On Wednesday March 13, hundreds of people with disabilities, their families, and advocates gathered at the capitol in Jefferson City for the 18th annual Disability Rights Legislative Day (DRLD). Several carloads from Columbia/Boone County made the day trip, assembling true to their civil rights.
The theme for the day – which kicked off with a rally in the rotunda — was “Show Me Work”. Christopher Worth, a community organizer from Paraquad in St. Louis, emceed the rally. Emma Vincent, Chief of Staff to First Lady Parson, read a proclamation by Governor Parson recognizing March 2019 as “Developmental Disability Awareness Month” in Missouri.
Several speakers, including self-advocates, parents, legislators, the State Treasurer, and other professionals including the Director of the Department of Mental Health, addressed topics such as expanding competitive employment opportunities for people with disabilities, strengthening laws regulating/restricting the practice of restraint and seclusion in schools, the value of ABLE Accounts, and the meaning of Medicaid Managed Care.
The rally built a sense of solidarity among participants, who were united in the conviction that people with disabilities have a right to legitimacy and inclusion in community life and competitive work.
After the rally, the crowd dispersed for visits with their legislators. The group from Columbia/Boone County caught up with Representatives Kip Kendrick and Martha Stevens, and with Senator Caleb Rowden. An integral component of the DRLD experience is legislator visits, which bring constituents face to face with decision makers representing the public interest. The visits also bring legislators face to face with constituents whose lives are impacted by public policy.
The visits also typically are an opportunity to advocate for specific bills or budget items – for example, recently filed legislation addressing restraint and seclusion in the schools, and legislation moving through the process that establishes funding for the types of supports and services some people with disabilities need in order to lead lives of inclusion and productivity.