COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Activists gathered Wednesday to bring awareness to the thousands of South Carolinians who do not receive the disability services they need.
Wednesday was Disability Advocacy Day at the State House. Governor Nikki Haley attended and spoke about the progress made across South Carolina over the past couple of years by reducing the waiting list and providing more services to handicapped and disabled individuals.
"Whether it's autism, whether it's brain injuries, whether it's spine injuries, whatever the challenge is, our goal is not to exclude any groups. Our goal is how do we bring them in so every person lives the fullest life that they can in South Carolina?" Governor Haley said.
Officials who work with disabled people across the state say that one of the most powerful tools in this fight are self-advocates, a term used to describe individuals with disabilities who are telling their stories and reinforcing how critical disability services are for so many South Carolinians.
"I cannot overstate the power of when people advocate for themselves. When people advocate for their loved ones, their family members, they're able to tell, 'This is what these services mean for me and my family,'" said Beverly Buscemi, the State Director for the South Carolina Department of Disabilities and Special Needs.
Buscemi said over the past couple of years, thanks to Governor Haley's increased allocation of funding for disability services in the state budget, over 7,000 people have been removed from the waiting list and now receive services. But, she says over 5,000 are still waiting for services.
Governor Haley declared March Disability Awareness Month across the state.