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 Councilon 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.
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
Who We Are: Over the past few years, the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabiliites (GCDD) has supported Basmat Ahmed to explore the development of community projects in Clarkston, GA that are consistent with the Real Communities’ Four Commitments. Ahmed held the role of the Community Builder for The Clarkston International Garden at 40 Oaks Nature Preserve, a partnership with the Global Growers Network that supported the development of a Community Garden in the City of Clarkston. Currently, Basmat works with the Al-Tamyoz Community Building Group to build deeper relationships and finds ways to leverage these relationships to make change in Clarkston.
Clarkston READY School was launched through connections with Basmat Ahmed
The Clarkston InternationalGarden ribbon cutting ceremony
Global Growers Network group
What we Do: The Clarkston Relationship-Building Group began their work by planning regular leaning conversations of their day-to-day responsibilities and built the relationships necessary to do effective community building work. The group regularly hosts a Community Relationship Lunch every other month where community leaders and members connect and discover partnerships and opportunities. This group also successfully co-organized the second annual Black History Month in the City of Clarkston, which was a result of a relationship founded among different organizations. Combined, they hosted this event, as well as supported and sponsored the 2015 Georgia World Refugee Day, organized by Refugees.
In 2016, they created new programs that provided equal opportunities for people with and without disabilities such as a monthly radio show that engaged community members, announced events and services, invited local guest speakers and broke cultural barriers in the City of Clarkston. They are also implementing a mini grant program, which was purposely designed to be a direct opportunity for all, and, specifically, to fund programs and projects within the Clarkston community.
Throughout her organizing work, Ahmed has actively sought to engage people within the disability community. As of now, there are four more adult and six more youth Community Builders with and without disabilities, who are implementing different projects within Clarkston. The adult and youth Community Builders have been focusing on building relationships through the Community Learning and Connecting Conversation program that involves meeting with individuals, organizations, groups and others to discover people’s gifts and goals for the future.
In addition, the youth Community Builders have taken more leadership roles, as they formed the Clarkston Youth Assembly, the first Clarkston event to be entirely organized by youth. Thirty youth attended and made action plans to develop the community. The Community Builders are also working inclusively to develop community engagement in partnership with different local entities and local organizations.
The Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities (GCDD) is currently recruiting individuals with developmental disabilities and family members who are interested in becoming members of the GCDD. There are two membership categories: (1) Members appointed by the Governor are considered the "official members" and can serve two terms of four years each, and (2) advisory members selected by Council members, have no voting rights, and serve one two-year term. GCDD is currently recruiting for both categories of membership.
The purpose of the GCDD is to engage in advocacy, capacity building, and systemic change activities that are consistent with the purpose of Public Law 106.402 and Section 30-8-1 of Code of Georgia. These activities shall contribute to a coordinated, consumer and family centered and directed comprehensive system of community services, individualized supports, and other forms of assistance that enable individuals with developmental disabilities to exercise self-determination and be independent, productive, and integrated into all facets of community life The mission of the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities is to bring about social and policy changes that promote opportunities for persons with developmental disabilities and their families to live, learn, work, play and worship in Georgia communities.
GCDD members serve as the link between people with developmental disabilities, their families and the organization. Members represent un-conflicted loyalty to the interests of people with developmental disabilities and their families. Members are committed to ethical, businesslike, and lawful conduct including proper use of authority and appropriate decorum when acting as a member and will abide by laws concerning sexual discrimination, harassment, and equal opportunity. Members are expected to take an active part in the programs of the Council and to follow the designated policies and procedures of the organization. They should become thoroughly acquainted with the issues related to Georgian's with developmental disabilities and the way in which GCDD is organized to address those issues.
Members are expected to attend each quarterly meeting of the full Council and to serve on any established committees. Full Council meetings are used to set policies, based on the vote of a majority of members present. Recognizing the diversity of the Council membership, it is understood that unanimity will not be possible on all decisions of the Council. Council members are urged to be advocates at all times for people with developmental disabilities and their families. They should represent the policies and procedures of the Council when appearing in public as representatives of the Council. When presenting views and opinions contrary to the Council policies, or for which the Council has no official opinion, members should make clear that such views are expressions of personal opinion.
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.
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!
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.
The Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities (GCDD) 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. GCDD is one of 55 entities of its type in the United States and territories that report to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. It is authorized under Public Law 106-402, the Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act Amendments of 2000.
Our activities are governed by a 27-member board, appointed by the Governor and comprised of at least 60 percent individuals with developmental disabilities and family members. Other members include policymakers that represent various agencies and organizations having a vested interested in persons with developmental disabilities Today, the GCDD continues to serve as an advocate for all persons with developmental disabilities.
We are charged with creating systems change for people with developmental disabilities and their families by increasing opportunities for independence, inclusion, integration, productivity and self-determination. Activities include public policy research and analysis, reform, project demonstrations, education and training. Today, we are working to bring marginalized populations together as a way to promote social justice for people with developmental disabilities and their families. Since our inception in 1971, we have been a powerful advocate for more than 1.7 million Georgians with developmental disabilities and their families.
With the many policy changes and challenges that face people with developmental disabilities and their families,GCDD seeks to hire a public policy director to move our public policy program and agenda forward. The public policy director is a valued member of the GCDD team and is responsible for creating and implementing a comprehensive public policy agenda in order for GCDD to carry out its mission.
The successful candidate will help the organization create and advocate for conceptually coherent policies for the integration of people with intellectual/developmental disabilities and the people who support them. This position requires superb written and verbal communication skills, experience working with local, state, and federal policy makers, skills in facilitating the development and operations of coalitions, and significant computer skills.
The successful candidate must be a well-organized problem solver who is self directed as well as a committed team player and leader. 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.
The Public Policy Director will:
1. Coordinate and oversee the research and policy analysis processes of the Council. The Public Policy Director will initiate research projects based on the Council's established programmatic and legislative priorities. The Director will work with Council members, staff, advocates, and others to identify topics that may warrant research and analysis, providing needed assistance such as data collection and analysis, report composition and/or making presentations. This might include the publication of position papers, issues papers and other kinds of reports for review by Council members, staff, advocates, legislators and others.
2. Coordinate and administer the Council's public policy program. The Public Policy Director will coordinate efforts to recommend an annual legislative agenda founded in programmatic knowledge of shared goals and objectives with stakeholders.
3. Serve as primary liaison to state and federal representatives. The Public Policy Director will serve as representative of GCDD to Georgia legislature, Congressional Delegation, state and federal agencies, and national and regional associations as it relates to public policy. This includes maintaining a thorough knowledge of state and federal legislation that impacts people with developmental disabilities and the Council. The Director will also coordinate families' and advocates' presence and presentations at the Capital in response to budgetary or legislative issues.
4. Review/develop pertinent legislative proposals and determine impact on the agency. The Public Policy Director will manage the process of monitoring legislation proposed during the legislative session. The Director will work with staff and other advocates to track changes in legislation, or review newly enacted legislation and analyze how these changes may impact people with disabilities and their families.
5. Lead or participate on workgroups that address financial, programmatic and operational issues and/or broad, policy decisions with statewide impact. These may include projects of a limited scope, comprehensive efforts with specific deadlines, or ongoing group efforts. The Public Policy Director will participate in meetings with federal and state agencies, identify issues and inform the Executive Director in a timely manner of substantial issues. The Director will also attend and participate in legislative and public hearings including making presentations and answering questions.
Qualifications: The best candidates for the Public Policy Director's position will have completed a doctorate or master's degree in public administration and have previous work experience with policy makers and/or advocacy organizations especially in the area of public policies impacting people with developmental disabilities, The candidate will have significant experience and knowledge of programs, available services, laws, regulations and issues related to people with developmental disabilities. This includes working knowledge of budget and legislative processes in Georgia and federal government; expertise in the system of supports and services under the Medicaid waivers, Medicaid state plan, and state funded service, and familiarity with national trends and practices in Medicaid Managed Care; and working knowledge of federal laws related to or supporting people with disabilities such as IDEA, NCLB, The Rehab Act, The ADA and the ACA.
The ideal candidate will have: • Strong working knowledge of concepts related to research and policy analysis and how to conduct analysis of policy and programmatic alternatives. • Strong written and oral communication skills with the ability to understand and communicate effectively with people who have developmental disabilities, their families, professionals, policy makers, and support/advocacy groups • Experience in convening task forces, coalitions and workgroups, and communicating with a varied array of stakeholders on the products and results of those efforts.
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.
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
Who We Are: Georgians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (GFADP) is the statewide coalition of organizations and individuals working to end capital punishment in Georgia and around the world. By working in partnership with the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities (GCDD) Real Communities, GFADP also seeks protect the rights and dignity of those on death row while ensuring the protection of individuals with developmental disabilities from unjust application of death penalty laws.
In January 2015, the State of Georgia executed Warren Hill, a 52-year-old man with an intellectual disability. Despite undisputed testimony from the State’s experts, Warren faced execution because of Georgia’s incredibly high burden of proof for defendants with intellectual disability. His case highlights the ways in which people with developmental and intellectual disabilities are railroaded by the criminal legal system every day.
As a result of Warren’s case, GFADP and GCDD came together to explore ways to stop the execution of individuals with intellectual disabilities in Georgia and deepen our collective understanding of how mass incarceration and the criminal justice system uniquely impact people with disabilities. GFADP is working to create local alliances coalitions in three key communities around the state (Atlanta, Dawson, and a third location to be determined) that come together to focus on a local problem.
Marching in the annual MLK parade to promote GFADP
Vigil to stop the execution of Warren Lee Hill in Georgia
Commemorating the execution of Troy Davis
What We Do: GFADP is an organization that is working to actively form alliances by engaging other organizations and leaders both in and out of the anti-death penalty network. GFADP has collaborated with GCDD to work to change the standard of proof for proving intellectual disability in death penalty cases. We worked diligently to educate people within and outside of the disability community about why this is an important movement. Our efforts paid off, and SB 401 was introduced in the Georgia State Senate by Senator Elena Parent. This bill will change the standard of proof placed on individuals with intellectual disabilities in death penalty cases in Georgia from, "Beyond a Reasonable Doubt." to "Preponderance of the Evidence.”
Read the legislation here: http://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/en-US/Display/20152016/SB/401 GFADP was also incorporated in the GCDD-organized 2015 Social Justice Summit where it made new connections and networking opportunities for future organizing work. Similarly, GFADP has been involved in related conversations with the NAACP. As this country is facing overwhelming occurrences of the shooting of unarmed black and brown people and mass incarceration, GFADP attempts to illustrate the connection between the death penalty and the African-American community.
GFADP aims to bringing a more diverse perspective to the death penalty work and they will continue to fight to abolish the death penalty in the state of Georgia. This organization strives to be a major part of reforming the criminal justice system. By building a stronger community, GFADP will be able to end the death penalty, and usher this nation towards the criminal justice reform movement.
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.
Today, February 7 marks the 19th legislative day of the session. On Monday of this week, the House Human Relations and Aging Committee met and voted on HB 290, the Family Care Act. This bill passed out of committee by a 6-2 vote. Be sure to contact your House member to let them know how you want them to vote on HB 290.
In this issue, we will focus on the Governor's proposed budget for the Department of Education. Please see details below. You can view the budget yourself at http://opb.georgia.gov. On Wednesday, February 5, HB 743, the Amended FY2014 budget, was passed by the Senate Appropriations Committee and then was read the second time in the Senate on Thursday, February 6. The FY 2015 budget hearings began this week. We anticipate that the FY 2015 budget will go to the full House for a vote toward the end of next week.
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 the Capitol: 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.
Welcome to a special Disability Day Edition of Moving Forward. More than 2,500 advocates, family members, and allies gathered at the Capitol steps on a beautiful, warm day to hear speakers Governor Nathan Deal, Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, CEO & President of RespectAbilityUSA, and Greg Schmieg, the Executive Director of the Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency (GVRA) . This issue highlights Governor Deal's remarks and his Proclamation of Disability Awareness Day.
In other news at the Gold Dome: SB 397, a bill for autism insurance coverage, sponsored by Senator Tim Golden, was dropped in the Senate Hopper on February 19, passed by the Senate on February 25, and read in the House on February 26. This bill puts a cap on coverage at $35,000 per year and limits coverage to children age 6 and under. Also, HB 700, sponsored by Rep. Keisha Waites, which seeks to in-crease accessibility for those with visual disabilities at the Capitol and CLOB, passed out of the House committee on February 24.
The House and Senate resolved any differences in the FY2014 Amended Budget and it was signed by the Governor on February 26. The FY 2015 budget is still being worked on in the Senate subcommittees.
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) 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. (3) Go to www.unlockthewaitinglists.com to get the latest Unlock updates
GCDD's 16th Annual Disability Day at the Capitol: Over 2,000 Georgians Expected to Meet at the Capitol Steps and Affirm "We All Have A Story...What's Yours?" Governor Deal to Address the Rally Marking 15th Anniversary of The Olmstead Decision
ATLANTA, GA (Feb. 10, 2014) –Governor Nathan Deal will speak and Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, founder, CEO and president of RespectAbility, will deliver the keynote address to Georgians with disabilities, their families and advocates at the 16th Annual Disability Day at the Capitol, sponsored by the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities (www.GCDD.org), on Thursday, February 20 at 11am. The event also celebrates the 15th anniversary of The Olmstead Decision, the June 1999 landmark ruling that paved the way for people with disabilities to leave institutions and live in the community. An anticipated 2,000 people will gather to share with legislators how disability affects their lives and tell personal stories at the event themed "We All Have A Story...What's Yours?"
"Each year thousands of Georgians look forward to GCDD's Disability Day at the Capitol because they know legislators will hear us when we speak with one voice," Eric E. Jacobson, GCDD Executive Director, said. "This year, we'll share stories of the common threads of disability that touch and unify us. GCDD advocates for opportunities for jobs and post-secondary education which are critical components in this movement toward social justice."
Laszlo-Mizrahi will talk about of "empowering people with disabilities to live the American dream" through jobs and voting rights. She is a proven social entrepreneur and change agent who founded RespectAbility, an organization dedicated to unlocking the potential of all Americans, including people with disabilities, who want to contribute to growing our nation's prosperity.
People at the rally will share their stories and practice deep listening to foster conversation, understanding and appreciation for the varied gifts, skills, dreams and contributions of all people. Students from Partnerships for Success, a GCDD-sponsored statewide high school student leadership program promoting community service and peer relationship-building between youth with and without disabilities, will serve as volunteers throughout the day. At the Freight Depot, individuals will be able to sign up for future opportunities to share their stories on StoryCorps, a program heard weekly on National Public Radio's (NPR's) Morning Edition and archived in the American Folklife Center.
As part of the 15th anniversary celebration of the landmark Olmstead Decision, the Atlanta Legal Aid Society will host a dedicated StoryCorps recording booth inside the Gold Dome where people who have moved out of institutions will tell their personal "I Am Olmstead – Stories of Freedom." The landmark Olmstead Decision by the US Supreme Court ruled it was unconstitutional for two Georgia women with developmental disabilities, Lois Curtis and Elaine Wilson, to be institutionalized against their wishes. Freedom for people in institutions is part of GCDD's 2014 legislative agenda along with the Unlock the Waiting Lists! Campaign and the Children's Freedom Initiative (CFI). Other GCDD legislative priorities include support and expansion of inclusive post-secondary education opportunities such as Kennesaw State University's Academy for Inclusive Learning and Social Growth and ASPIRE (Active Student Participation Inspires Real Engagement), a Department of Education program that encourages self-determination. Four other priorities round out GCDD's 2014 agenda: supported employment in the community, housing voucher programs, changes in the standard to prove intellectual disabilities in capital punishment cases, and the Family Care Act (HB 290).
"Our legislative agenda priorities seek Real Learning, Real Careers, Real Homes and more...rights all Georgians should expect and enjoy, whether they happen to have a disability or not," Jacobson said.
GCDD Chairwoman Mitzi Proffitt introduce Governor Nathan Deal and legislators from both sides of the aisle are expected to address the crowd during the Rally. Talley Wells, director of the Disability Integration Project at the Atlanta Legal Aid Society, will provide an overview of the "I Am Olmstead – Stories of Freedom" project. He will introduce a self-advocate who will tell the story of living in an institution and leaving it for a better life in the community.
GCDD's Disability Day at the Capitol begins at 9 am on February 20 with t-shirt pick up, activities, information and exhibits including an accessible voting machine demonstration and listening stations for "I Am Olmstead – Stories of Freedom" with pre-recorded narratives. After the 11 am Rally, legislators from both sides of the aisle will join attendees for lunch around 12:15 pm (first come, first served) at the Georgia Freight Depot.
GCDD, a federally funded independent state agency, works to bring about social and policy changes that promote opportunities for persons with developmental disabilities and their families to live, learn, work, play and worship in Georgia communities. A developmental disability is a chronic mental and/or physical disability that occurs before age 22 and is expected to last a lifetime. Visit www.GCDD.org for more information
CONTACT: Valerie Meadows Suber, Public Information Director Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities 404-657-2122 (office); 404-226-0343 (mobile) Follow Updates on Twitter at #GCDDAnnualDisabilityDay
Real Communitiies Community Builder Teri Schell, founder of the Forsyth Farmer's Market, was honored at the 17th annual Georgia Organics Conference held at Jekyll Island. Schell was the recipient of the Barbara Petit Pollinator Award for her leadership in Georgia’s sustainable farming and food movement. She is also the co-chair of the recently formed Savannah Chatham Food Policy Council.
In 2013, the five-year-old Forsyth Farmers Market was highest among all farmers markets in the state in regards to SNAP/EBT redemptions totaling $62,000. The market, under Schell’s guidance, was one of the first farmers markets in the nation to accept these federal benefits, which used to be known as food stamps. It partners with the nonprofit Wholesome Wave Georgia to double the value of SNAP purchases.
To read more about Schell's work and the Forsyth Farmer's Market, click here.
On February 22, 2014, two middle school students from Charles Ellis Montessori Academy in Savannah, GA, presented during the Youth Leaders panel of the 17th annual Georgia Organics conference on Jekyll Island. Emma and Becca presented on their experiences with learning science concepts through their learning garden at school. Their talk reflected their interactions with the community at large and with the younger students of Charles Ellis. Prominently featured in their community portion was Johnny Smith, a Mixed Greens member.
As a Mixed Greens member, Johnny helps facilitate the Little Green Wagon, an interactive youth seed planting project. The Little Green Wagon is entering into its third season of existence at the Forsyth Farmers' Market and wouldn't exist without the weekly care from Johnny.
Last year, Johnny was invited to help replicate the Little Green Wagon project at Charles Ellis. He quickly became an important part of the middle school farm to school program and the larger Charles Ellis Academy family, eating lunch with the middle school students on garden days and working with younger students during re-delivery activities.
In addition to all of these wonderful things, seeing the students include Johnny as an integral part of their farm to school activities at a major southeastern farm & food conference was a Real Communities moment. Johnny was included in their presentation as a matter of fact and without any special markers, labels or explanation. His presence wasn't noted as important or a big deal or significant; his presence was noted because he's simply a part of their Charles Ellis Montessori Academy community, a RealCommunity that has room for all.
Founder of Forsyth Farmers' Market, Savannah
Schell recieved the 2014 Barbara Petit Pollinator Award for her leadership in Georgia's sustainable farming and food movement at the 17th annual Georgia Organics Conference.
Update: Narae has got her second volunteer position at Assi Plaza, an Asian grocery store in Duluth as a stacker where she will work from 10 - 11 a.m.. The Duluth library also reached out to both Lucy and me and have a volunteer position for her at the library.
Lucy is a mother with a new purpose. She is looking for volunteer opportunities for her daughter, Narae.
For the past few months, actually since November 2013, Narae's circle of support has been meeting every month to widen her circle of friends and provide opportunities for her and lucy ( her mother) to explore lives independent of each other. Narae is 34 year old and her mother has been her only companion. Lucy did not have the confidence till recently to leave her daughter - even for an hour- in other person' s care.
Few weeks ago, Lucy, Narae, her attendant Sandy and I met at the Duluth library to talk about a volunteer opportunity for Narae at the library. Why a library? Simply because Narae always has a magazine in her hands and likes to flip through it. Folks at the library, were skeptical. They did not refuse but neither were they welcoming. I could sense the feeling of defeat creeping in on Lucy & "I told you so" look. We walked out of the library and decided to try our luck at the old age home next door. Wow! What a welcome! The activity director of the facility shared the activity calendar and various ways Narae could help them. She did not ask her to take a written test or questioned her ability to hold things in her hand or doubt maneuverability of her wheelchair. She believed that Narae was a god-sent, much needed help, for her.
Narae has been volunteering at this facility every Monday from 3 to 4 pm, for the past two weeks. Her job is to hand over the gifts to the residents after the bingo game. She is happy and excited to go every week - without mom. And, Lucy is using her time to find other volunteer opportunities for her daughter. She is now confident in knowledge that there are people, other than her, who can love Narae and need her. Her smile is broader and he eyes sparkle with excitement and possibilities.
I promise you, very soon, I will have more good news about Narae to share.
By Aarti Sahgal GCDD Real Communities Diversity Consultant
Launched in February, the Tifton Museum of Arts and Heritage opened its "Season of Quilts" exhibit for three months spanning over two venues. Four exhibits used the art of quilting to tell inspiring stories of inclusion and create a world that works for everyone. Threads that Bind opened on February 16 and displayed original quilts created by the Wiregrass Quilter's Guild. The quilts depicted personal life stories of individuals who had to overcome a challenge to live a meaningful life, such as Ronald Goodman of Fitzgerald.
Goodman has a spinal cord injury, and found respite through creating wildlife paintings.
On March 1, Story Quilts by global artist Beth Mount opened to express the "universal desire of people in all cultures to help one another." Story Quilts was complemented by a storytelling session by local attorneys and preachers, along with the opportunity to tell personal stories with National Public Radio's StoryCorps. Tom Kohler, who co-authored Waddie Welcome and the Beloved Community presented the story of the late Waddie Welcome, a man with severe disabilities whose powerful life story rose above divisions of disability, race and income, advocating inclusion and creating new possibilities in an entire community.
Bregman Conference Encourages Living Life "Without Limits"
The 21st annual Larry Bregman, M.D., Educational Conference was held on February 23 at the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta (Selig Center). Nearly 300 participants, which included adults with developmental disabilities, their families, caregivers and advocates, took part in the educational conference that emphasized topics such as being a part of the community, being a self-advocate and living a healthy lifestyle.
GCDD Executive Director Eric Jacobson emceed the event and spoke about the importance of life enhancement programs and the value of continuing supports in his keynote remarks and led several breakout workshop sessions along this theme.
Georgia Winter Institute
The 2014 Georgia Winter Institute was held from January 26-29 in Atlanta and shared ways to make progress in advocacy for people with disabilities. Speakers at the four-day conference covered various topics such as education, homes, well-being, communities and leadership.
Dr. Gregory Blalock from Columbus State University and Anne Ladd from the Georgia Parent Mentor Partnership presented subjects that included inclusive higher education and transition for students with disabilities.
The conference also highlighted employment issues and speakers such as Marcia Singson who spoke about Project SEARCH, a trailblazing employment partnership that connects people with disabilities with meaningful and fulfilling job options.
The conference also featured keynote speakers Karin Korb and Chris Glaser. Korb is a two-time Paralympian and a 10-time member of the USA World Team. She is passionate about empowering young women with disabilities through all sports as well as her hands-on hospice work, her studies in Pranic healing and living a vegetarian lifestyle.
Glaser is a world-renowned public speaker who has published a dozen best-selling books on spirituality,sexuality, vocation, contemplation, scripture, sacrament, theology, inclusion, marriage and death.
The Georgia Winter Institute is organized by the Center for Leadership and Disability at Georgia State University and co-sponsored with GCDD and other leading advocacy organizations.
Who We Are:Women on the Rise, a group formed by formerly incarcerated women, works to demand justice, dignity, and liberation for all through collective action that transforms communities and builds public safety by creating strong, interdependent communities. Through support provided by the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities' Real Communities Initiative, WOTR also seeks to also ensure that equal justice is received by individuals with developmental disabilities ensnared in the criminal justice system.
Advocates turn out for Atlanta Public Safety hearing to call for "Solutions Not Punishment."
Georgia Governor Nathan Deal signs executive order to "Ban the Box."
Advocating before the White House to "Ban the Box"
What We Do: Women on the Rise hosts regular Transformative Leadership Development and Community Building gatherings and Strategy Sessions. In 2014, they ran a successful internship program for formerly incarcerated women, conducted street and organizational outreach, engaged leaders in an intensive somatic leadership development program, and won important policy victories which impact the lives of thousands of formerly incarcerated people in Georgia when they successfully ‘Banned the Box’ on job applications in Fulton County, Atlanta, East Point and the State of Georgia. These efforts have benefited those targeted by the criminal legal system, institutionalized and kept from receiving much needed services to integrate them into the community. They have built a strong core group of leaders who are routinely engaging in community outreach and campaign actions in the Atlanta Metro area.
Women on the Rise, the Racial Justice Action Center, and SNaP Co (Solutions Not Punishment Coalition) have been working towards creating a Disability Justice Committee that actively deepens their understanding of disability justice. They are crafting outreach and recruitment activities that address the reality that, similarly to formerly incarcerated people, people with developmental disabilities may often be isolated, discouraged from attending community building events, or even physically segregated by institutions. They hope to build stronger relationships with potential allies and build bridges within agencies and coalitions that focus on developmental disabilities, so they are better able to identify, engage and create a safe environment for people with developmental disabilities in their organization.