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A Day at the Statehouse: DD Awareness & Advocacy Day

Every March, we celebrate National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. For the past couple of years, I have been honored to attend DD Awareness & Advocacy Day at the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus. It’s a day of festivities and celebrations, hosted by the Ohio Association of County Boards and the Ohio Developmental Disabilities Council. It’s also a day to meet with our legislators to discuss issues pertinent to Ohioans living with disabilities.

One really fun part of this year’s trip was that a couple months prior to the event, members of

Project STIR let me know they were interested in attending. Project STIR of Allen County is a group of people with disabilities who encourage each other to speak up and teach others how to advocate for themselves. Members of Project STIR want to educate others about rights, responsibilities, and communication skills so that each person, regardless of their ability, can be successful in guiding the direction of their own life. It was really wonderful to have this group of people who want to advocate for issues important to them by speaking with their legislators. Abby and Michelle, two members of Project STIR, attended DD Awareness & Advocacy day, along with Sue, Project STIR coordinator, and me. Abby and Michelle were both up bright and early that morning, ready for our trip to Columbus!

The day’s events started in the Atrium at the historic Ohio Statehouse with a short program highlighting people across Ohio who are connected to their communities. Feeling like you are a meaningful member of your community, whether in regards to where you live, work, learn or play, is very different than just living in your community. Shari Cooper, a self-advocate and a member of the Goodwill Easter Seals PR staff, was the emcee again this year. Accomplished artist Wallace Peck, from Open Door Art Studio andGallery, shared some of his work and experiences. Logan Detwiler, a self-advocate, stressed that disabilities are just a part of us, not all of us. Everyone has a gift to share regardless of their abilities. Christine Brown, a clinical research assistant from the Ohio State University Niswonger Center, shared her work in advocating for people with disabilities in areas like financial stability and independence.

Although the program was inspiring, perhaps the best part of our day was meeting with our legislators. Senator Matt Huffman came to visit us in the Atrium and spent quite a bit of time getting to know Abby and Michelle. He wanted to know about Abby’s work at Lima Memorial Hospital and Michelle’s favorite thing about working at Fat Jack’s Pizza. Sen. Huffman listened while Abby and Michelle advocated for increased public transportation, something they know is a need in our community for many people. Despite Rep. Bob Cupp being called into a meeting, we were able to meet with Will Hinman, Legislative Aide to Rep. Cupp. Will was very diligent in asking questions about transportation needs and how both Abby and Michelle get to work. Abby is lucky enough to live with family who can give her a ride. Michelle uses the RTA to get to work, but has to find a different ride for her trip home since the RTA does not run after 6:00 pm.

Abby and Michelle invited the legislators to attend a Project STIR meeting when they are back in Lima. Both ladies felt like they were able to share information with their legislators that was meaningful to them and reflected their CommUNITY. Both ladies hope to see their legislators stop by for a Project STIR meeting to further discuss issues that affect people with disabilities in Allen County.

If you’re interested in learning more about Project STIR, they meet on the third Wednesday of each month at 6:00 pm in the Char Room at Westgate Lanes. You can find them enjoying some pizza while they talk about ways to support their community and each other.


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