Individuals with disabilities, their family members, and community advocates joined with A TEAM Wisconsin and Rehabilitation for Wisconsin In Action to advocate at the state capitol last week for their annual Day for Choice event. A Team Wisconsin is a statewide group with nine chapters and over 500 members that focus on grassroots activities to ensure options and opportunities continue to advance for individuals with disabilities in Wisconsin.
Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch welcomed nearly 120 A Team members and community advocates at the Day for Choice event to commence the day’s activities. The Lt. Governor has been very supportive of A TEAM Wisconsin and its message. Kleefisch has made an effort to visit numerous Community Rehabilitation Programs such as Opportunities, Inc. in Fort Atkinson and the Eisenhower Center in Milwaukee, as part of Wisconsin’s Better Bottom Line Initiative. The initiative expands training and business incentives to hire people with disabilities in the community.
Following the Lt. Governor’s kick-off, members spent the afternoon meeting with their legislators to thank them for their support in preserving the full array of home and community based services currently offered in the state of Wisconsin. While other states around the country are considering limits on services in response to the federal government’s regulations; Wisconsin has remained steadfast in preserving all choices for people with disabilities. Members then shared their own personal challenges and successes with legislators, which was the highlight of the event. A resource folder containing important disability resources and information were left behind to provide further education and guidance. The groups met with over 30 legislators!
A Team Wisconsin and Rehabilitation for Wisconsin in Action organized the event. Overall, it was well received and a great learning experience for both the members and lawmakers.
A Team member John Tschohl, an individual with Cerebral Palsy, commented, “Day for Choice is an important event for us self-advocates. We are very grateful for the time state legislators took from their busy schedules to meet with us and to listen to our individual stories. I hope they realize how important community based employment programs are to all of us. The word ‘choice’ is a very treasured word for us all; it’s what made this nation of ours so great.”
Representative Cody Horlacher stated, “It was great getting a chance to meet with representatives from A Team Wisconsin. I truly enjoyed hearing their stories about the various opportunities they have chosen for themselves and I believe in the programs and facilities that foster connection to and within the community.”
“I appreciated meeting with the A-Team during their advocacy day at the State Capitol,” said Senator Paul Farrow (R-Pewaukee). “Hearing directly from individuals that live with disabilities and gaining an understanding of what they face day in and day out is the best form of activism. Each story I had the pleasure to hear provided me the awareness and how to better represent individuals with disabilities.”
Senator Fred Risser noted, “I was pleased to meet with A TEAM advocacy members and am impressed by their advocacy mission of awareness and advice to those who care for our special needs citizens. A TEAM’s goals of ensuring service choices are not only desirable, but necessary to advance the cause of a caring society.”
Representative John Jagler said while meeting with A Team members, “There is no bigger supporter or advocate around here than me. If you need anything or get a different reaction feel free to come back; my office is always open.” Rep. Jagler has been a longtime supporter of the A Team’s mission.
Representative John Jagler
Representative Cody Horlacher
Senator Fred Risser