On March 1, 2023 hundreds of advocates and self-advocates arrived at the Capitol in Jefferson City to make their voices heard at Disability Rights Legislative Day (DRLD). This year’s event theme, “We the People,” was borrowed from the opening words to the US Constitution. Participants enthusiastically filled the capitol rotunda and overflowed into 2nd and 3rd floor spaces to hear the opening remarks at the rally. First Lady Teresa Parson spoke on funding initiatives dedicated to people with disabilities. She ensured that Gov. Parson is committed to finding guaranteed access to mental health, health care, residential services, in-home support as well as more workforce options for individuals with disabilities. Chanting and cheers from the audience exploded when the First Lady presented the proclamation stating Governor Parson proclaimed March 2023 as Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month in Missouri. Other speakers addressed the importance of similar issues such as competitive integrated employment, medical benefits, the caregiver crisis and affordable, accessible transportation.
Nearly 20 Life and Work Connections staff, People First of Boone County members, and individuals served by BCFR came together to attend the event and meet with legislators to ask questions and share concerns first-hand. Community Skills Specialist Caelum Johnson manages the BCFR Work Crew and drove three Crew members down to participate in the event. Work Crew staff Landon and Austin enjoyed the day and the time spent together with other Crew members outside their typical day-to-day work duties. Crew member David “knows the Capitol inside and out” and enjoyed leading others on a guided tour while they waited on the event to start. David said, “It was fun being in the rally, where things were going on. We were able to eat our lunch outside and be in group photos.” This was Community Skills Specialist Matt West’s first time attending DRLD. Matt said, “I enjoyed seeing individuals advocating for themselves as well as the outpouring of support from the community. I was very glad to see how many senators and representatives were available to speak with attendees. As long as I am able, I plan to participate every year.”