The lawn and lobby of the State House were filled April 26 with people who have to fight harder than others to get through the challenges of everyday life. They win their fights, and that was why they came.
Advocates from around the state gathered for the annual Advocacy Day for Access & Independence, calling for legislators to remove legal barriers to independence for those with disabilities, and change laws which allow discrimination.
“Each year that we go, we get more and more interest,” said Able South Carolina’s Director of Advocacy & Community Access, Robbie Kopp, who helped organize the event. “We’ll keep pushing South Carolina forward.”
The mission to raise awareness of the barriers to independence for people with disabilities is working, getting the attention of legislators like first-term Rep. Micah Caskey, who spoke at Advocacy Day. Caskey said the voices of groups and individuals have made him more aware of those issues, which he is now working to correct.
“What you’re doing to advocate for equality and inclusion for all South Carolinians really matters,” Caskey told the crowd. “Keep doing what you’re doing. Make your voice heard.”
Brian Moseley, who lives with disabilities, urged those gathered to keep making noise. “Learn to advocate,” he said. “Learn about the ADA. It’s up to us to make sure everyone else knows about it.”
Kopp said the issues affect everyone in South Carolina, and everyone can play a role in helping. “In our own spheres of influence, a lot of work can be done,” he said, encouraging all to be aware of barriers in their workplaces and elsewhere, whether affected personally or not.
Kopp and other advocates say state agencies in South Carolina lack Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Coordinators to address ADA complaints causing increased intervention by federal agencies like the Department of Justice. State policies regarding people with disabilities encourage dependence on state programs and the government instead of promoting independence and inclusion.
“That person is more than just a diagnosis,” Kopp said.