I am a husband, father, son, brother, uncle and friend. I believe in sharing my talents and experiences by giving back to the community by giving my time to coaching, church and especially to the disability community. I truly believe that all men and women are created equally.
On Wednesday, the entire family traveled to Madison to participate in Disability Advocacy Day. It was a day to meet with our legislators and share with them our thoughts on the State Budget and how the issues affect those in the disability community. The event was sponsored by the Survival Coalilition (http://www.dawninfo.org/co/sc/survival_coalition.cfm)
I thought that it was a great civics lesson for the two younger kids. They were amazed at some signs that individuals with disabilities had attached to their wheelchairs and walkers. They also liked reading the signs inside the Captiol, on the floor, not attached to any walls, put out by University of Wisconsin professors.
For my oldest son, it was his first experience in sharing his story with the people who will have a direct impact on his life. Since my son is non-verbal, we put together a power point presentation and transfered it to the kids IPad, much easier to carry and for Tyler to use. Tyler's story told of what his family currently provides for him, what he likes and what types of assistance he will need in the future. The presentation ended with Tyler showing that he wants to be able to make his own decisions on how he wants to live his life. No different than anybody else.
Our first stop was a briefing session at the Wisonsin Board for for People with Developmental Disabilities (http://wi-bpdd.org/) We were basically told what we could expect when we reach our legisltors offices. We attended the second briefing session and there had to be close to 75 individuals in the room. I was told the first briefing session was also standing room only. A third briefing was to be held at the Capitol. In all, there were over 250 people registered to meet with their legislators.
After a nice lunch, we headed over to the Capitol to meet with Rep Sinicki and Sen Larson.
Our first visit was with Rep Sinicki, it was the Fech family as well as 2 individuals who work at Goodwill along with a co-worker. Tyler was able to share his story along with one of the individuals from Goodwill. We had a good discussion. We were able to answer questions from Rep Sinicki in regards to disability issues as a whole.
After our meeting with Rep Sinicki, we headed to Sen Larson's office next. A staff person showed us the way. When we arrived at Sen Larson's office, we were a couple of minutes late and a group of about 7 were already talking with the Senator. We recognized a couple from Tyler's People First Group. The group was comprised of older (my age) individuals with disabilites who were very passionate and knowledgeable on the issues of transportation, employment and the potential freeze to Family Care. Sen Larson listened to each individual who had stories to share. There was a good dialogue between Sen Larson and the group.
Listening to the stories in our groups as well as others we would see in the hallways of the Capitol was amazing. I don't think that there is anything more powerful than putting a face with a story.
Next week Tyler and I are scheduled to speak at State Fair at the public input sessions for the State Budget. I will update that experience next week.