2014, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act are all shoring up support for Employment First practices in Georgia by building a strong foundation for integrated and inclusive communities.
“Passing legislation that has more impact on corporations hiring people with disabilities is a way the legislature can show their support. The legislature can be invited to discussions to find out ways it can be more involved in Take Your Legislator to Work Day, as well as other programs involving working with people with disabilities,” said Rep. Jones, after her visit with Roush.
When the question of why Elizabeth Cicerchia wanted to work in early child care came up during State Senator Michael “Doc” Rhett’s (D-District 33) TYLTWD visit, Cicerchia shared that some of the jobs she held previously were simply “just jobs.”
But she knows the work she does at Kids R Kids of West Oak in Marietta is what she wants to do as her career. Cicerchia, 35, is diagnosed with Down syndrome.
When seeing all Cicerchia does on the job, Sen. Rhett said the statement “yes, I can too” comes to mind.
“As a retired educator, I worked with children with disabilities from pre-K through high school. We helped them develop life skills in each grade with the goal of preparing them for gainful employment, just like any other student, upon graduation. The collaboration between the school system, community and business interests is a vital link towards helping anyone contribute in a positive manner to our society,” Sen. Rhett said.
Advocating for Employment
GCDD believes visiting an employee at work is the best way to show legislators that people with disabilities want to work and are as capable as anyone at working in real jobs for real wages.
The legislators shared how TYLTWD showed them the win-win results of employees with disabilities and the employers who hire them including the positive impact it makes on all communities.
“People with disabilities who are willing to work should be given a chance to show that they can and will do the job. I believe it is important for people without disabilities to have an opportunity to see up close people with disabilities doing and enjoying their job,” said Rep. Jones.
To keep the momentum and encourage more community members to advocate for employment for people with disabilities, GCDD will hold its Employment First Advocacy Day during the 2018 legislative session on January 31, 2018.
“Wanting to pursue a career is never a courageous act, regardless of whether the job seeker happens to have a disability or not. We all need help and support in some form or another to do our best, but that human truth doesn’t negate anyone’s potentially amazing contribution to an employer,” said Julie Hicks, the career specialist from Briggs & Associates who coaches Cicerchia.
GCDD thanks all of the employees and employers who participated in Take Your Legislator to Work Day. The Council also recognizes and thanks all of the Georgia legislators who took time to attend and learn about employment options for people with disabilities in their communities.
Hannah Hibben – visited by Rep. Dale Rutledge at the Great American Cookie Company in McDonough
Emily Shaw – visited by Rep. Clay Cox at disABILITY LINK in Tucker
Austin Pahr – visited by Rep. Jason Ridley and Sen. Chuck Payne at Nob North Golf Course in Cohutta
Christine Sass – visited by Sen. Elena Parent at Taziki’s in Decatur
Bayley Bristow – visited by Sen. Fran Millar at The Elaine Clark Center in Chamblee
Jack Prettyman – visited by Rep. Scott Hilton at the Wesleyan School in Peachtree Corners
Elizabeth Terzich – visited by Sen. Mike Dugan at the Carroll County Animal Hospital in Carrollton
Patrick James Barlow – visited by Sen. Steve Henson at the Park Springs Retirement Community in Stone Mountain
Matthew Roush – visited by Rep. Sheila Jones at SunTrust Bank in Atlanta
Mikel Miller – visited by Rep. J. Collins at the Ingles in Villa Rica
Katrina Parsons visited by Rep. Beth Beskin at disABILITY LINK in Tucker
Elizabeth Cicerchia – visited by Sen. Michael “Doc” Rhett at the Kids R Kids Pre-School in Marietta
Project SEARCH Interns Reuben Stephen, Nick Brundidge, Rayshun Grant, Rashaan Davis, Darrius Elias, Tionna Evans, Sam Thomas and Deshunte Banks – visited by Rep. Carolyn Hugley at TSYS in Columbus
Project SEARCH Interns: Te’Airra Simpson, Zitavia Freeman, Kemma Paulk, Jimmy Lee Holliman and Iesha Curtis – visited by Rep. Dominic LaRiccia at the Coffee Regional Medical Center in Douglas
Michelle Phoenix – visited by Rep. Mickey Stephens at Rise Biscuits & Donuts in Savannah
Project SEARCH Interns and Graduates: Brian Odom, Marnell McGill, Arthur Arnold, Herman Curry, Derrick Edwards and Gary Ceasar – visited by Rep. Darlene Taylor at Archbold Medical Center in Thomasville
To read more in Making a Difference magazine, see below:
GCDD prides itself on advocating for an inclusive community, and support moving people with developmental disabilities from institutions into the community. However, in March report, two deaths that occurred after individuals with developmental disabilities were placed into community settings shortly after a state hospital closed in Thomasville.
Eric Jacobson, executive director of GCDD, shares his thoughts with 90.1 WABE's Michelle Wirth on the moves and why its is still important that people with developmental disabilities become a part of the community.
Beginning Sunday, people with developmental disabilities, family members, and advocates from across the country will converge on Washington, DC for the Disability Policy Seminar. This is an opportunity for people to learn more about the national issues that are impacting people with developmental disabilities and then get an opportunity to tell our elected officials to Congress what we want them to do. Support for the ABLE Act and the Convention for the Rights of People with Disabilities are two of the major legislative issues. The ABLE Act, or Achieving a Better Life Experience, would create tax-free savings accounts for individuals with disabilities. People could set aside money in tax fee savings accounts to cover expenses such as paying for college, renting or owning a home and buying a modified van. It's kind of hard to save for some of these things when any assets you have impact the supports you need to remain independent and productive.
As GCDD works to expand post-secondary options, families have had to start thinking about how to save for college just like parents of children without disabilities.
The United Nations Convention for the Rights of People of Disabilities has become a very hot political potato. People with disabilities and their advocates argue that this is about helping other nations achieve the promise of their own Americans with Disabilities Act – a no brainer. But this bill to ratify the Convention has already gone down to defeat, as Senators walked past former Senator Bob Dole ( a staunch supporter and former Republican presidential candidate) and voted against it. The opponents claim that people who home school their children would have to adhere to United Nations rules or that "men in blue helmets would be telling us what to do". It is the paranoia that the United Nations will take over the governance of our great country. Instead, this treaty is about making sure that when people with disabilities travel to other countries they can access buildings and be free from discrimination. All we need is a few more votes. Georgia's own Senators Isackson and Chambliss could be the keys to passing this very important treaty.
While this gathering this week is a great event, I wonder about its power. If only we could find a DAY when everyone connected to disability could gather on Capitol Hill and show our real power. I know of three or four other gatherings that take place.
So I put this to our leaders – find a way to bring disability and developmental disability, mental health, aging and all the cross sections of these people together for one day, one gathering. We would have the one million person disability march/roll on the Capitol demanding closure of all institutions, more job opportunities, better education, passage of the CRPD treaty. How about next year on the 25th anniversary of the ADA? Everyone who loves someone with a disability will gather at the Washington Mall and we will show that we are a powerful group that must be reckoned with. See you there!
Mark Johnson always reminds me not to let anniversaries and other dates go by without a reminder and connection to the present. For example, this year marks the 15th anniversary of the Olmstead decision – arguably one of the most important Supreme Court decisions as it relates to people with disabilities. Even today, Georgia is witnessing its impact as the Department of Justice works with the State to close our state-funded institutions. I know there have been problems and not everything has gone as it should have, but it is the right movement for the people who lived there and those at risk of being placed there.
One of the other things Johnson suggested is that we use these anniversaries as a way to encourage change. Click to tweet this!
Can you ask the governor or legislature to reach a benchmark by a certain date? For instance, we should ask Governor Deal to make sure that funding for long term care and supports is at least 50% allocated to home and community based services by the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act?
According to a recent report by the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services, Georgia currently spends 45.5% of its funds on home and community based services, so a 4.5% increase in one year does not seem that difficult, especially in light of Georgia already closing its public institutions.
Many of the national associations for organizations like GCDD have come together to create a set of goals for United States policy. This comes as next year will mark not only the 25th anniversary of the ADA, but also the 40th anniversary of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The Six by 2015 campaign has established the following goals:
1. Six million working age adults with disabilities will be part of in the American workforce 2. At least six states will elect to implement the Community First Choice Option so that their Medicaid recipients with disabilities have access to long-term services and supports in the community 3. At least six additional states have at least 60 percent of their students with disabilities graduating with a regular high school diploma 4. At least six states commit to supporting successful and outcome-based programs and strategies for high school transition services and closing the labor force participation gaps for youth and young adults with disabilities 5. At least six states commit to including people with disabilities as an explicit target population in all state public health programs 6. At least six states increase by 15 percent the proportion of children ages 0-3 who receive recommended developmental screening
I know these sound ambitious especially in our state where there are so many issues, but I think these may be some goals that we can all get together on and ask our elected officials to make a commitment that by the 20th anniversary of Olmstead, Georgia is a state where we have doubled the number of people with disabilities who are in the workforce; we have implemented the Community First Choice Act, at least 60% of students with disabilities graduate with a regular high school diploma; there are increased programs targeting the health of people with disabilities; and, that 15 percent of children ages 0-3 receive developmental screens.
How about it – are you with me? Can we ask candidates as they run for office if they will work to achieve these goals over the next five years? Let me hear from you.
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!
Let'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.
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!
The ARC of
Briggs & Associates
Georgia Chambers Resource Center
Georgia Association of People Supporting Employment First (GAPSE)
ATLANTA , GA – As the 2014 Georgia General Assembly convenes and the nation's midterm election season approaches, Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities' (GCDD) winter edition of Making a Difference quarterly news magazine outlines GCDD's legislative priorities and covers how people with disabilities are engaging in the democratic process by voting in higher numbers to gain political power.
Insight from local and national leaders, such as the Office of Disability Employment Policy's Assistant Secretary of Labor Kathy Martinez, shed light on ways to overcome and become a part of the democratic process through tips, suggestions and resources.
Additionally, during the Georgia legislative session that began on Jan. 16, GCDD is focusing and strongly advocating Unlock the Waiting Lists!, a campaign that aims to "reduce and eventually eliminate the waiting lists for home- and community-based support for Georgians with disabilities."
While the legislative session is under way, an anticipated 2,000 Georgians will convene for GCDD's 16th annual Disability Day at the Georgia State Capitol on February 20, 2014 featuring a keynote address by Governor Nathan Deal. For more information, visit www.gcdd.org/public-policy.html.
In the "Expert Update," Mark Perriello, president of the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), answers questions on why it is important that Americans with disabilities engage in the political process. Perriello discusses the progress that has been made in the disability community, and why more voter turnout can mean more progress and change for the better.
Perriello's discussion on significant political engagement aligns with the guest column commemorating one of the disability community's biggest legislative victories. The landmark US Supreme Court's 1999 Olmstead Decision celebrates its 15th anniversary year with a four-part series covering the time before, during and after the Olmstead Decision and its effects on the community. The articles are written by Talley Wells, director of the Disability Integration Project at Atlanta Legal Aid Society.
This issue also features an inside look into the ASPIRE (Active Student Participation Inspires Real Engagement) program, an educational approach that is becoming popular across Georgia schools for students with disabilities. Through a grant funded by GCDD, the program is part of the student-led Individual Education Program (IEP) initiative that has students contribute content, "which allows them to become more involved and responsible for their education," says Cindy Saylor, GCDD Partnerships for Success coordinator and ASPIRE consultant.
GCDD’s next quarterly meeting will be held in Atlanta on April 17-18, 2014. All meetings are open to the public.
About Making a Difference:
Making a Difference is published by 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. The magazine 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
CONTACT: Valerie Meadows Suber, Public Information Director Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities 404-657-2122 (office); 404-226-0343 (mobile)
The Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities is seeking a Grants Manager to be based in our Atlanta, GA office. This is an excellent opportunity to join an organization that is successfully addressing some of the most important and challenging issues facing people with developmental disabilities and their families in Georgia.
About the Position: The Grants Manager works with GCDD staff and partners to implement and monitor all aspects of the organization's grants process. Monitors compliance with grant stipulations through consultation, audit procedures or liaison with grantor. Coordinates and documents all aspects of the grant application, review and award process in conformance with guidelines set forth by the Council . Manages the project tracking and DD Suite system and is responsible for data integrity and reporting. Develops the Council's Grant Manual policies to ensure their adherence to federal and state legislative and regulatory mandates. Provides technical assistance and expertise to Council staff, members, and those who receive funds from the Council.
Job Responsibilities: Coordinates GCDD Grants Process Coordinates Contracts Process Maintains DD Suites Database and Grants Systems Provides Technical Assistance and Support to Staff and Grantee
Qualifications: We are seeking a professional with a strong work ethic and sense of initiative. The ideal candidate will have a Bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university in business, public administration, finance or related areas AND One year of experience in grants management, public funds administration, accounting or a closely related area. Preferred Qualifications: Working knowledge of federal and state regulations regarding grant solicitation and assessment. Strong working familiarity with personal computers, use of the Internet and data management systems. Familiarity with PeopleSoft Knowledge of policies and procedure for federal and state grant administration, excellent verbal, writing, and editing skills, a demonstrated ability to work well in a collegial setting, and a strong personal commitment to GCDD's mission.
Compensation: The salary range for this position is commensurate with experience and includes an excellant benefits package To Apply: If you have these qualifications and are seeking one of the most interesting, challenging, and rewarding positions available, please send your letter of interest, resume, and at least three references to: Eric Jacobson 2 Peachtree Street, Suite 26-240 Atlanta, GA 30303 or e-mail to
GCDD is an Equal Opportunity Employer and is continually seeking to diversify its staff.
"I just want something meaningful." That was Jessica, an ambitious, passionate young woman who's eager to complete her college education and embark on her long-term career.
"People will rise up and meet you." That was Barry, a fiery advocate who spoke eloquently about the lessons to be learned from Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.
"DO SOMETHING. Use the energy of people who truly care about more than their job." That was Ed, a parent who's worked for over forty years to support his daughter in a happy, meaningful life, after being told (and refusing) to have her institutionalized as a young child.
These are just a few of the thoughtful, insightful folks who braved a monsoon-like rainstorm to come to our Savannah Listening Tour last week. A big thanks to our local host Teri Schell, of our Real Communities partnership with Mixed Greens at the Forsyth Farmer's Market, and the Real Communities team Caitlin Childs and Cheri Pace, who were in Savannah for the Mixed Greens and joined in on the Listening Tour action! This Listening Tour felt like a neighborhood gathering. About 20 of us sat around tables, enjoyed delicious eggplant dip, made some good connections and had an intense conversation.
When asked what's working, folks told us that over the long term, the educational system for folks with disabilities has really improved (even though it's got a way to go – more on that below). There is some decent transportation in the Savannah area, although, again, lots of opportunity to get better. And there are some young people who are finally experiencing real choice when it comes to finding jobs after high school.
And what's not working? One father made a case that group homes, as a model, do not work – he described them as "like a nursing home" and utterly detrimental to quality of life. One person brought up the need for an independent third-party advocate to assist with ISP's, and someone else jumped in to talk about the need for better advocacy in IEP's as well. That gave me the opportunity to bring up ASPIRE, the student-led IEP program that is now a joint partnership between GCDD and the Georgia Department of Education.
Many of the issues that emerged echoed what we heard in Thomasville - folks with disabilities and their families need fewer forms to fill out, and more true involvement with communities and businesses. More funding is needed, and more flexibility. More job opportunities are needed and better support for folks as they make the transition from school to work. The need for disability awareness in the justice system came up, which is an issue that one of our new Real Communities partnerships will be focusing on.
When I asked what the most important changes we need to make are, the answers were all different....but they seemed to fit together like patches in a quilt. Support for people throughout their life span, and seamlessness across the multiple systems they must navigate. Looking beyond the "traditional" disability stomping grounds to build community opportunities and natural supports. Training and support for advocacy - I believe it was Barry who pointed out, "Self-advocacy breeds self-esteem." Opportunities for connections, with officials and agencies and businesses and individuals in communities.
Ultimately, what's needed is a cultural change. That's a tall order. But as we were all saying goodbye and goodnight, cleaning up tables and gathering papers, most of the folks in attendance stuck around talking to one another. Hands were shaken, numbers and emails were exchanged. And isn't that how all great change takes root?
Margaret Mead once said, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." And, who am I to argue with her? The GCDD Listening Tour kicks off again on September 4 in Gainesville. Join us and have your voices heard by GCDD!
"I know what it's like to be a parent lost in a jungle with nobody to help." Carolyn, the very first person to show up for our Columbus Listening Tour, spoke those words to me to sum up her experience as a mother trying to support her daughter with a developmental disability. Unfortunately, there seem to be a lot of folks who feel lost in the jungle in Columbus. And as our conversation unfolded that night, I could understand why.
There is one big piece working in Columbus, and that's recreation. There were smiles on peoples' faces as they talked about baseball, cheerleading and the Parks and Recreation programs. The Springer Academy got lots of shout-outs as a terrific inclusive place to be. Dr. Greg Blalock of Columbus State (and our local host for the evening!) and his dynamic wife Sheetul Wall are bringing wonderful things to the table, like inclusive post-secondary education and a Best Buddies program. Folks have high hopes about the new school superintendent, and it was great to connect with the transition coordinator, who was one of our attendees that night. One mom of an adult daughter commented that it was heartening to learn about how many opportunities, especially for kids, were springing up.
Unfortunately the happy tenor of the conversation stopped right about there. There is a huge amount of need in this community, and a real lack of accurate information and adequate support. The word I wrote in all caps in my notes is "DISCONNECT".
One mother reported being told by regional staff that she had to give up her son – so that he could be institutionalized - in order for him to get services. Several people commented that their regional employees regularly tell people that they're not allowed to apply for a waiver until they're 22. Others commented that they've heard from the region that no one here wants community services. It was mentioned that Region 6's wait list numbers are low, because people don't understand what services and supports they can apply for – and because some people have just plain given up trying. Again, DISCONNECT – people are disconnected from good information, from access to supports and services, and in many ways, from each other.
In short: there are a lot of issues going on with the region. And, full disclosure, I've connected with some folks since then to try to be a small part of making things better. But there was another piece I felt at work in that room. And that is, in Columbus, you have a lot of dynamic, frustrated people who aren't necessarily talking to each other. Is that understandable? Completely! When people are under huge amounts of stress, I think it's only natural, and sometimes necessary, for them to focus on the issue that's most directly confronting them. But when there are so many individual stories that point to big collective problems, there is a lot of power to be had by people coming together and pooling their stories, ideas and energy. Once you've got that pool, it's easier to see what the big pattern is: what needs to change, who can change it, and how to get it done. And the key, as several folks put it, is unity – to move forward with one voice and common goals.
That's not easy. But it's so very powerful.
The GCDD Listening Tour kicks off again on September 4 in Gainesville. Join usand have your voices heard by GCDD!
LISTENING TOUR STOPS IN GAINESVILLE TO HEAR FROM PEOPLE LIVING WITH DISABILITIES Community Conversations Give Insight into Hearts and Minds of Advocates, Families and Neighbors
Who: D'Arcy Robb, GCDD public policy director; Dawn Alford, self-advocate; GCDD policy development specialist; Dave Zilles, Unlock The Waiting Lists! Campaign; Cindy Saylor, Partnerships for Success, program coordinator; Gainesville community leaders; people with disabilities, family members and supporters
What: Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities (GCDD) Public Policy Listening Tours: Whether it's jobs, schools, healthcare, services, housing, transportation, access, all issues are on the table. Members of the disability community, their families and friends are encouraged to help shape the 2015 legislative agenda for GCDD at a meeting to share their concerns, ideas and opinions by dialoguing with the agency's public policy staff and the broader community.
When: Thursday, September 4, 2014
Time: 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Where: The Lanier Charter Career Academy, 2719 Tumbling Creek Road, Gainesville, GA 30504
Why: The road to the State Capitol begins with advocacy! 50 to 100 are expected at the Gainesville meeting. One in five or 20% of all Americans have some type of disability as an occurrence of birth, injury or as a matter of longevity. Most people are likely to have a loved one, neighbor or co-worker with a disability in their lifetime, or chances are they will acquire a disability themselves.
GCDD, a federally funded, independent state agency, is a leading catalyst for systems change for individuals and families living with developmental disabilities. Through public policy initiatives, public awareness, advocacy programs and community building, GCDD promotes and creates opportunities to enable persons with disabilities to live, work, play and worship as integral members of society.
A developmental disability is a chronic mental and/or physical disability that occurs before age 22 and is expected to last a lifetime. It may require supports in three or more of the following life activities: self-care, language, learning, mobility, self-direction, independent living and economic self-sufficiency.
CONTACT: Valerie Meadows Suber, Public Information Director Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities 404-657-2122 (office); 404-801-7873 (mobile) www.gcdd.org
The Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities is seeking to fill the positions of Grants Manager and Public Policy Director to be based in our Atlanta, GA office. This is an excellent opportunity to join an organization that is successfully addressing some of the most important and challenging issues facing people with developmental disabilities and their families in Georgia.
Grants Manager:The Grants Manager works with GCDD staff and partners to implement and monitor all aspects of the organization's grants process. Monitors compliance with grant stipulations through consultation, audit procedures or liaison with grantor. Coordinates and documents all aspects of the grant application, review and award process in conformance with guidelines set forth by the Council . Manages the project tracking and DD Suite system and is responsible for data integrity and reporting. Develops the Council's Grant Manual policies to ensure their adherence to federal and state legislative and regulatory mandates. Provides technical assistance and expertise to Council staff, members, and those who receive funds from the Council.
Click here to learn more about this position and how to apply for the position of Grants Manager for GCDD.
Public Policy Director: The Public Policy Director will bring expertise and passion for promoting public policy on the state and federal levels that result in people with developmental disabilities and their families being more independent, productive, included and integrated in their community and self determined in their lives.
Click here to learn more about this position and how to apply for the position of Public Policy Director for GCDD.
On March 11, GCDD and Georgians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty plan to rally at the Georgia State Capitol to advocate to end capital punishment in the state of Georgia. Advocating for Warren Hill, the 53-year-old on death row for beating another inmate, Joseph Handspike, to death with a nail-studded board in 1990 at the state prison in Leesburg, GCDD and many other activist organizations aim to push lawmakers to reconsider the limitations on the burden of proof for a defendant's intellectual disability.
Georgians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty is a Real Communities partners of the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities.
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
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 # # #
MEDIA ADVISORY:March 15, 2015 Executive Director Eric Jacobson "co-pilots" ADA25 Tour Bus on 5-Day Trip that includes stops in Tennessee, Concludes in Metro Atlanta
WHAT:Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities Executive Director Eric Jacobson is helping to increase awareness of disability rights as “co-pilot” of the ADA25 Legacy Tour Bus, a national traveling exhibit designed to educate, build excitement and maintain the legacy of the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
The tour includes the “Road to Freedom” Bus; four panels on the history of self-advocacy; and an ADA Legacy Project display that illustrates the effort to preserve disability history, celebrate milestones of the disability movement, and educate the public and future generation of disability advocates.
Jacobson joins veteran disability rights photographer Tom Olin on the trip that returns the Atlanta area on Friday, May 15. Friday’s stop completes a week-long trek from Atlanta throughout Tennessee. Jacobson and Olin will be welcomed with fanfare at the Mobility Expo on May 15, when they arrive at around 1:30 PM in the parking lot of the N. Atlanta Trade Center in Norcross.
The Mobility Expo will feature technologies, products and services that enhance quality of life and independence. Attendees can also learn what the ADA has done to make life better for those with disabilities by participating in educational seminars and demonstrations.
WHY:2015 marks the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The mission of The ADA Legacy Project is to honor the contributions of people with disabilities and their allies. The Project also honors the historic civil rights legislation and creates a legacy in which every citizen is accepted for who they are.
WHO: Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities (www.gcdd.org), the ADA Legacy Project (www.adalegacy.com), the Shepherd Center (www.shepherdcenter.org), and The Mobility Expo (www.themobilityexpo.com)
WHEN:1:30 PM, Friday, May 15, 2015
WHERE:North Atlanta Trade Center, 1700 Jeurgens Court, Norcross, GA 30093
CONTACT: Valerie Meadows Suber, Public Information Director Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities 404-657-2122 (office) 404-801-7873 (mobile) www.gcdd.org
By Dawn Alford, GCDD Planning & Policy Development Specialist
The Georgia General Assembly cried "Sine die!" ending the 2014 legislative session on March 20. The legislative session has been one of the quickest compared to previous years, ending almost two weeks before April Fool's Day. Both the Fiscal Year 2014 amended budget and the Fiscal Year 2015 budget passed, along with a relatively small number of bills. Read on for the disability advocates' highlights of what happened in 2014.
FY 2015 Budget
A brief overview: This is the first year since the recession hit that state agencies were not asked to reduce their budgets. Click to tweet this!
For the third year in a row, Georgia's economy has shown modest growth allowing for $900 million in state funds to be added into the budget for 2015, resulting in a total budget of $20.8 billion state dollars. Funding was used to support education, the Department of Justice settlement agreement, expense growth for Medicaid, PeachCare and the State Health Benefit Plan. The governor was able to keep Georgia's AAA Bond Rating, and add to the state's "Rainy Day" fund. Just as in recent years' budgets, the 2015 budget is essentially one of modest relief.
This year's Unlock the Waiting Lists! Campaign focused on advocating for some key community supports to enable Georgians with disabilities to fully participate in their community. Unlock coordinators D'Arcy Robb, who was on maternity leave, Dawn Alford and Dave Zilles want to give our sincerest thanks to the many advocates and legislators who gave us their partnership and support this year.
Unlock was successful at getting 25 slots in the Independent Care Waiver Program (ICWP) for adults with physical disabilities, which means an additional 25 people can come off the waiting list and receive services. Click to tweet this!
Furthermore, the Community Care Services Program (CCSP) received an additional 100 slots, and the NOW/COMP waiver received 250 additional slots (100 community + 150 institutional). Furthermore, Unlock joined with other advocates and provider groups to advocate for rate increases for home and community-based services. Developmental disability providers received a 1.5% increase. CCSP and SOURCE (Source Options Using Resources in a Community Environment) received a 5% Medicaid reimbursement rate increase for Alternative Living Services, Personal Support Services and Case Managers. Unfortunately, ICWP is the only Medicaid waiver that did not receive a rate increase and no housing vouchers were added to the budget to support people with developmental disabilities to live in the community.
Unlock also joined with the Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency (GVRA) to advocate for more funding as GVRA has been underfunded for many years. There is language in the budget to create a Memorandum of Understanding Agreement between GVRA and the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD) to draw down additional federal funds to be used for Vocational Rehabilitation services.
The Department of Justice settlement-related funding for developmental disabilities is supported in full in the 2015 budget. That funding for 2015 is as follows:
Family Supports: $8,392,400 (includes $1,872,000 increase to serve 500 new families) NOW/COMP Waivers: $40,339,177 (includes $8,526,665 for 250 new waivers) Crisis Respite Homes (12) & Mobile Crisis Teams (6): $11,917,681 Education of Judges and Law Enforcement: $250,000 DD Total Spending: $61,099,258 (includes $10,398,665 total increase)
In another piece of exciting news, $100,000 of new funding was added to the budget for inclusive post-secondary education programs. Inclusive post-secondary education is an opportunity for young people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to experience the world of higher education alongside their peers, with the goal of preparing students for employment. Currently, the Academy for Inclusive Learning and Social Growth (AILSG) at Kennesaw State University (KSU) is the only such program in Georgia. The additional $100,000 will be used to provide scholarships for qualified students in need and to lay the groundwork for a far more comprehensive system of inclusive post-secondary programs in Georgia. Many organizations and individuals, including Sen. Butch Miller (R-Dist 49), worked hard to advocate for this funding.
Also exciting to report: $390,625 in funds for 50 supported employment slots for people with developmental disabilities were added to the DBHDD budget, which is intended be used for youth graduating from high school. In short, supported employment assists Georgians with developmental disabilities to find and keep jobs in their communities. Some key values of supported employment include:
• Focuses on an individual's strengths, abilities and interests rather than on their disability • Occurs in an integrated setting within the community • Allows individuals to earn competitive wages equal to that of coworkers performing the same or similar jobs • Provides individuals with the support they need to reach their career goals
For further details on the 2015 and 2014A budgets, please see Moving Forward (especially our 2014 legislative wrap-up edition dated March 28, 2014), our newsletter published weekly during the legislative session. Moving Forward is available at www.gcdd.org/public-policy/moving-forward.html
In order to pass, a piece of legislation must have passed both chambers in identical form by midnight on Sine Die. Governor Nathan Deal has 40 days, until midnight on April 29, to sign or veto bills that were passed and if he does not act on a bill within this time period, the bill becomes law. Bills that did not pass this year are dead because the 2015 legislative session will begin a new two-year-cycle for the Georgia General Assembly. Therefore, a bill that did not pass would have to be reintroduced in the 2015 legislative session. To see a list of bills that have been signed by the governor, you can visit http://gov.georgia.gov/bills-signed/2014.
The Family Care Act - House Bill 290 – DID NOT PASS This legislation, sponsored by Rep. Katie Dempsey (R-Dist 13), would have allowed individuals whose employers provide sick days the option of using up to five days of earned sick leave to care for sick children, aging parents or a spouse without penalty from their employers. The Family Care Act was reported favorably out of the House Human Relations and Aging committee, but did not make it out of the House Rules committee.
As this edition of Making a Difference goes to print, the Georgia Job Family Collaborative, the organization leading the legislative efforts on the Family Care Act, has decided to re-introduce the Family Care Act in 2015 and will begin strategizing soon for work that will need to be done prior to the 2015 session.
Autism Insurance Bill (Ava's Law) - Senate Bill 397 – DID NOT PASS
There were three autism insurance bills (Ava's Law) that were introduced during the 2013 legislative session that remained alive during the 2014 session: the original House bill HB 309 sponsored by Rep. Ben Harbin (R-Dist 122); Senate bill SB 191 sponsored by Senator John Albers (R-Dist 56); and, additional House bill HB 559 which was sponsored by Rep. Chuck Sims (R-Dist 169). None of these bills moved during the 2014 session. However, a new bill, SB 397, was introduced by Sen. Tim Golden (R-Dist 8), which would have mandated that insurance plans cover certain therapies for individuals on the autism spectrum but limited its coverage to children age six and under with a cap of $35,000 per year. The language of this bill was amended to HB 885 and while its final form passed the Senate, it did not make it through the House to get final approval before Sine Die. Many disability advocates are passionate supporters of Ava's Law and the therapies it would cover, but there are some advocates who object to the bill, particularly its inclusion of ABA therapy.
Haleigh's Hope Act – House Bill 885 – DID NOT PASS This legislation, sponsored by Rep. Allen Peake (R-Dist 141), would have legalized the use of medical cannabis to treat certain seizure disorders in both children and adults. After the Senate added language from SB 397 requiring insurance companies to cover treatment of certain autism therapies, the bill never received a final vote in the House.
Medicaid Expansion –House Bill 990 - PASSED This legislation, sponsored by Speaker Pro-Tempore Jan Jones (R-Dist 47), prohibits the expansion of Georgia Medicaid eligibility through an increase in the income threshold without prior legislative approval. Previously, the governor could decide to expand eligibility without approval from the General Assembly except as it related to increases in the budget.
Additional Fine for Reckless Driving - HB 870 and HR 1183 – BOTH PASSED HB 870 is partnered with HR 1183. HB 870 provides that in all cases involving a conviction for reckless driving, the court is to assess an additional penalty equal to 10 percent of the fine imposed by the court under the reckless driving statute to be directed to the Brain and Spinal Injury Trust Fund Commission (BSITFC). HR 1183 proposes an amendment to the Georgia Constitution to add reckless driving to the list of offenses for which additional fees and penalties can be assessed. If the Governor signs both pieces of legislation, then the ballot in November's general election will ask voters if they support a 10% surcharge on reckless driving to be designated for the use of the BSITFC. As a referendum and Constitutional amendment, the funds could not be diverted to the General Fund for any other purpose except for the BSITFC. If Georgia voters approve the constitutional amendment, the bill will become effective on January 1, 2015.
Criminal Penalties for Operating Unlicensed Personal Care Home – House Bill 889 - PASSED Sponsored by Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-Dist 43), this legislation stiffens the penalty for operation of an unlicensed personal care home. With this bill, a first violation changes from a misdemeanor to a felony when it is in conjunction with abuse, neglect or exploitation and is punishable by imprisonment for one to five years.
Be an Advocate
While many issues moved along or gained momentum this session, there is much work left to do. You are an advocate, or can be one! Get to know your legislators in the off-season and offer yourself as a resource of information. If you aren't sure who your legislators are, you can check by going to votesmart.org and entering your zip code - look for your state representative and your state senator. Make an appointment with them in their home district and let them know about the issues that are important to individuals with disabilities and those who care about them. You might consider developing a one-page summary that shares your story with your photo to take with you on the visit. For more tips on how to write your story, go to www.unlockthewaitinglists.com and click on "Advocating/Stories." One major ongoing issue is the need for more community-based services for individuals with disabilities. As advocates are well aware, virtually all Georgians with disabilities or those who are aging would much rather live in their own homes and communities than go to a nursing facility. However, waiting lists are long for home and community-based services and we have not yet begun to scratch the surface to address the long waiting lists. We also need increased opportunities and resources to support employment of people with disabilities in the community. These are just a few of the issues that GCDD plans to work on with various partners in the months ahead. We urge you to get involved, be part of the conversation, and stand up to advocate for yourself and your community! Let your voice be heard so that together we can make Georgia a better place for everyone, including those with disabilities.
Stay Connected: GCDD Advocacy Resources GCDD mailing and email lists: www.gcdd.org - scroll down to the bottom and click "Join our Advocacy Network" and follow the instructions. Unlock the Waiting Lists! advocacy website: www.unlockthewaitinglists.com
Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities' (GCDD) spring edition of Making a Difference quarterly news magazine covered the hot-topic of post-secondary transitions for young adults with disabilities. The magazine also provides a thorough update on the Georgia General Assembly legislative session.
In observance of Martin Luther King Remembrance Day, the General Assembly was in recess. Committee hearings continued on the FY14’ budget this week.
In this issue, we will focus on the Governor's proposed budget for the Department of Behavioral Health & Developmental Disabilities, DBHDD, and the proposed budget relating to the Department of Justice settlement agreement. Please see details below. If you'd like to follow the FY 2014 Amended Budget and the FY 2015 Budget through the General Assembly, the budget bills are filed as HB 743 through HB 748. You can view the budget yourself at http://opb.georgia.gov
Get involved: (1) If you are not already a member of the GCDD advocacy network, we invite you to join and receive information as we work together to create a better place for Georgians with disabilities. Go to www.gcdd.org and click on Join our Advocacy Network and follow the instructions. (2) Register for the February 20th Disability Day at: http://bit.ly/1eT5C5s (3) Join our weekly legislative update calls on Monday morning at 9:15 AM. Dial 1-888-355-1249 and enter passcode 232357 at the prompt.