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July 26, 2011

Americans with Disabilities Awareness Day is July 26

OSWEGO COUNTY LEGISLATURE DESIGNATES AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES AWARENESS DAY - The Oswego County Legislature's Health and Human Services Committee recently presented a proclamation designating July 26, 2011 as Americans with Disabilities Awareness Day. At hand for the presentation were Debbie Bartlett, employment consultant with Oswego ARISE; Kristin Rabideau housing advocate with Oswego ARISE, James Karasek, District 22; Ronald Sakonyi, District 5; Committee Chairman John Proud, District 7; Sabine Ingerson, director of Oswego ARISE; Ken Skillen, president of the Self-Advocacy Group with Oswego ARISE; Jim Cronk, independent living services representative with Oswego ARISE; Committee Vice Chairman Jacob Mulcahey, District 15; Margaret Kastler, District 1; and Terry Wilbur, District 21.

OSWEGO - The Oswego County Legislature recently designated July 26, 2011 as Americans with Disabilities Awareness Day to promote education about advocacy, resources and services available to county residents.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 protects the basic civil rights of people with disabilities to ensure that they will have access to employment, public facilities, transportation, services and telecommunications.

"We are honored to be able to mark the 21st anniversary of this historic act," said Legislator Jack Proud, District 7, chairman of the Oswego County Legislature's Health and Human Services Committee. "This is also an opportunity for us to recognize the enormous contributions of ARISE in protecting the rights of these individuals through advocacy and education."

ARISE is one of over 500 Independent Living Centers in the United States providing a strong voice for individuals with varying levels of abilities and helping them to achieve their maximum potential within their families and communities. With offices in Oswego, Fulton and Pulaski, they provide a wide variety of programs and services including advocacy and support; habilitation programs; and health, employment, and youth services.

The presentation was made to several members of Oswego ARISE, including Director Sabine Ingerson.

"Many people today have family members or friends whose lives have been made better because of ADA," said Ingerson. "Gone are the days when a person who uses a wheelchair could only enter a restaurant through the delivery entrance, buses were not equipped with wheelchair lifts and persons with hearing loss could not use the phone."

Ingerson continued, "As physical access has improved, so have attitudes toward persons with disabilities. The younger generation is more familiar with classmates who have a disability, which seems to make them more comfortable being around someone with cognitive or physical disabilities. Our society has become more accepting."

Jim Cronk, an independent living services representative with Oswego ARISE, was also at hand for the presentation and echoed Ingerson's sentiments when talking about his own experience.

"Most people look at the ADA for what it has done for people with disabilities," he said. "What they don't realize is what the ADA has done for those who don't have a disability. It has opened doors, both literally and figuratively, as well as the eyes of many to recognize the 'abilities' that people have to offer when given a chance. Thanks to the ADA, I am enjoying living life too!"

The ADA has made great strides over the last twenty years, yet there is still more to be done. While the act protects persons with disabilities in the workplace, only 35.7 percent of those who are work-age are employed in Oswego County as compared to 71.4 percent of employed work-age people who do not have a disability.

ARISE works with residents, communities and other advocacy groups to fulfill the promise of hope and freedom envisioned by the ADA and reaffirm the dignity, independence and self-worth of people with various levels of ability.

To learn more about ARISE services, call the Oswego office at 342-4088 or the Pulaski office at 298-5726 or go to http://www.ariseinc.org/programs/oswego_services.html.

The Oswego County Legislature's Health and Human Services Committee also includes Vice Chairman Jacob Mulcahey, District 15; and legislators Barbara Brown, District 8; James Karasek, District 22; Margaret Kastler, District 1; Ronald Sakonyi, District 5; and Terry Wilbur, District 21.

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