“Empower People with Disabilities: It’s Only Right(s)” is the theme of Disability Awareness Day this year. On Feb. 19, about 300 members of the Vermont Coalition for Disability Rights are expected to gather at the State House to spread this message to lawmakers.
The two dozen member organizations and allies of VCDR hold Disability Awareness Day every winter, bringing together disability advocates, family providers and policy-makers from across the state.
“Disability is not a legitimate basis for discrimination; it truly is a ‘natural part of the human experience.’ This has been enshrined in law, but we need to work to make it real, so that all of us enjoy the right to access all the opportunities our community offers,” said VCDR President Ed Paquin.
A highlight of this year’s event will be a keynote address at 5:15pm by Chester A. Finn, special assistant in the New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities. He was first appointed to the National Council on Disability by President Obama in 2010. In 2008, Finn, who is blind and has a developmental disability, co-founded the Community Empowerment Programs, Inc., which provides community services and educational programming for people with disabilities.
Finn has been in the news recently for advocating that President Obama include people with disabilities in his executive order to raise the minimum wage on new federal contracts. People with disabilities were originally not going to be included in the executive order, but thanks to the efforts of Finn and others, Obama changed course. According to a Feb. 12 memo from the White House, “Under this Executive Order, all individuals working under service or concessions contracts with the federal government will be covered by the same $10.10 per hour minimum wage protections.”
The keynote address will be followed by a panel discussion on empowering people with disabilities. Panelists will include Tom Van Meter, Missy Boothroyd, George Nostrand and Nicole LeBlanc.
Other highlights of Disability Awareness Day will include workshops throughout the day on various topics and a press conference about employment at 11am in the Cedar Creek Room, featuring Finn and Dr. Bryan Dague of the University of Vermont-Center on Disability and Community Inclusion. Dague provides training and technical assistance to supported employment programs and high school transition programs throughout the state of Vermont.
The Vermont Coalition for Disability Rights is a cross-disability advocacy organization. VCDR member organizations, staff members and volunteers engage individuals with disabilities and family members in Vermont’s legislative and policy activities, enabling them to have a voice in the administrative and legislative decisions that affect their daily lives and civil rights.
VCDR gratefully acknowledges the support of the Vermont Developmental Disabilities Council, the Vermont Statewide Independent Living Council and the Center on Disability & Community Inclusion, UVM. Their financial support has made the events of the day possible. For more information about Disability Awareness Day or to register, contact Stefanie Monte at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-224-1820.