by Andy Rausch
Parsons has just established its own chapter of SACK (Self-Advocate Coalition of Kansas), which is a statewide advocacy group. The organization encourages and teaches people to speak up for themselves and to obtain the highest possible level of independence. Their vision is that all Kansans with intellectual or developmental disabilities will have the opportunity to express opinions and make choices in order to create a life where they are treated with the same dignity and respect as persons without developmental disabilities.
“SACK teaches everyday advocacy skills and decision-making,” said Intellectual and Developmental Disability (IDL) manager Darren Sorrick, Parsons SKIL branch. “They also get involved in legislative advocacy. This program teaches people with disabilities to integrate into society and to have self-confidence. It also teaches them about significant legislative happenings around the state that will have an effect on their lives. It's a well-rounded program that teaches people to become self-advocates.”
“There are many people who need more help than they currently have,” said Parsons chapter President Scott Ball. “This will help many people in the area. It's a great program.”
“SACK as an organization is pretty exciting,” said SKIL President and CEO Shari Coatney. “I've worked on a lot of committees in my 21 years in this field, and SACK is always there at the table representing people with disabilities so they're not forgotten by the bureaucrats as they write their policies. The fact that they demand to be heard is huge. So frequently people with disabilities are disregarded as not having an opinion or not being able to process what's happening. So to see people with disabilities empowered is a wonderful thing.
“I remember years ago we were sitting around a table and we were talking about the review process—the CEOS—and we were talking about the percentage would qualify for being acceptable when going through a review,” said Coatney. “It would be something like 'customers having a choice,' and they would say, 'How about 80 percent being acceptable as evidence?' And someone from SACK said, 'This should be 100 percent.' And we were all like, 'Absolutely.' And they were talking about their civil rights, and SACK was like, '100 percent.' And no one in the room could argue with that because they were so empowered. We all thought, 'Yes, you should be doing 100 percent of your job, not 80 percent.' It was just wonderful to see that. And SACK is always there. If a policy is going into effect that affects people with developmental disabilities, SACK is there to make sure their voices are being heard.”
Ball says various fundraisers are planned in the near future. “Hopefully lots of people will come out and help us get this thing off the ground,” Ball said. “People with disabilities can use all the advocacy they can get.” One of the goals is to raise enough money for the Parsons chapter to attend a statewide conference in Topeka in June.
“They nominate SACK officers at that convention and have an election,” said Sorrick. “They also have various workshops on various aspects of independent living. They have a party and a big dance one night, giving everyone an opportunity to meet one another and discuss these issues.”
Ball says area interest in the chapter has been tremendous. “A lot of people are wanting to come and help out,” he explains. “We're all very excited to be launching this program here in the Parsons area.”