The following is a guest post from Barbara Palmer, Executive Director for the Agency for Persons with Disabilities.
Every March, representatives from the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) and other stakeholders head to the Capitol for Developmental Disabilities Awareness Day (DD Day) to advocate for our customers. We encourage our customers to advocate for themselves by meeting with legislators, too. DD Day is important because we get individuals with developmental disabilities, their families, and stakeholders to rally together and talk about legislative issues that affect their lives.
The main goal of DD Day is to raise awareness of issues facing the disability community so we can work together to find solutions. This past session, our efforts were very successful. The Florida Legislature and Governor Rick Scott provided APD with $36 million in funding to enroll waiting list customer to the waiver, $500,000 to help APD customers get to work, and $1.4 million to make improvements to Billy Joe Rish Park – a fully accessible state park for individuals with disabilities.
I am also very grateful for APD’s relationship with Special Olympics Florida. Its Healthy Athletes program has provided critical services, especially to our waiting list customers. It has helped many of our customers get glasses, hearing aids, dental exams, podiatry exams, and more.
I was lucky enough to witness the debut of the Young Athletes Program which introduces children from 2-7 to the world of sports. This activity helps them develop physically, cognitively, and socially. With this and all of the athletic competitions, I encourage them to never, never, never, give up!
I hope everyone in the disability community understands the importance and significance of DD Day. We encourage each and every one of you to join us in Tallahassee on March 18, and make this DD Day the best and most successful yet.