About 60 people met at the Martin Luther King Library last week to celebrate the District's Mentally Retarded Citizens Constitutional Rights and Dignity Act passed last fall.
The reception was sponsored by the D.C. Association for Retarded Citizens (DCARC) and was attended by government officials, relatives of mentally retarded people, friends and advocates promoting the rights of mentally retarded people.
City Council member Polly Shackleton applauded DCARC Executive Director Vincent Gray for promoting the bill and "getting people to come to (City Council) meetings. It was the people of your association who galvanized into action on this landmark legislation," she said.
Officials with the Department of Human Resources and DCARC also presented brief remarks.
The law, which is a bill outlining rights of mentally retarded people, was sponsored by City Council Chairman Arrington Dixon. Dixon, who also attended the reception, said the bill has a companion piece that will promote the creation of sheltered workshops and jobs. He pledged his support to help obtain funding needed to start the programs.
Still, the passage of the bill is just the first leg of a long journey, said Curtiss Knighten, president of DCARC.
"I want to make this very emphatic. We are celebrating the passage of the bill of rights for the mentally retarded. But the bottom line is coming up, and that's the change in the zoning laws (to eliminate restrictions on group homes)," Knighten told the audience.
"If the zoning laws arent't changed, then everything is down the pipe. We have to fight for change in the zoning."