Refugees Attend Rally for Disability Rights
Among a crowd of over two thousand assembled in front of the Georgia State Capitol to show their support for people with disabilities, stood Nestorine, a mother from the Central African Republic, with her 5 year old son, Eric. Born on a dirt road before Nestorine could reach the hospital, Eric suffers from severe seizure disorder. Nestorine, resettled to Atlanta by the IRC just five months ago, had never attended a peaceful rally before, much less seen anyone advocate for the rights of the disabled. She and a group of six other refugee families took it all in with awe.
This was the 13th annual Disability Day, the largest rally held at the Georgia Capitol each year. Governor Nathan Deal came out to speak to the crowd, and he got people cheering by saying, “I promise that I will work with others here to make sure we expand the opportunity to improve the quality of life for all Georgians in the disability community.”
IRC clients and staff at the Disability Day rally site.
Photo: The IRC
Disability Day at the Capitol is hosted by the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities. The GCDD works in conjunction with both private and public agencies, policy makers and Georgia residents to advocate for public policies that allow for a better quality of life for those who are living with a disability.
Among the nearly 1.000 resettled from all over the world by IRC Atlanta each year, there are refugees of all ages that come over with disabilities. These clients and their families experience the same difficulties and barriers that other Georgia residents face when living with a disability. IRC works closely with families to ensure they have are able to access the support, medical care, special education and equipment they need to live fulfilling lives here.
The opportunity for refugees with disabilities and their families to attend this special event allowed for them to advocate for themselves and on behalf of friends and family. Kitumaini, a refugee father from the Democratic Republic of Congo, came out to show support for his 15 year old daughter, who has epilepsy and mental retardation. “I am happy to see that disabled people are treated like normal people,” he said, “and that they have a day assigned just for their recognition.”
Before being resettled by IRC, Eric had spent his life inside the house, needing 24 hour care from his mother. Now, however, he gets on the school bus each weekday morning to attend kindergarten at nearby Indian Creek Elementary School. While he’s at school, Nestorine comes to English class at IRC. Soon, she’ll know enough English to go to work while Eric is at school. “I never thought it was possible,” says Nestorine, smiling.