March 9th, 2016
Yesterday I had the joy of traveling with Riverside Developmental Disabilities to Columbus for Developmental Disabilities Awareness and Advocacy Day. What a day it was! I went for a variety of reasons the biggest being that one of our community members, Mr. Jason McCabe, was the Keynote speaker for the event at the Statehouse!
Many of you probably saw the newspaper article about Jason and you know that many in our community came together to support him…Barclay’s in Downtown Piqua dressed him beautifully for the event, Barber Bruce Whidden gave him a haircut, and the folks at Miami Valley Centre Mall put a wonderful pair of shoes on his feet. I can attest that Jason looked great and boy, did he represent our community well! I was SO very proud to be there to watch Jason shine! Below is a picture of Jason, Melissa Nichols (Riverside PR Director), and myself at the Statehouse.
The day began when we all boarded the Riverside bus to head to Columbus. Jason went down the night before to make sure he was well rested and ready for the event. I was able to ride along with his friends who, like me, were so very excited and proud to watch him that day.
We arrived and were greeted by Jason on the steps of the Statehouse.
Once inside we registered and joined all the other folks in the from around Ohio to hear the speakers of the day. The days theme was “What’s Your Story?” The truth is that we all have stories, but the day was all about letting the legislators know what those who were gathered there that day wanted to share about each of their unique and special stories.
The first person to share was a beautiful woman who spoke about her struggles to gain employment because of her disability. She shared passionately, even interjecting humor in the midst of her struggle to be taken seriously, about the desire to have and earn her own way. Thanks be to God she is now employed but continues to speak out and share her story to help others who also struggle for their rights for employment.
We also heard from a young man about the struggles he has with transportation because of the costs it takes to equip a van for him to be able to drive. Yes, just getting into a car whenever we want to and heading out is something that many in our community can not do as easily as we more able body folks can. Our public transportation is many times full and you have to reserve it sometimes days and weeks ahead in order to ensure you can use it. We must find ways to add more opportunities for public transit for everyone who needs it. I heard a story about a person who finally has a great job but because of the uncertainty of public transportation could lose the job because they have been late to work.
Jason was the final and keynote speaker of the day and as I said before he did a great job!
Jason shared with the folks gathered there many things about his struggles and his life. He finished his talk with these important words, “If anyone makes fun of you because of your disability…just ignore them!” Yes, Jason simple words are so very true and a great reminder to us all…because it is true that we must show honor folks with ALL abilities!
After this we met with representatives from Senator Beagle’s and Representative Huffman’s office. During this time those who came could share their concerns and voice issues they feel need to be changed. Raising wages for those that care for the disabled was a huge one because many times good and gifted folks leave this kind of employment for better pay. “This must change!” a mom stated who was there with her son. Also a young woman read a letter she had that shared her struggles with a job she loves but might lose unless things change. Voices and struggles were shared and heard. I am thankful for the brave souls who shared their struggles and stories that day.
As I reflect back on this day I remember the place we were standing as we registered for the event. We were surrounded by quotes and the word EQUALITY kept catching my eye.
And the truth is that those with Disabilities still struggle for EQUALITY even in the year 2016! We must do better honoring EQUALITY of ALL as a country, we must do better honoring EQUALITY of ALL as a State, and we MUST do better honoring EQUALITY of ALL here in Miami County! We MUST remember friends, that we are in this life together and may we NEVER forget that!