2023 Disability Services Day at the Capitol

Next Tuesday, March 19, is Disability Services Day at the Capitol. Which means that thousands of people will gather in the rotunda to rally for Disability Services and to tell legislators that people and families living with Disabilities deserve proper legislation and representation, and the staff who care for them, often 27/7/365, deserve a living wage.

We are a loud and large group—and we hope you will lend your voice to the cause. Please join us in person, or by emailing your representative. You can find your legislators contact info here.

We are going to the Capitol to let representatives know that our services have an integral impact on the quality of life for thousands of people within our state who are living with disabilities. We are going to tell them that their lives are worthy of investment, that funds should not and cannot be cut to avoid a deficit next year, and that the work disability services staff provide fills a critical need for more than those we support.

Which leads us to this exciting news, two student groups will be joining us at the Capitol next Tuesday. This means generations of supporters will be showing legislators that what we are asking for is important. And while some of the students are not yet voting age, statistics show this generation will be showing up at the polls, so we are grateful for their interest in helping us spread the word.

Inver Hills Community College Thursday Social Club Students

The first group are students from Inver Hills Community College’s Intercultural Communication class who have been working with Living Well people supported and staff through the Thursday Social Club partnership. For the past several weeks they have been getting to know more about the Living Well mission, and more importantly getting to work side by side with people who live in our homes or receive services.

Their Professor, Dr Amy Zsohar, is a dedicated advocate who is no rookie at the Capitol and has advocated for many causes over the years. She says, “I want as many students as possible to realize it is their job as a civic member of society to engage with lawmakers. If you live in a body that laws are being made about, you need to realize you have a say in this process.” Dr Zsohar has enjoyed watching the bonds that have formed between Living Well attendees and students and thinks this is the perfect opportunity to really leverage their communication skills for others. She says, “It is a no brainer, they need to realize that if we want to see a better tomorrow, we need to show up for everyone today. That is what I really want them to see. They can see how easy it is to advocate for themselves after they advocate for others. That is where the lightbulbs go off.”

Marsha with Mason

Mason Johnson, a student of the class was asked what it means to have opportunities to advocate for yourself and others with elected officials. Mason’s reply, “It makes you feel seen but not necessarily heard, this opportunity will allow a platform to share our insight and want for change, but it’s up to the elected officials to decide to listen. We can do our best through being present and speaking out.” Mason is looking forward to Disability Services Day at the Capitol because it is a place where people of all backgrounds can come and support one idea that they all share.

Minnehaha Academy Students

The second student group is from Minnehaha Academy. Students are part of their Core Formation Experience program, where volunteering is a key component of participation. They will be working with Living Well several days next week, including attending Disability Services Day at the Capitol. Here are some brief student reflections on why they think this work is important. Addy says, “To truly understand something, you must be immersed in it. Simply knowing facts isn’t enough. If you want to be a good advocate you must interact with those you are advocating for.” Adding, “Everyone deserves to have the same opportunities in life. It’s our job to make sure they get that chance.” Devon says, “Without advocacy, there would be isolation and misperception in regard to other human beings.” Joy says, “Advocacy is a life skill. You’ll always run into problems and need to solve them. If we cannot address issues, we cannot solve them.” Eli says, “It’s important to advocate because we can learn to see things through a new lens, and to help people who don’t know how to help themselves.” And TaShya tells us, “It is important to learn to be an advocate to help those who can’t or don’t know how to advocate for themselves.”

As you can see, the students get it. We are excited to have teen advocates at the capitol side by side with several who have six or seven decades of life experience. When many voices speak up in tandem, the messages resonate. We are looking forward to sharing our stories with elected officials. And we are ever committed to raising awareness surrounding disability services and the importance of the work we do to provide exceptional services for people living with disabilities.

Please contact Cheri.Edwal@livingwell.org, to get registered to join Living Well at the Capitol.

Not sure what you would say or do, please read the ARRM advocate materials here, this offers event tips and tricks including schedule and parking.

And find your legislators contact info here, you can join in person and send an email, or simply send an email or make a call. The session goes through May, so there is time to call even after next Tuesday.