Governor To Speak At 13th Annual Disability Day at the Capitol
ATLANTA, GA (Feb. 10, 2011) – Governor Nathan Deal is slated to address an anticipated 2,000 people with disabilities, their families and advocates at the 13th Annual Disability Day at the Capitol on Thursday, February 24 at 11am. Disability affects one in five Georgians and about 54 million Americans. The Rally is the largest gathering held on the Capitol Steps during the general assembly and is an opportunity for the disability community to communicate important issues and needs to legislators. This year the Rally also marks the 40th anniversary of the Georgia Council On Developmental Disabilities (GCDD) and the Developmental Disabilities Bill of Rights and Assistance Act. Large groups scheduled to attend this year’s rally include:
- 23 people from Lookout Mountain Community Services – Dade Co.
- 25 people from Macon’s Wesley Glen Ministries – Bibb Co.
- 30 people from Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation – Meriweather Co.
- 50 people from The Jessamine Place – Ben Hill Co.
- 50 people from Winder’s Partnership for Success – Barrow Co.
- 50 people from Decatur’s Another Chance – Dekalb Co.
- 65 people from Tattnall County’s Pineland MH/DD/AD – Tattnall Co.
“The diversity of those attending Disability Day demonstrates the vital importance of disability education, policy and resources,” GCDD Executive Director Eric E. Jacobson said. “This year, with a resurgence of attention on getting people out of institutions, we must continue to advocate for community supports, keeping the issue in front of legislators and the public. Disability Rights is a civil rights movement that’s gaining momentum and the Rally appropriately marks our 40th anniversary.”
Since federal legislation was established to create councils like GCDD across the country in 1971, the disability movement has experienced many milestones including:
- the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 which prohibited federally-funded programs from discriminating against people with disabilities;
- the 1975 Education for All Handicapped Children Act which established the right of children with disabilities to a public school education in an integrated environment;
- the 1990 Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) which prohibits discrimination based on disability by protecting rights to accessibility through public and workplace accommodations and technology;
- and the 1999 landmark Supreme Court Olmstead Decision which established the rights of people with disabilities to move out of institutions and live in the community with the necessary services and supports; the ruling was recently affirmed last fall in the Department of Justice settlement with Georgia.
“This year’s Rally celebrates the victories in our 40 year journey and looks forward to renewed tasks,” GCDD Chair Tom Seegmueller said. “The cornerstone of our work today is Real Communities and we are gaining traction. We take today to celebrate but will continue to move forward.”
“Unlock The Doors To Real Communities” is the theme for this year’s Rally and underscores the need for vital supports and community-based services. GCDD’s “Real Communities” Initiative is an innovation for community building which creates opportunities in which persons with developmental disabilities can participate more fully in every aspect of life, often by tapping into existing activities and joining with others to make life better for everyone. The urgency to develop these community supports will increase as people with disabilities leave institutions as mandated by the Olmstead Decision.
In addition to the 11am Rally, constituents will participate in other activities throughout the day including ongoing screenings of student-produced work in the “Creedo for Friendship” video contest. Sponsored by Partnerships for Success, the contest gives high school students an opportunity to show the ways the social climate has changed for people with disabilities. After the finalist videos premiere at Disability Day, they will be immediately posted at www.gcdd.org and people can vote for their favorite, March 1 through March 31.
Another opportunity for community building will occur during the lunch program at the Georgia Freight Depot, following the 11am Rally. Author Tom Kohler will lead a special, interactive, large screen presentation of his book, Waddie Welcome & The Beloved Community. Thanks to community supports, Savannah-born Mr. Welcome was able to leave an institution and enrich not only his own life, but that of all whom he touched with his positive outlook, charisma and infectious smile. Multiple voices will join for the community reading, including Mark Johnson, disability activist from The Shepherd Center in Atlanta.
Disability Day at the Capitol, sponsored by GCDD with support from a host of state advocacy groups and partners, begins with registration, t-shirt pick up, and breakfast at 9 am at the Georgia Freight Depot. Advocates from across Georgia will participate in activities and exhibits, view videos, sign a huge banner (which will be reproduced as postcards and distributed to legislators and officials in the districts represented), then prepare for the 11 am rally on the Capitol steps. At the Rally, state elected officials in addition to Governor Deal are expected to speak on public policy and an awards presentation will be made to individuals for outstanding service to the disability community. A 12:30 pm lunch at the Georgia Freight Depot with legislators from both sides of the aisle will conclude the event.
Among GCDD’s list of public policy priorities are:
- the Unlock The Waiting Lists! Campaign calling for funding of community based services for nearly 7,000 persons on waiting lists for vital supports and
- proposals that will help people receive the services they need to live and thrive in their communities.
The Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities (GCDD), a federally funded, independent state agency, is a leading catalyst for systems change for individuals and families living with developmental disabilities. Through public policy initiatives, advocacy programs and community building, GCDD promotes and creates opportunities to enable persons with disabilities to live, work, play and worship as integral members of society. A developmental disability is a chronic mental and/or physical disability that occurs before age 22 and is expected to last a lifetime. It may require supports in three or more of the following life activities: self-care, language, learning, mobility, self-direction, independent living and economic self-sufficiency. Visit www.gcdd.org for more information.