Hundreds rally at capitol to "let freedom ring"

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JEFFERSON CITY - On Wednesday, people with disabilities and advocates gathered at the State Capitol Rotunda for the 17th annual Disability Rights Legislative Day.

Those who were part of the event were not just advocating for a particular issue, but rather showing their support for an entire community. 

"We're all in this together, we're all in a fight," said disability rights advocate Christopher Worth, who served as the master of ceremonies.

"For me this is about a kind of revolution, seeing an oppressed people have a voice, get together, and show their power," said Worth. 

As part of the rally, some advocates met with state legislators to talk about support and services for people with disabilities.

Worth said lawmakers must be aware of their important role in the advancement of people with disabilities.  

"It's about having more openness, it's about understanding that legislation is a key to a door, but it's simply a key," he said. "They have to understand that they are part of the community like we are, and that what they decide impacts all of us."

State legislators are working on initiatives to support people with disabilities. For instance, on Tuesday a House Committee Substitute approved House Bill 1553, which modifies provisions relating to guardianship and conservatorship proceedings. 

Rep. Jim Neely, R-Cameron, said state legislators work to empower disability people and make them free from people who try to tell them how to live their lives. 

"A person who's had a stroke may not be able to use their arm and leg, maybe not be able to work, but they still have a brain."

However, Neely recognized their legislative commitment with people with disabilities is far from being over. 

"We never do enough, we need to do more," he said. 

More than just talk politics, rally participants wanted to remind people a disability is not really a barrier. 

Jodie Holeert was part of the rally, and said people with disabilities are valuable members of the society. 

"People like us can get jobs, we can vote, we can do about everything if we put our minds to it," she said. 

Worth invited people to see people with disabilities as another subculture with gifted and talented individuals.

"Don't think limitations, think gifts," he said.