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Activists for Those with Disabilities Rally at Capitol

The Capitol Rotunda was packed Tuesday. People from across the commonwealth gathered with signs and banners, t-shirts, and ball caps supporting the 874K Rally which represents the 874,000 Kentuckians who live with a disability. The event sought to draw the attention of lawmakers to issues facing the disabled community.

A face that stood out in the crowd was 16-year-old Maggie Carroll. She’s the daughter of Sen. Danny Carroll (R-Paducah), and she has cerebral palsy. Despite her condition, Maggie likes to ride horses and is assistant manager for her high school’s dance team.

Sen. Carroll gave moving testimony at the rally, inviting Maggie to the podium to make the point that supporting the disabled is personal to everyone.

With the prospect of major budget cuts coming in the months ahead, many welfare groups are worried that their cause will be on the Frankfort chopping block. Dr. Sheila Schuster with the 874 Coalition and MaryLee Underwood from the Commonwealth Council on Developmental Disabilities sat down in KET’s capitol studios to discuss their concerns.

Schuster says one goal of the rally was to personalize the challenges that individuals with disabilities experience, and to explain how state budget cuts could impact those individuals.

About one in four Kentuckians lives with a disability, either mental, physical, intellectual, or developmental. Schuster said that many who live with a disability just want to be taxpayers. But that requires earning an income, and Schuster says that’s not necessarily easy for those individuals to do.

Disability advocates also want more funding to better train primary and secondary school teachers. The 874 Coalition argues that teachers have a moral obligation to ensure that all their students can enjoy productive lives as adults. But they say “that can only occur if students are educated with equal opportunity and with sensitivity to both their similarities and their differences.”

Bevin, Stumbo Address Rally

In his inaugural remarks and in last week’s budget address, Gov. Bevin called on Kentuckians to aspire to be the best versions of themselves. But what does that mean? The governor provided some additional thoughts at Tuesday’s rally.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo (D-Prestonsburg) added his perspectives in the form of a history lesson.

Despite the uplifting speeches at the rally, many serious questions remain. Time will tell how the looming budget cuts might affect Kentucky citizens with disabilities.

Follow @ReneeKET on Twitter for updates throughout the day, and for a recap of the full day’s activities, watch Legislative Update, weeknights at 11 on KET. You can also follow the Kentucky General Assembly on KET’s Legislative Coverage app for your smartphone or tablet.