On April 10, 2013, about 30 advocates from the Access Living community went to Springfield for the Going Home Rally and Advocacy Day. Going Home is the campaign to close the Murray Developmental Center and to support community choices and independence for people with disabilities in Illinois. While in Springfield, Access Living community members rallied for the closure of Murray and also helped raise awareness about legislation and programs that support the independence of people with disabilities.
Governor Quinn with Access Living Advocates Vincent Smith (center) and William Owens. Photo was taken in cafeteria of Stratton Building in Springfield after the “Going Home Rally.”
Access Living members who made the trip met at Union Station in Chicago at 6 a.m. to make the 7 a.m. train. As a result of advocacy work done before the trip, Amtrak sectioned off space in one of the cars in order to accommodate up to ten wheel chair users.
The train arrived in Springfield in time for an 11 a.m. rally in the cafeteria of the Stratton Building. At the rally, people with disabilities who used to live in institutions, advocates, and Governor Quinn all spoke about the importance of closing large, segregated institutions, and about the importance of living independently in the community. Following the rally, the Access Living contingent broke into small groups of four to five people. Each group visited the office of nine to ten different legislators. During the office visits, advocates shared information about the importance of closing the Murray Developmental Center and about the importance of Home Services and other programs that support people with disabilities living in their own homes.
After a few hours of legislative visits, everyone who had attended the rally in the Stratton Cafeteria gathered in the Capitol Rotunda for a round of chants. Chuy Mendoza, of Access Living’s Cambiando Vidas, led the Illinois coalition in a rousing session. Chants of “Free Our People,” “Our Choices, Our Voices,” and “Stop segregation, we want integration!” thundered throughout the capitol.
After the chants in the rotunda, just as the rains came falling down on the streets of Springfield, the Access Living group made its way back to the Amtrak Station for the return trip to Chicago. Throughout May, Access Living will continue to send groups to Springfield to advocate for strong home services, Medicaid resources, and other community supports.