It just feels good – to know that people care and to sense the support of so many in Minnesota who agree that providing services to people with disabilities should be a priority.
I have met many parents and guardians of adults with disabilities who ask for more information. When they find out what’s happening, some turn into advocates. They want what’s best for their loved ones, individuals served each day by providers across the state. We are thankful for those who speak up for the people who often go unnoticed, those who sometimes have no voice with regard to their situation.
There has also been an awakening among providers, members of the Minnesota Organization for Habilitation and Rehabilitation or MOHR. That is great to see, and so needed at a time when big changes are being forced upon the service system, more than I’ve seen in my 30 years of experience.
Providers have worked very hard to adapt to changes passed down from lawmakers and regulators. Our members keep doing what they do because they truly are needed by the individuals they serve. The commitment is unwavering from the people with boots on the ground, who look people in the eye, individuals and families, and help them to plot the best course. It’s easy to get caught up in the fight, but we can’t lose sight of who we are fighting for- that it all comes down to the people who need and benefit from disability services.
I’d like to ask disability advocates to take another important step. If you haven’t called, or somehow thanked your legislator for getting behind us – would you? And, would you talk about the importance of individuals with disabilities in your sphere of influence, your family, your neighborhood, your work? We need to connect more with our individual communities to build bridges and strengthen relationships.
When you see good examples of employment for folks with disabilities, would you take a moment to thank the employer? Chances are, you have also run into some direct support professionals who accompany individuals with disabilities in the community. They, too, deserve our appreciation.
We saw more than 1,000 people advocates at this year’s MOHR and ARRM Day at the Capitol who were vocal for our cause. It’s great to meet with legislators, to have that voice. But, what could we accomplish if we set our minds to inform two, three or even more new people about the current situation?
Our network is growing. For parents and guardians, I would recommend the Minnesota Families and Advocates Coalition at mnfac.org, and on Facebook. Join them to stay up to date with the latest information.
It may be slow, but changes are happening. Thank you again for standing with us.
-Mike Burke is president of Minnesota Organization for Habilitation and Rehabilitation.