DRLD 2021: In This Together!

From St. Louis, rally emcees Monica Williams (right) and Chris Worth (center) led virtual chants, introduced topics and speakers, and encouraged participants to lift their voices in unified advocacy. MSW intern Hannah Satterwhite (left) provided tech support behind the scenes.

This year marked the 20th anniversary of Disability Rights Legislative Day, when typically hundreds of people with disabilities and advocates gather at the capitol for a rally, then disperse to meet with their legislators.  Due to the pandemic, we pulled off this year’s event virtually, via Zoom Webinar.  This year’s theme was “In This Together”, with sub-themes “Support Our Lives  = Support Our Staff; Support Our Lives =  Support Our Inclusion; Support Our Lives = Support Our Work”.  Several BCFR staff, persons served, and People First members attended the event, and several of us also helped plan and coordinate the event.

DRLD opened with streaming slides of artwork by people with disabilities, and photos from previous rallies — meticulously assembled by Life & Work Connections Program Coordinator Sarah Anderson.

The Governor was first to speak, unveiling his proclamation of March as Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month in the State of Missouri.  The State Treasurer shared information about MO-ABLE savings accounts.  Several legislators spoke about bills and efforts addressing the state budget, promotion of competitive employment for people with disabilities, and placing limits on restraint and seclusion in our public schools.  One legislator dedicated his remarks to encouraging/inspiring self-advocacy. Two individuals with disabilities and their support staff spoke about the critical nature of their relationships.

Duane stepped up to speak at the rally about his job at Gerbes in Columbia, with support behind the scenes from Community Skills Specialist Grant Sundberg.

Duane Andrew Haught, who found a job through BCFR’s IPS employment program, shared about his job and its importance to him.

Day before the rally, several of us delivered “I Support Disability Rights” buttons to legislators at the capitol, asking them to wear them on DRLD.  During the rally, webinar host Cathy Brown (from Easterseals Midwest) shared a “Voter Voice” link with rally attendees, enabling hundreds of  instantaneous email messages to legislators. After the

rally,  several of us locally participated in virtual meetings with some of our legislators including Martha Stevens, Chuck Basye and Cheri Toalson-Reisch.

I’m sure I speak for all involved in this year’s event when I express hope beyond hope that next year’s  event is in person!

 

For more info on DRLD 2021, visit the MODDC’s website, click here.