8 years in the works, people with disabilities  
can finally save like everyone else


The past two days have truly been momentous for our Down syndrome community in Massachusetts, specifically regarding public policy and advocacy.

Emma Spittle at 4th Annual Down Syndrome Advocacy Day

On Tuesday, nearly 200 MDSC family members and self a
d vocates gathered at the foot of the State House's Grand Stairc a se for our  4th Annual Down Syndrome Advocacy Day , where we pushed for funding priorities and ensuring inclusive higher education opportunities.  

Then, yesterday, we were back at the State House celebrating with Governor Baker and others a historic moment - the availability of tax-advantaged ABLE accounts for individuals with disabilities. Yesterday has literally been 8 years in the works.
ABLE Accounts Promise Equity & Security  
It is hard to overstate the significance of the availability of ABLE accounts for the first time in our history, as these tax-advantaged savings accounts are quite literally life-savers.

Families of children with disabilities will now be able to save for their children's future in the same way they save for their typical children.

MDSC grandparent Arthur McLaughlin  and 
parent Dave Granfors at ABLE Account launch
Going forward, self-advocates can finally do what everyone else does in America - work all the hours they are able to and save thousands of dollars for their future without losing access to the important benefits they need. Find out more information at 

The ABLE Act is, of course, about financial well-being and security.
But it also represents something bigger for people with disabilities - opening doors long closed, changing the perception of people with disabilities in the public's eye, and allowing people with disabilities to contribute to the community by working and living alongside their fellow citizens. (Read the Boston Globe's story here
A 'Sweet' Celebration for the Down Syndrome Community, Governor Baker 
Collette DiVitto of Collettey's Cookies offers Governor Baker a batch of 
her home-baked cookies for his support of opening ABLE accounts in Mass.
The celebration yesterday was especially sweet because individuals with Down syndrome and their families were central to the passage of the ABLE Act through Congress.

The final version of the landmark ABLE legislation was named the Stephen Beck Jr. ABLE Act - in honor of the late Stephen Beck, the chief architect of the ABLE Act, whose daughter has Down syndrome.

Steve worked tirelessly with other families, Sara Weir at the National Down Syndrome Society and over 100 advocacy groups across the nation to bring the ABLE Act to life and ultimately to the desk of President Obama, where it was signed into law in 2014.

I personally knew Steve and like so many of our families, Steve never gave up on his dream to ensure his daughter would have every possible chance for a meaningful, fulfilling life.

It was incredibly special yesterday to celebrate alongside MDSC parents, grandparents, siblings and
self-advocates, who demonstrate what is possible every day: John Anton & Melissa Reilly, who work right  at the State House; Drew Thompson, who is just starting out in school as a pre-kindergartner waved to the crowd from his seat in the arms of his mother, Danielle, who has big dreams for her son's future; Matthew Cullen who is attending Salem State University preparing for his career;  and especially 'sweet' moment when Collette Divetto, who owns her own nationally-recognized business, Colletty's Cookies, thanked Governor Baker for his support with a tray of her fresh-baked cookies.  

The courage, determination and strength of all our families and self advocates is what brought the ABLE Act into reality yesterday.
Just a Beginning... 
As momentous the ABLE account announcement is, it is in fact just a beginning.

On a federal level, we are already turning our efforts to advocate for the ABLE Improvement Bills which will build on
Rep. Jim Cantwell with MDSC_s John Anton
the success of the ABLE Act. We
need to increase the amount of funds our loved ones can save and expand the age range of people who can open ABLE accounts. 
We want to offer a special thank you to Governor Baker for his support, our friends at MEFA (Thomas Graf and Elizabeth Fontaine) and their entire team, the leaders at Fidelity for working hand in hand with families and advocacy organizations, and to our Congressional leaders and State legislators for recognizing the importance of the ABLE Act. Thanks as well to the MDSC Government Affairs Committee, the MDSC Board of Directors, our many MDSC Buddy Walk on Washington delegates, Dave Falcone and John Nadworny for their expertise and guidance, Jane Lane and our dedicated MDSC management team, and to everyone who worked hard over the years to ensure that this critical legislation was passed and became a reality for our loved ones with Down syndrome.    

Together, with your support, we have once and for all made ABLE accounts a reality, ensuring that all citizens throughout the Commonwealth are recognized for the immeasurable value they bring to our communities.   


Maureen Gallagher, Executive Director 
P.S.  Please read on for more details about our 4th Annual Advocacy Day!


Our community has established a remarkable legislative record over the last 5 years at the State House, where lawmakers have passed four of MDSC's critical policy priorities in the past five years -- Down Syndrome Information Act (2012), Real Lives Bill (2014), National Criminal Background Check Bill (2014), Organ Transplant Non-Discrimination Bill (2016).

These laws are creating a better society here in the Commonwealth for our loved ones with Down syndrome now and into the future. And on Tuesday, our members once again swarmed Beacon Hill for our 4th Annual Down Syndrome Advocacy Day. 

In a ceremony emceed by Boston25 News anchor/reporter Heather Hegedus, nearly 200 families, loved ones, self advocates and others crammed the Grand Staircase to promote essential funding and policy priorities, including: 
  • Ensuring Inclusive Higher Education Opportunities
  • Line Item Funding for MDSC Programs & Services
  • Funding DDS Family Support Line Item and for UMASS Down Syndrome Clinic
We were thrilled to honor Sen. Karen Spilka as our Legislative Champion of the Year for her passionate support over the years.  Special thanks to Senate President (and past MDSC Legislative Champion of the Year) Stan Rosenberg, Senator Jamie Eldridge for joining us to host this event and honor Senator Spilka; and DDS Commissioner Elin Howe for always being there to offer her support.   

MDSC Board Chair Judson DeCew
Cheryl Caira, Elaine Chaisson & Dave Granfors (constituents of Sen. Spilka) with Heather Hegedus, Mike Avakian, Sen. Eldridge and Maureen Gallagher
Our self advocate presenters shone - Isaiah Lombardo, who benefitted from the Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment Initiative to study at Bunker Hill Community College; Melissa Reilly, John  Anton, Brian Heffernan and Ned Reichenbach who have all worked within the hallowed halls of the State House; and artist Michael Avakian, who once again presented a piece of his artwork for our Legislative Champion.

After the formal ceremonies, scores of advocates dispersed throughout the State House to speak personally with their legislators about our legislative priorities. Special thanks to photographers Mark Hunt of Disability Images and Eddie Vargas for capturing so many special moments.  

If you didn't make it Tuesday, don't fret, there's still time to act. Please see below for what you can do!  
Even if you didn't make it to the State House, you can still act to make a difference

On Tuesday, scores of you met with your legislators to share your vision for a bright future for people with Down syndrome and other disabilities. As a community, we made a huge difference. But thousands of your weren't able to make it.

That's why we're asking that you Take Action Now to pass critical legislation and secure the necessary funding to support essential services for the Down syndrome community. 

To maximize the impact of our Advocacy Day, we're asking that you  Take Action now to  support laws and funding that allow all people with Down syndrome to have opportunities to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives.  

Here's what you can do: 
  • Get the contact information for your State Representative and State Senator here
  • Call their office or send an email 
  • Ask them to support our top Legislative Priorities 
  1. Support Legislation and Funding to Provide College Access for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities - Fact Sheet
  2. Vote favorably on the FY18 MDSC budget line item: 5911-1003 - Fact Sheet
  3. Support Department of Developmental Services (DDS) - Fact Sheet - and UMass Down Syndrome Clinic line items - Fact Sheet 
With your help, we can bring the full strength of the Down syndrome community together to pass critical legislation and funding that will improve the lives of all individuals with Down syndrome. 
Thank you for helping make our public case for the necessary supports for people with Down  syndrome! 

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