GCDD’s Equitable Dinners “A Seat at the Table” Event Provides a Transformative Conversation Around Equity, Disability and Support During the 2024 Legislative Session

The Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities (GCDD) Equitable Dinner event, “A Seat at the Table: A Transformative Conversation Around Equity, Disability and Support” attracted capacity crowds for in-person and virtual sessions this past February. Presented by GCDD, Equitable Dinners, L’Arche Atlanta, and Out of Hand Theatre, these two gatherings brought together 175 Georgians with disabilities, their family members, community leaders, and disability advocates for a discussion about the value of equitable opportunities and supports in the lives of Georgians with developmental disabilities (DD) and their families and is the latest iteration of the GCDD Storytelling Project. 

Photo of people sitting at tables at the Equitable Dinners event.The Storytelling Project was created six years ago in a partnership between GCDD and L’Arche Atlanta to increase public awareness and motivate Georgia legislators to act now for this remarkably underserved community. By providing living portraits of individuals struggling to receive a life-altering benefit, the project aimed to expand cross-sector allies and garner voices of support outside of the DD community. Since its beginning in 2019, more than 170 stories have been shared via mini-documentary films, short films, creative prose, podcasts, written stories, and photographs. 

GCDD’s “Equitable Dinners: A Seat at the Table” was the first event produced by the Storytelling Project team, which partnered with the Equitable Dinners organization. This was also the first event in which Equitable Dinners focused on conversations around disability.  Equitable Dinners excel at creating meaningful conversations and change around educational and racial disparity issues by combining art and dialogue and bringing people of diverse backgrounds together in a facilitated discussion about complex topics. The dinners are designed to help participants engage in conversation with depth, honesty, and mutual respect, and guests include community residents, leaders, and additional stakeholders. Previously, dinner discussions were prefaced by a one-person play that detailed the issue being discussed. 

Participants viewed three short films that showcased people with disabilities from across the state. Aysha Virji, Kason Jackson, and his direct support professional (DSP) Joshua Hall shared their stories from Athens, and Chad and Kellie Roberts shared their family’s story from Canton. After screening the films, participants broke into small groups to discuss the issues addressed in the movies and how legislation, social systems, and community supports impact the lives of those living with disabilities in Georgia. 

Photo of Sadiyah and Sahliman Abdullah at the Equitable Dinners event.

The first dinner in the series was held just before GCDD’s Waivers and Wages Advocacy Day, which hosted disability advocates to the state capitol to meet with their legislators to discuss Home and Community-Based Services waivers and the Direct Support Professional (DSP) crisis that impacts the ability to find and retain resources and support staff. This scheduling was intentionally done to bring the content and conversations from the dinner to the legislators who have the power to create change in these areas. Several Equitable Dinner participants attended the Advocacy Day and Storytelling managers plan to create more opportunities for the two work areas to collaborate.  

GCDD Executive Director D’Arcy Robb stated, “These events have not only been a platform for conversations around these issues, but they have also brought in new community members and disability advocates who have not previously been a part of our programs. New voices can bring new ideas, and we are excited to have these fresh perspectives in these conversations.”   

Learn more about the Storytelling Project and Equitable Dinners. You can also view the three short films shown at the Equitable Dinners on GCDD’s YouTube channel.