Spring 2013 Making a Difference Magazine Published
GCDD Opens Dialogue About Married Life for People with Disabilities, Looks at the 2013 General Assembly and Covers Biggest Ever Annual Disability Day at the Capitol in the Spring 2013 Making a Difference
ATLANTA, GA, May 1, 2013 – The spring edition of Making a Difference magazine, the quarterly news magazine just published by the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities (GCDD), breaks the silence on people with disabilities exploring romantic and sexual relationships, provides an overview on the actions taken during the 2013 legislative session and offers highlights from GCDD's 15th Annual Disability Day on the Capitol steps.
First Comes Love, Then Comes Marriage
People with disabilities have been falling in love, enjoying relationships and getting married throughout time, but far too often these matters have been viewed as taboo or off-limits. Now, a much needed dialogue is emerging as fresh, new perspectives replace old attitudes.
"There is a trend that is slowly growing where people are more open to talking about these issues. The problem with sexuality generally and culturally is that we have a lot of silence around it, even more so around disabilities and relationships, but these conversations need to be had," says Bethany Stevens, a faculty member at Georgia State University Center for Leadership and Disabilities, a public health sexologist and a non-practicing attorney.
Stevens notes there is an overall shift taking place that promotes inclusion for people with disabilities in all aspects of life making it easier for them to explore romantic and sexual relationships. Nevertheless, love and relationships are not easy. People with disabilities face the same problems as those without disabilities in relationships, perhaps even more challenges, but the desire to find someone to share your life with is natural.
This article includes practical tips for people with disabilities who plan to get married, plus follows the journey, love, challenges and much more, as told by three couples – Lori Berger and David Bryan, married for 10 years; Jamie and Michael Teal, married for 17 years and featured in the cover photo of this issue; and Carmine Vara and Amanda Lineberry, a newly engaged couple.
A Recap on the 2013 Legislative Session
The cries of "Sine die" echoed under the Gold Dome, signifying the end to the 2013 General Assembly, considered a quick session compared to previous years. GCDD introduced its new Public Policy Director D'Arcy Robb in this session, and she advocated for several legislative and public policy issues that GCDD would address, support with other groups or watch.
Although both Fiscal Year 2013 amended budget and Fiscal Year 2014 budget were approved only a relatively small number of bills passed this year. Since it was the first year of a two-year session, bills that did not make it this year will still be alive for consideration in 2014.
Nevertheless, GCDD saw some progress with an additional $100,000 added to the budget to expand inclusive post-secondary education programs, which provide a college experience for students with intellectual disabilities with the goal of preparing them for employment. Additionally, the Unlock the Waiting Lists! campaign garnered some success and was able to get 20 additional slots in the Independent Waiver Care program and 20 people off the waiting list for services.
There were some issues on GCDD's agenda that were not moved forward, but momentum was gained for next year and this article outlines a full progress report on the session and what is to come for the following year.
The Annual Disability Day Rally Promotes Community Connections and Reaches its 15th Milestone
With 2,500 attendees, GCDD's 15th Annual Disability Day rally on February 21, 2013 on the Capitol steps united a record number of supporters in their mission to have their voices heard in celebration of community, advocacy, friendship and achievement. Since GCDD's rally hit a milestone this year, it only seemed fitting to share its theme with the US Department of Labor's Office of Employment Policy's (ODEP) national campaign, "What's Your Connection?" celebrating the 10th anniversary of Disability.gov. The campaign emphasizes disability as a universal link that each of us have in common and encourages inclusion in all aspects of life.
"It shows that we are truly connected from all over the State when we come to Disability Day at the Capitol," said GCDD Executive Director Eric Jacobson. "We can all point to this and say today is about us; it is about our community."
For the third year, Governor Deal addressed the crowd, reaffirmed his support to Georgia's disability community and delivered a message of hope and commitment to work on issues including job opportunities and post-secondary education. The Governor was not the only elected official to show his support and several senators and representatives came to speak at the rally or visit with attendees including Sen. John Albers (R-Dist 56) who was accompanied by his young son Ryan, Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Dist 39), Sen. Nan Orrock (D-Dist 36), Rep. Tommy Benton (R-Dist 31), Rep. Scott Holcomb (D-Dist 81) and Rep. Alisha Thomas Morgan (D-Dist 39).
Over the past year, new leadership has emerged in the disability community. Frank Barry, commissioner of the Department of Behavioral Health and Disabilities, and Greg Schmieg, executive director of the newly formed Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency, energized the crowd with their dedication to move forward on vital issues for people with disabilities and lead the way for positive change.
The spring 2013 edition of Making a Difference also offers an overview on two subjects – the highly publicized case on Warren Hill, a man with an undisputed intellectual disability and his call for an unconstitutional execution in Georgia; and post-secondary education opportunities for students with disabilities with a focus on implementing more programs similar to the Kennesaw State University Academy for Inclusive Learning and Social Growth.
Mark your calendar for GCDD's next quarterly meeting to be held in Atlanta, GA on July 18-19, 2013. All meetings are open to the public.
Making a Difference is available online in accessible PDF and large print format, as well as on audio by request.
Making a Difference is published by the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities (GCDD). Current and past issues can be accessed online at gcdd.org and hard copies can be requested by contacting the GCDD Office of Public Information. The mission of the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities (GCDD) is to bring about social and policy changes that promote opportunities for persons with developmental disabilities and their families to live, learn, work, play and worship in Georgia communities.