BOSTON, June 17, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- Senator Joan B. Lovely and State Representative Pat Haddad were honored as Legislative Champions of the Year by the Down syndrome community in Massachusetts. At a ceremony at the State House in Boston, the two legislative leaders were presented with original works of art from acclaimed painter Michael Avakian, who happens to have Down syndrome.
Senator Lovely and Rep. Haddad are lead sponsors of the Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress' priority Higher Education Bill. "We were thrilled to recognize Senator Lovely and Rep. Haddad's leadership on the Higher Education bill as well as their efforts to help improve the lives of people with Down syndrome and other intellectual disabilities," said MDSC Executive Director Maureen Gallagher.
Hundreds of families from the Down syndrome community gathered at the 6th Annual Down Syndrome Advocacy Day at the State House. Advocates encouraged lawmakers to support critical policies and funding to ensure that all people with Down syndrome have opportunities to lead meaningful, fulfilling lives.
Boston25 News anchor Mark Ockerbloom emceed. After the formal ceremonies, advocates met with lawmakers to share stories and advocate to fund disability services and pass key legislation.
The MDSC's top legislative priority this session is An Act creating higher education opportunities for students with intellectual disabilities, autism and other developmental disabilities. The bill aims to ensure that individuals with intellectual disabilities have access to a college education and all the opportunities that come along with it by removing barriers that currently preclude many persons with intellectual disabilities from participating in higher education.
The bills would also:
- require that the goals, mission statements and performance measures of our state colleges and universities provide for the inclusion of students with ID and autism;
- allow individuals with ID 18-22 and adults over 22 to participate in college; and
- codify the MAICEI grant program and allow the special education process to consider higher education as an option for students with disabilities who are 18 to 22 years old.
Statewide and nationally, the MDSC is leading the charge for important policies and systemic changes that provide critical support for people with Down syndrome and their families. Four of the MDSC's priority bills have passed the Legislature and been signed into law over the past 6 years:
- Prenatal Testing Bill (2012)
- Real Lives Bill (2014)
- National Background Check Bill (2014)
- Organ Transplant Non-Discrimination Bill (2016)
SOURCE Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress