Jobs, pay for those with disabilities to be focus of council
Developmentally disabled workers often stigmatized.
Georgia Sen. Sally Harrell, D-Atlanta, is the primary sponsor of SB 208, which would provide individuals with disabilities fully funded services over five years.
State Sen. Mike Dugan, R-Carrollton, talks with advocates for the developmental disability community during a previous Advocacy Day. This year’s event will be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on March 16.
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By Shelia Poole -Shelia.Poole@ajc.com
ADVOCACY DAY

Employment and equal pay will be the focus of an “Advocacy Day” hosted by the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities, bringing together advocates, lawmakers, families and people with disabilities on March 16.

“Work is a top priority for most people and I would include people with developmental disabilities in that conversation,” said GCDD Executive Director Eric Jacobson.


He said people with developmental disabilities can be productive members of the community, such as paying taxes, but they often encounter stigmas about their ability to perform a job.

Additionally, Jacobson said, there is the question of pay. In some places people with disabilities are paid less than minimum wage when they should be paid a fair wage equal to their co-workers who are doing the same job.

The goal of advocacy days is to let people with disabilities, along with their families and organizations that support them, connect with legislators to raise awareness about the council and services it provides and to advocate for policy changes.

One bill that advocates are watching is Senate Bill 208, which would require the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities to fully fund services over a five-year period to people with intellectual or developmental disabilities who are on the New Options Waiver or Comprehensive Supports Waiver waiting list.

Primary sponsor Sen. Sally Harrell, D-Atlanta, said she plans to refile the bill next year and expand the bill’s scope to address other issues such as housing.

The GCDD, a federally-funded independent state agency, estimates that in 2019 there were 167,755 individuals with a developmental disability living in Georgia.

A developmental disability can be a physical or mental impairment, or both, that happens before the age of 22 and is expected to last that person’s lifetime.

The council’s last Advocacy Day for the 2022 legislative session will be held 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on March 16. The sessions have been virtual due to COVID-19 precautions.

To register, go to gcdd.org.

The previous Advocacy Days have focused on the direct support professional worker shortage, such as home health aides, driven in part by high turnover, low wages and limited training; and reduction in the lengthy waitlist for people are seeking Medicaid waivers, which provide home and community-based services.