Persons with disabilities and advocates rallied in the Rotunda, asking to be included in key budget decisions.
ST PAUL, Minn. — Nikki Villavicencio chairs the Minnesota Council on Disability but she’s no stranger to the state capitol. She’s been wheeling around this place for more than a decade advocating for changes that can make it easier for persons like herself to live independently.
She gets around in a motorized wheelchair, uses her head to push the elevator buttons and her feet to text people on her smartphone. And she’s a tireless advocate in the drive for equity and inclusion.
“If we lift up the marginalized people, the rest of the world will be better,” Villavicencio told KARE 11 Tuesday.
“It’s not like, ‘Oh, those people over there, they need special things.’ It’s not about that.”
This year’s Disability Advocacy Day rally fell on Valentine’s Day, which may have had something to do with the theme of this year’s event, “Love. Liberation. Belonging.”
Many of the budget and policy bills pending at the capitol present opportunities to improve the lives of persons living with disabilities. The state’s $17 billion dollar projected surplus for FY2024-2025 has sparked hope among advocates.
Sen. John Hoffman of Champlin told the Rotunda crowd at least $1.8 billion of the surplus should’ve gone to bolster services used by persons with disabilities last year, but those deals fell apart in a divided legislature.
“We love you, Governor. Listen to us! That’s what you should be saying to the governor.”