More than 200 disability advocates from around Missouri rallied together at the State Capitol in Jefferson City on Wednesday, March, 9, for Disability Rights Legislative Day. The day, themed Power in Unity, featured speakers focused on issues including education, Employment First, residential provider and care, infrastructure and voting accessibility.
Elected officials Gov. Mike Parson, treasurer Scott Fitzpatrick, attorney general Eric Schmitt, representative Crystal Quade, representative Dirk Deaton, representative Betsy Fogle, representative Bridget Walsh Moore, and representative Travis Smith, among other local officials and advocates, spoke at the rally. During the ceremony, Gov. Mike Parson presented a proclamation declaring March 2022 as Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month in Missouri.
"We picked this as our theme because it is true for a number of reasons. Not only is there power in us, there is power in our numbers, and power in our presence together. But, there is also power in our “We have brought together self-advocates and strong advocates from across the state to come and make our voices heard! Because there is power in unity,” said rally speaker and self-advocate Michkeal Cross. “We picked this as our theme because it is true for a number of reasons. Not only is there power in us, there is power in our numbers, and power in our presence together. But, there is also power in our unity with policymakers; power in these relationships to advocate for systems change.”
Disability rights self-advocates are encouraged to share their story with policymakers now and in the months to come, including taking the opportunity to educate and advocate in their hometowns and local organizations.
“CDS [Consumer Directed Services] is on the chopping block and needs adequate funding in order to stay viable. If we don’t make our voices be heard about how it is literally a matter of life or death sometimes, this program will go away,” said self-advocate Patty Goss. “I don’t know where I would be without my helpers.”
Accessible voting is an issue that was focused on throughout the day. Advocates are encouraged to register to vote and to check their voter registration so they can participate in the April 5 Municipal Elections.
As part of the day, a large number of advocates spoke with Senator Lauren Arthur about their concerns regarding guardianship laws. Senator Arthur’s bill, SB748, would create a civil process for concerned parties if they feel that a guardianship has become unsafe or abusive to the ward.
Funding for Disability Rights Legislative Day was provided by the Missouri Developmental Disabilities Council; however the day was planned by a committee of organizations including The Arc of the Ozarks, Boone County Family Resources (BCFR), Governor’s Council on Disability, St. Louis Self-Advocates, Missouri Disability Empowerment (MoDE), Empower Abilities and People First of Missouri.