For the past 30 years, I have written this column introducing Making a Difference. This is my final column as I retire from GCDD on May 31, 2022.
It has been difficult writing this column as I end my current work with you and the council. We have seen many victories, and a few defeats along the way. I am very proud of the work that we have done together over the years. We have created a strong advocacy voice both on the legislative level and amongst self-advocates. And while we still have a long way to go, we can look back favorably over these past thirty years and reflect on successes like Project WINS, Uniting for Change, Real Communities and Welcoming Dialogues, Advancing Employment, Customized Employment, visitable housing, inclusive post secondary education, Unlock the Waiting List, Disability Day at the Capitol, and many more. Together we have built one of the strongest advocacy networks in Georgia and across the country.
I know that many of you will read this and say “yes, but we are still not where we should be.” I could not agree more. We still have over 7,000 people on a waiting list. People still do not have accessible, affordable housing, people are paid subminimum wages and have difficulties finding a job, and we still have students housed in GNETs. We are not there, but these are issues that advocates across the state are working on, and GCDD will continue to be there to support these efforts. Over the next year, GCDD will be discussing the issues of health care, employment, housing, and transportation. These conversations will lead to new and innovative efforts. These efforts will require your input and support.
One of my favorite authors, Margaret Wheatley, wrote that “there is no power greater than a community discovering what it cares about.” The future can be a brighter day for people with developmental disabilities and their families. It starts with a strong coalition of individuals, families, and allies that develop a shared agenda for moving forward. I want to emphasize that the role of GCDD is not to lead these efforts but to provide the backbone support to ensure success. YOU are the people who must drive these efforts. You are the people that must discover what you care most about. It is up to you to meet with your legislator and those running for public office and ask the questions about how they will support disability rights.
I want to thank the many people who served on GCDD over the years, the staff that have made this organization so successful, and our readers and supporters. This group allowed GCDD to be successful in our efforts and allow me to leave knowing the future is bright. It has been my honor and privilege to be a part of the disability rights movement—it has made me a better person than when I started.
Eric E. Jacobson
GCDD Executive Director