Developmental Disabilities - Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities
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.
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.
CBS Atlanta News
On Tuesday, Feb. 4, the case against former special needs teacher Melanie Pickens received a final say from Judge Henry Newkirk. The Fulton County judge granted immunity to the former Fulton County teacher accused of abusing students with disabilities at Hopewell Middle School in Milton.
Upon the judge's decision, Executive Director Eric Jacobson was featured on CBS Atlanta in an interview giving his insight on the judge's decision and his hopes for the disability community.
Watch his interview here:
CBS Atlanta News (This link is no longer active.)
A Digital Newsletter from the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities • December 2019
In This Issue:
A Message from the Executive Director
It seems like everywhere we turn, politically themed images are staring us in the face. They’re on TV, social media and billboards. We can’t escape them. We are in the middle of a presidential campaign, and in Georgia, the beginning of a campaign to elect every member of the Georgia General Assembly and members of US Congress. Regardless of party affiliation, politics are indeed everywhere.
GCDD has also been everywhere this fall. In fact, there has been a lot going on in our community since my last column. First, we helped get the word out about a series of family forums hosted by the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD) across the state. During the forums, DBHDD heard from the constituents about services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Next, hundreds gathered in Athens for the Georgia APSE 2019 Training Conference to discuss increasing employment opportunities for people with disabilities in Georgia.
Finally, GCDD has been hard at work planning for the 2020 legislative session and subsequent elections. Since politics is slated to be at the forefront of the national and statewide stages in 2020, we are preparing for a big year. One of the ways in which we are preparing includes the return of Advocacy Days. Be sure to read more below about how to get involved at the Capitol, starting in January.
As another way to gear up for elections, GCDD was recently invited to participate in a discussion about people with disabilities and the ability to vote. Many are concerned that moving to strictly paper ballots will make voting inaccessible to many people with disabilities. For example, if you can’t see what’s on the paper, reach the paper or write on the paper, then how can you vote?
The introduction of electronic ballot machines years ago meant that many people with disabilities could vote for the very first time without assistance. Still, others say that these machines are not secure and vulnerable to cybersecurity threats such as hacking. I am not adequately convinced of a solution, but I do know that we must continue the work of making sure that anyone, including individuals with disabilities who want to vote, are able to do so. We must also be mindful that many people with disabilities want to do this independently and not with the assistance of someone else.
This is an important time for all of us to make our voices heard. Make sure you are registered and prepared to vote, regardless of how difficult it may seem. This is your chance to have your voice heard. (Tip: Check your voter registration status, apply for mail-in voting, find your polling location and more via the Georgia Secretary of State’s My Voter Page.)
Check out GCDD’s website and join our advocacy network so that you can stay informed. We hope you enjoy reading this newsletter. Let us know your thoughts and comments about the magazine by writing to Managing Editor, Hillary Hibben, at .
Public Policy for the People: 2020 Advocacy Days are Here!
Public Policy for the People provides public policy updates as it pertains to people with disabilities here in Georgia.
MARK YOUR CALENDARS for 2020 Advocacy Days: January 29, February 6, February 19, February 27 and March 11!
Join GCDD at the Capitol during the 2020 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 that affect our community.
What to expect at each Advocacy Day: Each day kicks off at 8 a.m. at the Central Presbyterian Church, across from the Gold Dome, where leaders from GCDD and other organizations will train and teach advocates how to approach legislators, make connections and discuss the topics that are important to you. After the interactive training, advocates and leaders will head over to the Gold Dome to meet with legislators.
Become a Team Lead for Advocacy Days
GCDD is seeking team leads for its 2020 Advocacy Days! Geared at preparing advocates to take a leadership role at the annual advocacy event, team lead volunteers will learn how to navigate the Georgia State Capitol and support attendees in speaking with their legislators. This is a great opportunity for anyone interested in honing their advocacy skills and leading others to raise their voices!
Team leads will earn $100 per each Advocacy Day for which they volunteer. Each individual must complete one training and fulfill all the responsibilities as determined by GCDD's public policy team.
Meet Our New Intern, Kayla Rodriguez
GCDD is thrilled to welcome Kayla Rodriguez to our team! As an intern in our communications and public policy departments, Kayla assists leadership on such initiatives as content creation, administrative support and more.
Earlier in 2019, Kayla participated in GCDD’s 2019 Advocacy Days where she learned about public policy issues, as well as how to identify and build relationships with her legislators. It is during this experience that she also learned more about problems facing the disability community and how people can advocate to solve them.
“My experience during Advocacy Days really helped lay the foundation of what I’d be doing in my internship,” Kayla said. “I left that experience feeling equipped and prepared to advocate for change.”
Overall, Kayla has worked professionally in disability advocacy for three years. She became familiar with the world of disability advocacy through the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network (ASAN) and hopes to work toward improving the lives of future generations.
Prior to joining GCDD, Kayla collaborated with some of Georgia’s most prominent leaders in the disability community. After high school, she joined the Bobby Dodd Institute’s Ambassador Program where she trained under disability advocate Kylie Moore. Through this program, Kayla met Mark Crenshaw, a director at the Center for Leadership in Disability at Georgia State University. She worked alongside Mark as a participant in the Georgia Leadership Education of Neurodevelopmental Disabilities Program (GaLEND). Through GaLEND, Kayla was introduced to My Voice. My Participation. My Board, a leadership and advocacy program, where she trained under training and advocacy specialist Molly Tucker.
Kayla continues to hone her leadership skills as the vice president and chief ambassador of Autistic Self-Advocacy Atlanta, an affiliate group of ASAN. She is also involved with the Atlanta Autism Consortium and co-created the Emory Patient-Centered Outcome Research Institute on Young Women on the Autism Spectrum Group with Dr. Susan Brasher from Emory University.
Originally from New York, Kayla lived in Florida and Virginia before settling in Georgia nearly seven years ago. Outside the office, Kayla enjoys video games, animation, rock/indie music, YouTube and hanging out with friends.
“My favorite part of being at GCDD is how kind and understanding everyone is and how calm the work environment is,” said Kayla. “I’m excited to be an intern here and look forward to making a difference!”
GCDD Honored by BELL Academy
In a hotel conference room sprinkled with a selection of non-visual toys and adapted board games, Raveena Alli typed out her name on a braille typewriter. Alli, a 13-year-old student mentor, started attending the BELL Academy to practice braille literacy skills when she was four years old. She was wearing a Ruth Bader Ginsberg shirt at the National Federation of the Blind of Georgia’s (NFBGA) 2019 state convention.
“There are things you do differently as a blind person,” Alli said while she demonstrated. “Things you wouldn’t even think about as a sighted person.”
On Oct. 5, the NFBGA honored the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities (GCDD) as a platinum-level sponsor and consistent supporter of the BELL Academy at its 2019 state convention in Augusta. BELL stands for “braille enrichment for literacy and learning,” and the academy is a week-long, immersive summer program that offers blind and low-vision young people a social and educational environment to learn fundamental literacy skills.
Monopoly Board adapted for use by the blind.Seventeen students attended the NFBGA’s 2019 BELL Academy, which took place at Columbus State University this summer. Braille literacy and other non-visual skills have a profound effect on blind people’s abilities to learn, work and live fully. The residential camp includes a rigorous academic program, but organizers also make time for field trips, socialization and fun — all meant to build self-confidence and self-determination.
GCDD is involved with the funding and coordination of efforts like BELL across the state. Students get to keep most everything they are provided with during the program, including games and tactile sketch pads that help students conceptualize and learn by drawing. While recognizing GCDD at the convention with a speech and plaque, Jackie Anderson, an instructor of blind students at the NFBGA who created the first BELL Academy in Maryland, stressed the work and funding that makes the program possible. Anderson called the council a friend who answers calls for help in a big way.
“Thank you for helping us provide our students with the skills they need so they can live the lives that they want,” Anderson said.
Cheers and applause for the students, donors and organizers filled the room, and the small audience briefly seemed much larger. Community partnership is crucial to the BELL program’s continued existence, level of service and growth.
The crowd applauded as NFBGA honored the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities (GCDD) as a platinum-level sponsor and consistent supporter of the BELL Academy at its 2019 state convention in Augusta.Alli is too old for BELL now, but she continues with the program through BELLX, a local extension of the program where students continue their education and mentor their peers. Alli says that many blind kids don’t get access to the same level of resources and individualized instruction during the school year, and she appreciates BELLX for the chance to be with her peers and make a difference in younger kids’ lives.
“You need to have empathy, confidence and advocacy skills because the expectations for blind people right now are so low,” said Alli. “This gives us a chance to not only be proficient ourselves but take those things that we’re learning and use them for the greater good — to help younger kids who still have to learn braille.”
A total of 384 people attended the DBHDD Forums.
Feeling Heard: Georgia Family Forums Achieve Their Goal
With the goal of gathering feedback from residents about the services they or their family members with intellectual or developmental disabilities (I/DD) receive, the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD), Division of Developmental Disabilities organized five public forums in September and October.
A total of 384 people attended the forums held in Marietta, Lawrenceville, Macon, Savannah and online.
DBHDD received insight directly from forum attendees which they will use to guide future decisions.The idea behind the forums was to increase collaboration with community stakeholders. DBHDD believes it is essential for families to have not only the opportunity to learn about the resources available but also have a voice, ask questions and share concerns. Rita Young and Associates organized the forums in collaboration with DBHDD.
Forum discussions covered the New Options Waiver Program (NOW) and the Comprehensive Supports (COMP) Waiver Programs, as well as the new Individualized Service Plan (ISP) and the I/DD Connects Portal for Family Access, both of which went live on August 19, 2019. Other topics included crisis services; competitive, integrated employment; electronic visit verification; and Georgia STABLE accounts.
The forums focused on the direction of services for individuals with I/DD in Georgia and provided attendees an opportunity to meet the DBHDD division director, Ron Wakefield, and his staff, including Amy Riedesel, Director of Community Services, and Ashleigh Henneberger, Director of Waiver Services.
Attendees were glad to get the opportunity to be heard.
With an additional forum goal of increasing collaboration with community stakeholders, “The family forums created a space that allowed everyone to have a seat at the table. I’m honored to have the opportunity to listen and learn from individuals and their families all over the great state of Georgia,” said Wakefield.
DBHDD explained the insight received directly from families was very valuable and will help guide future decisions within the Division of DD. In addition, the agency learned about system barriers and suggestions on how to address those barriers. The goal of hearing directly from families about what’s working for them and recommendations for areas for improvement was met. One key insight DBHDD heard was individuals value the services they have and want to continue to have both access and choice regarding their services. One Lawrenceville attendee’s evaluation of the forum was, “It was wonderful to ‘feel heard’.”
Plans by the DBHDD for the future include:
- Having a clinical contributor for correspondence, informing providers and families of the services and trends related to I/DD services and supports.
- Providing a developer of content that promotes skills of health advocacy, targeting members of support systems of individuals with I/DD.
- Developing clinical partner participation in initiatives, promoting access to clinical resources.
For more information about what was presented at the family forums, the PowerPoint, as well as frequently asked questions (FAQs), is posted on the DBHDD website.
Wednesday, January 29
Thursday, February 6
Wednesday, February 19
Thursday, February 27
Wednesday, March 11
8 AM - 12:15 PM
Central Presbyterian Church
201 Washington St SW, Atlanta, GA 30334
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
Valerie Meadows Suber, Public Information Director
Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities
404-657-2122 (office); 404-226-0343 (mobile)
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.
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