With the state projecting a $1.2 billion state budget deficit, we as disability advocates need to be in front of legislators continually this session, making our case to protect disability supports and to maintain the independence of people with disabilities. Several groups did just that on Feb. 11 for Disability Day at the Capitol.
Four hundred self-advocates, family members, advocacy staff and direct care staff gathered at the state capitol that day to make their case. Advocating Change Together, Arc Greater Twin Cities Brain Injury Association of Minnesota, People First of Minnesota, Self Advocates Minnesota and The Arc of Minnesota organized and sponsored the event. Wherever legislators were that day, there we were. When state
senators, state representatives, and Gov. Tim Pawlenty gathered for the State of the State address, hundreds of us were there to greet them with signs saying “Independence Saves Money,” “People With Disabilities Belong in the Community,” and “Cuts to Human Services = A Tax on Vulnerable Citizens.” When legislators and Pawlenty came down the stairs from the House chambers after the speech, we were there, making our messages and presence known. When several legislators stopped by the capitol rotunda to speak about disability issues, approximately 225 people were there to listen. Throughout the day, attendees visited representatives and senators in their offices; we tracked at least 60 legislative offices that received visits from their constituents.
Other groups will hold their Days at the Capitol in the coming weeks. Go to www.mnccd.org, where you’ll find a calendar of disability community advocacy events during this session.
Another way to get your views heard is to get involved in Tuesdays at the Capitol. Disability groups will take turns sponsoring a Tuesday during the legislative session. Staff from these groups update you on the issues, give you ideas on how to share your story with your legislators and provide time to meet with those officials. Go to www.mnccd.org for information on Tuesdays at the Capitol. You can contact also Anni Simons at 651-523-0823, ext. 112 or email@example.com
Mike Gude is communications manager at The Arc of Minnesota