Disability rally on LC Civic Center steps

By Theresa Schmidt - bio | email

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - They shouted cheers of, "Hey, hey, ho, ho! Community first is the way to go." But these people with disabilities and their advocates gathered at the Lake Charles Civic Center not to fight cuts-- because right now no state budget cuts are proposed.

But one thing they hope to accomplish with this rally is to make people aware how critical services are to those who depend on them. Donna Spears' aging mother can no longer care for her.  She says the services allow her to survive. "My mom is very ill and cannot take care of me anymore. Terry sonnier says without his personal care attendant his quality of life would be poor. He's my hands and feet because without him there are a lot of things I couldn't do. Ii don't drive. I write children's books. I teach kids about disabilities, so I go to a lot of different schools and I speak at a lot of different programs. And without his assistance I couldn't do that."

Christy Cormier told the crowd.  "Please let's stand up and cheer for community based services and that we're here."

Christy Cormier speaks out for her eight year old daughter Carly who just succeeded in getting services. "People with developmental disabilities have so much to give. They have strengths, they have gifts, they have things to pass to other people. Carly is a bright little girl who has a great big smile."

Close to ten thousand people remain on waiting lists which means many are in nursing homes. Twenty six year old Kevin Welch was severely injured in a skiing accident. "His mother Carol refused to see him in an institution. What made him different from his twin brother who, nobody would have dared suggested I give up and him not live at my house."

So, while the budget ax has so far not swung their way, they hope more public awareness will serve as a hedge against future cuts.

The rally for those with disabilities, their families, provider agencies and advocates was one of ten regional rallies being held across the state during this same week.

Organizers said it was to "promote Louisiana moving to a culture of supporting and accepting individuals with disabilities as full contributing and inclusive members of their communities. Each spring people with disabilities, family members, policy makers, business leaders, and providers gather to celebrate our accomplishments, friendships, advocacy and community."

They say continued budget cuts have strained the system supporting people with developmental disabilities. Rally participants will be expressing their support of funding that enables community services for people with developmental disabilities to be preserved.

Senator Willie L. Mount and Lake Charles Mayor Randy Roach spoke at the rally.  As well the Westlake High School jazz band performed.

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