State is missing out on contributions of people with disabilities, Arc of Illinois director says
The Arc of Illinois, a Frankfort-based advocacy group for people with disabilities, held a press conference on Thursday to emphasize the state's need for inclusion.
Executive Director Meg Cooch said she was calling on lawmakers to make Illinois an inclusion-first state.
"By segregating people, by limiting access to services and supports necessary for participation, Illinois’ communities are missing out on the benefits and contributions of people with disabilities,” Cooch said. "Illinois is not an inclusion-friendly state right now. Illinois must end the waiting for services, support people to move out of state institutions and give all an equitable seat at the table."
Tony Stahl's disabled daughter languished in the system for eight years before she was able to live in her own home.
"This is about people with disabilities living in their own homes in the community of their choice and being fully included in their community," Stahl said. "As aging parents in our 70s, we knew we needed to find an accessible home for Allison. It took five years for the state to pick Allison for the opportunity. Then three more years before she could find a home of her own."
Allison Stahl now lives in a home with two roommates.
"The state tried to put me in an eight-person group home and I said no," she said. "I wanted to be close to my parents and family, and now I live three minutes from my mom and eight minutes from my dad. I work at Walmart and I usher at my church. I love being with my family, shopping and going out to dinner. I want to be even more active and I want to work out at our community center regularly."