by Andy Rausch
Parsons has just established its own chapter of SACK (Self-Advocate Coalition of Kansas), which is a statewide advocacy group. The organization encourages and teaches people to speak up for themselves and to obtain the highest possible level of independence. Their vision is that all Kansans with intellectual or developmental disabilities will have the opportunity to express opinions and make choices in order to create a life where they are treated with the same dignity and respect as persons without developmental disabilities.
“SACK teaches everyday advocacy skills and decision-making,” said Intellectual and Developmental Disability (IDL) manager Darren Sorrick, Parsons SKIL branch. “They also get involved in legislative advocacy. This program teaches people with disabilities to integrate into society and to have self-confidence. It also teaches them about significant legislative happenings around the state that will have an effect on their lives. It's a well-rounded program that teaches people to become self-advocates.”
“There are many people who need more help than they currently have,” said Parsons chapter President Scott Ball. “This will help many people in the area. It's a great program.”
“SACK as an organization is pretty exciting,” said SKIL President and CEO Shari Coatney. “I've worked on a lot of committees in my 21 years in this field, and SACK is always there at the table representing people with disabilities so they're not forgotten by the bureaucrats as they write their policies. The fact that they demand to be heard is huge. So frequently people with disabilities are disregarded as not having an opinion or not being able to process what's happening. So to see people with disabilities empowered is a wonderful thing.
“I remember years ago we were sitting around a table and we were talking about the review process—the CEOS—and we were talking about the percentage would qualify for being acceptable when going through a review,” said Coatney. “It would be something like 'customers having a choice,' and they would say, 'How about 80 percent being acceptable as evidence?' And someone from SACK said, 'This should be 100 percent.' And we were all like, 'Absolutely.' And they were talking about their civil rights, and SACK was like, '100 percent.' And no one in the room could argue with that because they were so empowered. We all thought, 'Yes, you should be doing 100 percent of your job, not 80 percent.' It was just wonderful to see that. And SACK is always there. If a policy is going into effect that affects people with developmental disabilities, SACK is there to make sure their voices are being heard.”
Ball says various fundraisers are planned in the near future. “Hopefully lots of people will come out and help us get this thing off the ground,” Ball said. “People with disabilities can use all the advocacy they can get.” One of the goals is to raise enough money for the Parsons chapter to attend a statewide conference in Topeka in June.
“They nominate SACK officers at that convention and have an election,” said Sorrick. “They also have various workshops on various aspects of independent living. They have a party and a big dance one night, giving everyone an opportunity to meet one another and discuss these issues.”
Ball says area interest in the chapter has been tremendous. “A lot of people are wanting to come and help out,” he explains. “We're all very excited to be launching this program here in the Parsons area.”
On this week's episode of "Resource Central," host Joe Reinecker interviews SKIL Director of Independent Living and Quality Assurance Mary Reynolds (Parsons branch) on the 2016 SKIL Advocacy Plan. The plan was designed to better meet consumer wants and needs.
On this week's episode of "Resource Central," host Joe Reinecker interviews Independent Living (IL) Coordinator Sharon Traylor about the SKIL picnic held in Chanute on June 17, 2016. Director of Independent Living (IL) and Quality Assurance Mary Reynolds and Rosie Cooper were on hand to speak.
by Andy Rausch
It’s extremely important for people with disabilities to get out and vote so they can have a say in the legislative decisions that affect their lives. The problem is that most people—particularly people with disabilities who often have a history of being minimized by the political system—believe their votes don’t matter.
“I think the most important thing to remember is that collectively we have power, but it takes every single one of us to comprise that power,” said SKIL President/CEO Shari Coatney. “Every individual vote does in fact come together to make a difference as a voting block. Traditionally we hear about other voting blocks, such as the African-American voting block, the women’s voting block, or the youth voting block. And people with disabilities come from all of those different backgrounds, but together we have to take a stand.
“As we watch currently the politics and how they affect us, we see how important each one of our votes actually are. You can’t complain about being a victim of the process if you’re not willing to take the steps to be heard. Voting is the first step in doing something about those things. Then it’s know your representatives and let your voice be heard. But we have to take the first step by registering to vote.”
Coatney said the biggest issue with the Kansas disability community has to do with the budget. “ It’s difficult for people to see the difference between paying taxes and day-to-day life for people with disabilities,” said Coatney. “The reality is that they’re absolutely connected. Everyone wants to support tax cuts. That’s fine and good, but people need to understand whether or not that actually means a tax cut for you. When the current Kansas administration came in, their whole platform was about cutting taxes. People loved that. People rallied around that. People think that will cut their taxes. The first tax you think of is food subsidized—the tax amount on what you purchase. Then the second tax you think about is when you file your income taxes at the end of the year. The third one is your property tax, where you pay for your tags on your vehicle or whatever. Most of the taxes they actually cut were none of those things. We’re not paying less for our grocery tax. We’re not paying less for our property tax. We’re not paying less when we tag our cars. We’re not paying less on anything that affects the day-to-day lives of people with disabilities or even the working class folks. People have to really learn about what the tax cuts entail. What are we saying when we say ‘tax cuts’? Tax cuts to whom? Who is saving that money?”
Coatney said 330,000 businesses have had tax cuts. “I’m not against that, except when they cut so deep that there’s no money left for people,” said Coatney. “People don’t seem to matter anymore. People have to get involved, because we really do matter. They make it harder for us to get food stamps. They completely eliminated food sales reduction, and that’s a taxation on the poor.”
SKIL is currently looking at ways to improve voter turnout amongst the disabled community. In addition, Lou Ann Kibbee, SKIL Systems Advocacy Manger and K-Loan Coordinator from the Hays SKIL office, recently taught a training class on voting.