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'I deserve a certain quality of life': Disability advocates rally at Arkansas State Capitol

Advocates held the 4th annual "Pie Day" to meet and discuss ways legislators can help people with disabilities.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark — It was the fourth annual Pie Day put on by the Arkansas Alliance for Disability Advocacy. Pies were handed out at the Arkansas State Capitol as people talked to lawmakers about legislation focused on disability rights. 

The focus of the rally was for people to advocate for themselves and or the people they love and while challenging legislators to let them be their own voice for any changes they'd like to see to legislation. 

Sherice Smith was born with spina bifida and spoke at the rally. 

She expressed the need for lawmakers to consider those with disabilities and special needs when they think about new bills. 

"You have to advocate for yourself over and over and over. You're your own best advocate and you have to advocate. It's a constant battle unfortunately," she said. 

She said there's always a step to be made in the right direction.

She's personally had to advocate for services by getting policy makers to put things in place.

"I've had to tell people, we don't want an advantage in life. That's not what the American with Disabilities Act is about. It's about having an equal playing field. I've had to work twice as hard as someone else to have a place to live, equal employment," Smith said.

Ally Thomlinson is with the state's alliance for disability advocacy, that gives Arkansans the tools to get involved in self-advocacy and leadership.

"We have built an event up and you know provided that pie to get people here. Allowing them to really advocate with the legislators. Allow them the opportunity to advocate for the things that they want," Thomlinson said.

Thomlinson said they want to see more support in the community for independent living.

Other groups at the event want to expand upon rights to choose institutions for their loved ones who need more assistance. 

Overall, everyone wants lawmakers to do more to address all concerns.

"I'm here today just to represent my son, Alexander Myers. He's an autistic adult that's been in the system for over 25 years now," said Veronica Tess Myers. "One of the reasons he's not here today is because he no longer wanted to be present at these events because there is no change."

She said the disabilities are not the problem, it is those who are discriminated against because they have a disability.

"You'll have service providers and state agencies that make attempts to back door you and discredit your efforts in trying to accommodate your child or loved one with special needs," said Myers.

It's the hope that a slice of pie will help open discussions so that these groups can keep fighting for what they believe in. 

"Because I feel like I deserve a certain quality of life and I'm not willing to give up on that quality of life," said Smith.

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