February 11 was Developmental Disabilities Awareness Day in Florida, as declared by Governor Ron DeSantis. To commemorate this day, organizations, agencies, and disability advocates from all over the state gathered at the Capitol for the 2020 Developmental Disabilities and Transportation Awareness Day event.
In addition to Developmental Disabilities Awareness Day, this event commemorated Public Transportation and Transportation Disadvantaged Legislative Awareness Day, which is also observed on February 11. The Florida Developmental Disabilities Council (FDDC), The Arc of Florida, the Florida Commission for the Transportation Disadvantaged, and the Florida Public Transportation Association worked together to host this event, which highlighted the intersection between transportation concerns and those of individuals with developmental disabilities.
Disability advocates came from all over the state for the opportunity to meet with legislators to advocate for individuals with developmental disabilities, share what the iBudget waiver has meant to them, and highlight the need for alternative approaches to transportation. Transportation is an issue that affects many individuals with developmental disabilities who often rely on public transportation and/or require vehicle modifications to meet their transportation needs.
As a part of the event, display booths were set up on the second floor of the Capitol Rotunda, where various organizations, including APD, shared information and answered questions about available resources and issues affecting individuals with developmental disabilities. There were vehicle displays in the courtyard, where various transportation organizations could share valuable resources and information.
The day also included a full program with speeches by advocates and policy makers. Speakers included Rep. Ray Rodrigues, who spoke out in support of people with developmental disabilities, FDDC Executive Director Valerie Breen, The Arc of Florida’s Kirk Hall, and APD Director Barbara Palmer, among others.
In her speech, Director Palmer thanked attendees for their support and highlighted Governor DeSantis’s Bolder, Brighter, Better Future budget recommendation, which proposes $1.5 billion to serve Floridians with developmental disabilities: “I mainly want to thank you all for taking the time to come up here and to talk with your legislators and educate them about your lives. I cannot tell you how important that is. The Governor has put together a really good budget and also is supporting you all moving forward, making things better in your life.”
Developmental Disabilities Awareness Day offers an invaluable opportunity to educate the public on issues that are central to Florida’s most vulnerable population but also to show support for the iBudget waiver and other crucial services that individuals with disabilities rely on daily.
In the words of Family Care Council Florida Chairperson Patricia Oglesby: “Family Care Council members across the state are excited to be in Tallahassee for Developmental Disabilities Awareness Day. It is a great opportunity to meet with our legislators to share concerns, as well as express our gratitude for the services and programs that help Floridians with developmental disabilities live in their communities. We are truly stronger together!”
For more about Developmental Disabilities Awareness Day and the Developmental Disabilities and Transportation Awareness Day event, check out the Governor’s proclamation, event video, and pictures, below.