“We want to be paid like anyone else doing the same job. We are more alike than different. We want to get married and be seen as equals. We have a voice and now we are using it.”
– Kayla McKeon. The first registered lobbyist with Down Syndrome
The 2019 7th annual “From Possibilities to Practical Applications Disability Education & Transition Conference” hosted by the Down Syndrome Association of Greater Richmond was held last Saturday, February 2nd at the Hilton Richmond Hotel & Spa/Short Pump. What I noticed when I checked in was the enthusiasm that filled the conference space. There was an genuine excitement that flowed from those attending. It was also packed! To be exact there were 420 people in attendance, which made a new record! The main theme of this conference was inclusion.
Every topic presented tied into inclusion.
The morning began with Keynote Speaker Paula Kluth discussing Inclusion in our schools. This topic is an important one to every parent who has a child with a disability.
We want our kids to be included. We want others to focus on the ABILITIES of our child. Our children learn best when they are with their neurotypical peers.
The person who stole the hearts of everyone though and delivered a powerful speech during lunch was self advocate Kayla McKeon. Kayla is the first registered lobbyist with Down Syndrome to work on Capitol Hill. Kayla’s words mirrored the theme of the conference- “INCLUDE ME!” Kayla’s message is for equal pay, equal treatment, and respect for every individual with disabilities. The first time I heard Kayla speak was at the National Buddy Walk in Washington, DC with the National Down Syndrome Society. I cried when I heard her, then cried again at lunch. Kayla knows how to grab the attention and the heart of lawmakers and common folks like me.
I am very excited for the future –
as I believe those with disabilities have a bright future ahead of them. We live in a time where our voices will be heard. We will not be silent. Our voices are strong and cannot be ignored. We are ready and hungry for a world of inclusion in our schools and in the workplace. We will fight for a world of equal pay and respect. Every person’s voice deserves to be heard.
As moms we are called to be a life long learner.
As life long learners, I am strongly encouraging moms to attend conferences throughout the year in areas where you are passionate about. We are expected to hold ourselves to a higher standard for not only ourselves, but our children. We must strive to always be the best for ourselves and for them. We are the leaders of the future and are modeling to our children the importance of constantly learning and growing as an individual and responsible citizen. By attending and participating in conferences, we are raising the expectations on how to raise compassionate children who will lead the world with positive change. Conferences expand our minds and help us be an engaged mom. When we take the time to learn from conferences, we build a community through networking and learning. This helps us become well rounded and educated. An educated mom is a strong mom. We also learn how to build a community of inclusion for ourselves and our children. We are modeling the future with our kids. A more engaged mom is a more compassionate and aware mom.
To learn more about the Down Syndrome Association of Greater Richmond, please visit dsgra.org