Press Releases


Governor Deal Proclaims March Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month
3,000 Advocates End 18-year Tradition at Final Disability Day Rally as GOTV Push Begins

ATLANTA (February 29, 2016) – The Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities (GCDD) celebrated 18 years of disability advocacy with the final Annual Disability Day at the Capitol, February 18. It was a clear beautiful winter day as 3,000 people with disabilities and their allies came to draw upon the attention of their State legislators while giving voice to the issues and concerns of Georgia’s disability community during the rally at Liberty Plaza. Alluding to the day’s theme, The Disability Vote - Feel the Power in her opening remarks, GCDD Chair, Mitzi Proffitt said, “Remember that the great disability right advocate Justin Dart said, ‘Vote as is your life depends on it because it does.’”

Governor Nathan Deal presented a proclamation to GCDD declaring March Developmental Disability Awareness Month in Georgia, “This is our goal: We want people who can live in real communities with real homes with real careers and with real learning opportunities. I am now privileged to present to you a proclamation recognizing this special occasion,” he said. “It is a proclamation for Developmental Disabilities Awareness. Your theme this year - I am told - is disability vote, feel the power. That is an appropriate theme to have in this election year cycle. I would encourage all of you to register to vote and then to use that power to vote in primaries and at the general election.”

Ted Jackson, a GOTV elections strategist and the Community Organizing Director for the California Foundation for Independent Living Centers delivered the Disability Day keynote. “There is an excitement in the air for people with disabilities. This is our election year. According to Rutgers University School of Labor and Management - their study on voters with disabilities - we were the second largest minority voting bloc in the 2012 presidential election,” Jackson said. “African-American voters were 17.8 million, voters with disabilities 15.6 million, and 11.2 million were Latinos. Which of those groups do we see discussed as a voting block on the news? We don’t hear ‘disability’ do we?” Jackson asked rhetorically. “But in recent years we have been closing in on the voter turnout gap between voters with disabilities and voters without disabilities from 11% in 2008 to only 6% in 2012. However if you apply our 2012 turnout to the number of eligible voters from our community only 40% of us voted,” he said.

“What would an extra three million voters look like? Well, we would increase our turnout to 18.6 million voters with disabilities, making our community the largest minority voting bloc in America,” Jackson said. “And at that point the media and our elected officials could no longer deny the size of our electoral power.”

GCDD Executive Director Eric Jacobson, who leads the effort to fulfill the GCDD legislative agenda, called on each and every person to pledge to vote this election cycle and reflected on the legacy of annual GCDD Disability Day at the Capitol, “This is going to be our last Disability Day. It’s the 18th but it will be the last. I’m going to let that sink in for a second.” After a brief pause, Jacobson recalls, “We had only 25 people in a room behind the Secretary of State’s office at the first Disability Day 18 years ago.”
Jacobson described GCDD’s future approach for legislative outreach, a concept called GCDD Advocacy Days, “We want to see 50, 75, 100 people come, be able to get into the Capitol, and be able to talk with your legislator one-on-one and ask them to support things like the ABLE Act, ask them to support more money for home and community based services, ask them to make sure that we have transportation that is accessible to everyone, ask them on a one-on-one basis to make sure that their doing their job and getting people the things that they need,” he said. “So we think this [Advocacy Days] is a much better way of getting connected with people and we’ll still be here to cheer and to shout and to have a good time but let’s really make this about connecting with the folks that we come up here to see.”

Senator John Albers (R-Roswell, District 56) and Senator Greg Kirk (R-Americus, District 13) who have been leading the charge for the ABLE Act bill which will allow savings to pay for critical and costly disability expenses, took time to address the crowd. Disability Day attendees also welcomed Rep Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta, District 43) and Sen. Butch Miller (R-Gainesville, District 49).

GCDD Legislative Priorities
- ICWP, allows young and middle-aged adults with significant physical disabilities or brain injuries to live in the community instead of nursing facilities. The 1,300 Georgians who use ICWP are between 21 and 64 years old.
 - House Bill 768, the ABLE Act, will allow those with disabilities to save money and work without jeopardizing benefits and be able to vote with their economic self-sufficiency.” ABLE (Achieving a Better Life Experience) Accounts are savings accounts for people with disabilities to help them live independently.
 - Employment First means employment should be the first and preferred option for all Georgians, regardless of their disability. Under an Employment First Policy, employment in the general workforce at or above minimum wage is the first and preferred option for all working age citizens with disabilities. Chairwoman Katie Dempsey, led the House Study Committee on Postsecondary Education and Employment Options for Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities to study this issue.
 - Inclusive Post-Secondary Education Programs for students with developmental disabilities are now at Kennesaw State University, Georgia State University, East Georgia State College, Georgia Tech, and Columbus State University and during this legislative session GCDD is seeking increased funding for additional sites.

For a full transcript of Governor Nathan Deal, Keynote Speaker Ted Jackson, and GCDD Executive Director Eric Jacobson’s Disability Day speeches please visit

Disability Day at the Capitol is made possible by a host of partnering organizations and volunteers from the disability community. For a list of sponsors, visit

About GCDD: GCDD, a federally funded independent state agency, works to bring about social and policy changes that promote opportunities for persons with developmental disabilities and their families to live, learn, work, play and worship in Georgia communities. A developmental disability is a chronic mental and/or physical disability that occurs before age 22 and is expected to last a lifetime. Visit for more information.

Valerie Meadows Suber, Public Information Director
Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities
404-657-2122 (office) 404-801-7873 (mobile)
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