By Michelle A. Brown

 

Another successful Legislative Day was held on March 4, 2021. It was quite different from last year, as we could not visit our legislators in person, however the first virtual experience was both productive and extremely positive. Representatives from Wildwood met with a combination of legislators and legislative aids; several of them spoke about family members with disabilities. It was clear that these officials had an understanding of both the challenges people with disabilities experience, and the importance of restoring funds to the disability community and its essential workforce. 

Currently, about 1 in 54 children are diagnosed with autism. This is a sharp increase since 2000, when the prevalence was 1 in 150 children. As the number of autism and other developmental disabilities diagnoses continue to rise, advocacy for increased services and funding is a necessity. It is imperative that legislators are made aware of these statistics in order for them to connect service needs to accurate and appropriate funding. 

Our advocacy is essential in building relationships between legislators and disability services, and self-advocates are vital in this area. Through impactful storytelling, our voices can be heard and make a crucial difference, bridging the gap between advocacy and action. Describing the negative impact that underfunding and cuts have on our ability to deliver quality services cannot be understated. This, in turn, directly impacts the quality of life for people with disabilities. As citizens, people with disabilities have the right to live satisfying, fulfilled lives. Their stories chronicle their capability to either live the life they choose or not, depending upon funding (and therefore, available services and supports).

We are thankful to have been heard and supported by our legislators. While proposed cuts have been restored to the state budget, this is not the end. Advocacy is an on-going venture. We’d like to progress to the point where we’re not only expressing gratitude for restoring proposed cuts, but thanking legislators for ensuring additional funds are allocated to the disability field each year.

Your voice matters. To become more involved, please contact govadvocacy@wildwoodprograms.org to find out how you can join Wildwood in advocacy efforts. You can also visit https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials to learn how to contact local officials at all levels of the government.