The power of the vote in Georgia's disability community
LISTEN: The Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities is hosting a candidate forum this week as a way to both show the power of the disability community and learn from the candidates about their disability platforms. GPB Morning Edition host Leah Fleming spoke with D 'Arcy Robb, executive director of the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities.
As the midterm election fast approaches, many groups of people are asking to meet with candidates to get to know their specific viewpoints on issues that are most important to them. The Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities is hosting a forum Thursday night to hear about issues of importance to Georgia's disability community.
GPB Morning Edition host Leah Fleming spoke with D 'Arcy Robb, executive director of the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Leah Fleming: Why did you all decide to host this kind of a forum?
D'Arcy Robb: Democracy is not a spectator sport. At risk of sounding like a public policy nerd — which I am — democracy takes all of us to play and all of us to work. And for folks in the disability community, we wanted to really make sure that that our folks are connected, that they're getting the information they need to know, to understand the races, to understand the candidates and the issues. So we just thought it was a really good opportunity to connect the candidates with our community and with our main concerns and to connect our advocates with the candidates and just really try to engage people in the process that's so important.
Leah Fleming: So I mentioned voting access. What are some of the concerns that the community has about that?
D'Arcy Robb: You know, we just want to make sure that folks with disabilities have the information they need and the support they need to be able to vote. You know, that's really critical. And so a lot of it is just, you know, is really just voter engagement — from a strictly nonpartisan standpoint, of course — but making sure that folks have the information and making sure, for example, that it's broken down in a way that folks are comfortable with it. So one of the tools that one of our partners made for this candidate forum is a very simple sheet, but it just allows you to keep track of for those of us who it might be helpful to write something down. All right. Here's this person's name. Here's the office they're seeking. What did I hear? And then once you've heard the multiple candidates running for office, which of these candidates is my choice? So pieces like that. You know, we want to make sure, especially for folks in our community — some of whom may need assistance to get to the polls, some of whom may need assistance at the polls — just that people are, you know, people are making their voting plans. People know, you know, register in time, know if — if they're registered, that they know what their polling place is or that they know how to cast their absentee ballot.
Leah Fleming: Are there any issues in particular that you are most interested in hearing about?
D'Arcy Robb: A real issue that is of very pressing concern for the disability community is the access to Medicaid waivers. And a waiver, you know, a lot of folks aren't necessarily familiar with the terminology. A waiver is really a package of individualized services and supports. It really depends on the person, but waivers are for folks with significant impact of their disabilities. And it's the individual supports and services needed — they need to live in the community. So you don't qualify for a waiver unless you meet what is called, known as, an institutional level of care. Right now in Georgia, we have a waiting list of over 7,000 folks with developmental disabilities who have qualified for a waiver. However, they are — they're waiting on services. And that's — that's something that is of incredible concern to our community because, you know, you have a person with — with documented established need, needing support to be able to go out and live a thriving life and contribute to their community. But with such a long waiting list, you know, effectively these folks with disabilities and their families have to figure it out. And that looks like a lot of different things. You know, we hear a lot about the couch kids, which is these young folks with intellectual developmental disabilities who go through high school, who have big dreams and big plans. But then they come out of school, they fall off what we call the I.D.E.A. cliff. I.D.E.A.: They get their supports in school entitled up until the age of 22. Without something in place, though, many of them literally just sit on their family's couches all day long. And that's, you know, that is a life of boredom and unfulfilled at the very best. So that's kind of Side 1 of the waiver issue. Side 2 is the direct support professionals, the people who provide direct services to folks with disabilities under the waivers. Those wages, especially in today's economy, are unlivably low. And when I say unlivably low, I mean people are making, you know, a lot of providers, it's $10 and something an hour. These are by far the two issues that get the most concern.
D'Arcy Robb is executive director of the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities.
The Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities (GCDD) along with partners the Georgia Advocacy Office (GAO), Sangha Unity Network, and REV UP Georgia will host its second Candidate Forum on disability issues at 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022 at the Courtyard by Marriott Decatur Hotel and Conference Center.
This will be a hybrid event with virtual and in-person opportunities to participate. This event is free and open to the public, refreshments will be served, but registration is required. There is limited seating for in-person attendees. Register for the forum now to secure your seat. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. For more information about this event or to register, visit https://2022CandidateForum.eventbrite.com.