The 2016 Ohio Developmental Disabilities Awareness and Advocacy Day was held on March 8. Thank you to Clarissa Follrod and Chad Richards for attending this informative event and sharing their story with the legislative assistants for Senator Bob Peterson and State Representative Gary Scherer.
Director John Martin opened the day at the State House sharing, “A Story’s power to Shape Policy,” along with five advocates sharing their own personal stories. Following the opening ceremony, Clarissa and Chad had appointments at the offices of Senator Bob Peterson and State Representative Gary Scherer.
As Senator Peterson was not available, Clarissa spoke to his legislative assistant, Luck Houghton. Clarissa presented an informative topic on the concerns of people with disabilities to be treated fairly. Clarissa stated that she is a person like everyone else, but has needs that are different. Her needs should never be a reason for someone to treat her like less of a person. She deserves the same respect as everyone else. The respect to be treated fairly whether at work, school or in the community. “The law says people with disabilities have a right to be treated with respect, the right to privacy and the right to be treated equally as citizens. One right in the law is the right to take part in decisions that affect me. I like making my own choices just like you do,” stated Clarissa.
Throughout this nation’s history, people with disabilities have made great strides toward equality and inclusion. The sad truth is that people with disabilities have not always been treated with respect, dignity, or courtesy. George Santayana is credited with saying, “Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.” This is exactly why people with developmental disabilities are protective of the rights they have earned and advocate to be treated fairly and with respect.
Chad followed Clarissa, presenting on House Bill 158, which would change the words “mentally retarded person” to “a person with intellectual disabilities.” Chad stated, “This bill will get rid of the R word in the law. House Bill 158 also puts the person first. This little change means the law will put people before their disability.”
In 2009, the state of Ohio began the process of removing the terms “Mental Retardation” from the title of the state and county agencies charged with serving individuals and professionals in the field of services and supports of people with developmental disabilities. However, this change did not remove the use of the words in other areas of the Ohio Revised Code.
These changes reflected a growing recognition that the terms were often used in a negative or bullying connotation in regular society. Use of the “R” word is used by many without any thought as to how hurtful and demeaning it is. It emphasizes a negative stereotype surrounding people with developmental disabilities; the idea that people with disabilities are less than a person, something no one wants to be. Words can and do hurt.
At the conclusion of the meeting with L.A. Luke Houghton, Clarissa and Chad left fact sheets for Senator Peterson.
The next appointment was with State Representative Gary Scherer, House District 92. As Representative Scherer was also unavailable, the two presented their topics to L.A. Amanda McCoy. As DD Awareness Month has the slogan, “What’s Your Story?,” Clarissa and Chad ended by telling their story which consisted of a timeline marking important events in their life, and their future goals in the next five-10 years.
As the day concluded, Clarissa and Chad were given the opportunity to tour the Senate Chamber as the Senate was not in session. They were able to step onto the Chamber floor, get a close-up of the senator’s desk where the bills are signed, view the chair where former President Abraham Lincoln sat during his visit on Feb. 13, 1861, as well as visit the Statehouse Museum Shop.
Thank you to Clarissa and Chad for representing Fayette County at the 2016 Ohio Developmental Disabilities Awareness & Advocacy Day, for the hard work given to preparing and presenting these important topics, for advocating on behalf of the other people living in Fayette County who have a disability, and for sharing your stories. As William Faulkner stated, “Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world…would do this, it would change the earth.”
Fayette County’s Self-Advocacy Group, FACT (Fayette Advocating Change Together) meets monthly on the first business day of the month. Thank you to Kroger for letting this group use their conference room which is handicap accessible for their meetings. The next meeting will be held on Friday, April 1 at 6 p.m. at Kroger. In addition to the monthly local meetings, the FACT group is also attending the Regional Advocacy Group meetings held monthly in Chillicothe. Two alternating members of FACT attend, as the meetings are held during work hours.
For more information about FACT (Fayette Advocating Change Together) or the other programs and services provided by the Fayette County Board of DD, please call 740-335-7453, visit www.fayettedd.com, or www.facebook.com/fayettecountydd.
This story was submitted by the Fayette County Board of DD.