The time is right for Disabilities Dialog

The time right for the discussion to take center stage. “What would it take for the Toledo area to be named the most disability-friendly community in the United States?”

That’s the question that will be driving the discussion in a series of upcoming community forums hosted by the Ability Center. Tim Harrington, Director of the Ability Center, said the goal is for “meaningful dialog” on the issues that help individuals with disabilities to thrive – emotionally, physically, and socially.

What are these issues? Key among them are accessible housing, transportation, education, healthcare, and employment.

The Ability Center calls their awareness and engagement campaign Disability Dialog. And they are making it easy to share ideas and begin to prioritize action with several discussion boards on a new website.

Why should the general community get involved? Well, perhaps Mr. Harrington said it best at a news conference announcing the new campaign, “The real benchmark of how we measure a disabilities friendly community is how we care for one another.”

House approves controversial changes to the ADA

Disability rights activists are very concerned after the U.S. House approved legislation that makes a major modification to the Americans with Disabilities Act. House Bill 620 would require people facing accessibility barriers at public businesses to provide written notice of their concerns. The publication Disability Scoop says concerns could include a lack of wheelchair ramps, special parking or bathroom facilities. Businesses would have up to 60 days to respond and then an additional 60 days to begin improvements.

Supporters of the legislation say they are trying to address frivolous lawsuits around ADA compliance.

But advocates for people with disabilities say businesses could ignore accessibility issues unless there is a complaint. That would be akin to erasing gains achieved in the 27 years since the ADA was written into law.

The Amalgamated Transit Union, in a letter to Congress, said “the legislation would subject people with disabilities, and only people with disabilities, to a burdensome bureaucratic procedure to gain access to certain public accommodations.

“Human dignity and civil rights do not allow us to single out and subject people with disabilities to waiting periods and red tape to gain entrance to stores, restaurants, schools, theaters, night clubs, hospitals and offices that are open and accessible to all others without delay or hindrance.”

November is Hire a Veteran Month

Helping veterans with disabilities get or retain employment is important to OOD. The agency’s vocational rehabilitation counselors work with veterans who have disabilities to develop an individualized plan for employment that matches skills and interest with a career goal. OOD offers job training, vocational counseling, assistive technology, vehicle modifications and a network of community rehabilitation partners. If you are a veteran with a disability and want to work, you can apply for services at Here is a link to OOD’s new postcard for veterans with disabilities – Vocational Rehabilitation Services for Veterans

Commissioners acknowledge 50 years supporting individuals with developmental disabilities

It was an honor for me to represent the Lucas County Board of Developmental Disabilities during the presentation of a proclamation from the Lucas County Commissioners acknowledging the Board’s 50th anniversary.

In the Proclamation the Commissioners recognized the tireless efforts of the Board  to break down attitudinal barriers so individuals with disabilities will have greater access to housing, employment, and social activities.

After nearly two decades of lobbying for education and employment programs for their children with developmental disabilities, in 1967 the state legislature acquiesced.  Today, upwards of 5,000 individuals are touched by the Board whose Mission is to improve LIFE so that individuals with developmental disabilities reach their full potential.

The new kid on Sesame Street has autism

A wonderfully insightful story this week on “60 Minutes” about the new kid on Sesame Street, and she has autism.

Correspondent Leslie Stahl explains how the producers painstakingly worked to get it right when they explain autism to the pre-school set through the child-like minds of Big Bird, Elmo and other residents of Sesame Street.  Bottom line, preschoolers can be sensitized to the issues around autism and children with autism can be friends, too.

Stahl points out in the report, “Sesame Street has always based its characters and content on extensive research.  They regularly bring in educators and child psychologists. In the case of Julia, they also worked with autism organizations to decide which characteristics she should have and how best to normalize autism for all children.”

The CDC says that the prevalence in the United States being born on the autism spectrum is estimated at 1 in 68 births. So, the likelihood of having a classmate with autism is extremely high.

And a reminder that April is Autism Awareness Month.