It’s March and the Florida Legislature will open its 2017 session in just a few days, at which time Florida Self-advocates Network’D (FLSAND) and other disability advocates will present lawmakers with their legislative priorities.
Although there are many issues affecting those with developmental and intellectual disabilities, it’s not possible to focus on them all each session. At its annual conference in January, FL SAND members voted to focus on two key issues: increasing access to transportation and increasing pay rates for community-based services providers.
Let us begin by exploring the transportation problem. Like many advocacy organizations, Florida SAND subscribes to the Employment First principle. This means that they view integrated employment as crucial to the disability community as a whole. Although this is a top priority there are many barriers to integrated employment, the most prominent of which is the lack of transportation for individuals to get to their jobs. This priority asks the state legislature to increase funds for employment-based transportation for persons with disabilities.
Although transportation is an important issue, it is by far not the only concern facing the disability community. A second major issue facing those with disabilities concerns the quality of care they receive. According to the Florida Developmental Disabilities Council, 35,000 individuals with disabilities have home and community-based waivers in Florida, yet the number of available services providers is limited and declining due to very low payment rates. In fact, rates are so low that provider agencies have a hard time finding good employees to provide services to their clients and many have gone out of business. FL SAND’s priority statement asks legislators to raise provider rates.
FL SAND members will present these priorities to legislators on Developmental Disabilities Awareness Day March 21 at the Florida State Capitol. Other self-advocates in Florida can participate in this effort by sharing these priorities with their legislators this month via phone call or email. Use this link to find contact information for your legislators and download the FL SAND legislative priority flier here.