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Thursday, February 18, 2010

300 Vermont Disability Rights Advocates Pack State House in Montpelier

By Peter Hirschfeld and Louis Porter Vermont Press Bureau - Published: February 18, 2010

MONTPELIER – Proposed cuts to human services contained in the Governor's fiscal year 2011 budget plan represent an "assault" on the dignity and welfare of Vermonters with disabilities, advocates said Wednesday.

About 300 Vermonters piled into the Statehouse Wednesday to decry cuts they say will dial back home-based services and other programs that allow them to enjoy independent lives in their communities. As the 20th anniversary of the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act draws near, they say, the latest budget plan threatens to undo decades of progress.

Administration officials, including Gov. James Douglas, have said such cuts, as unpleasant as they are, are necessary in a time when state revenues are dropping.

"We're not asking for handouts. We're asking for opportunities for people with disabilities to be active and productive members of society," Deborah Lisi-Baker, president of the Vermont Coalition for Disability Rights, told a throng of supporters in the Cedar Creek room late Wednesday morning. "We have a right to be counted as equal citizens and to have government be there when we need it."

Lisi-Baker's organization represents 27 disability-rights organizations operating in Vermont. Next year's proposed budget, she says, represents a clear and present danger to the tens of thousands of Vermonters living with disabilities.

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