My stacks of resources related to services for people with disabilities is staggering. It’s risky in a way to pick just a few to recognize National Disabilities Employment Month, but I don’t want to let the month pass without naming a select few resources, most of which will lead and link to other resources. . The topic deserves much more, but a little is better than nothing.
For starts there is the national Campaign for Disability Employment. The public may have seen the “I Can” public service announcement on the silver screen and on local TV channels and radio stations. The “I Can” PSA features seven people with disabilities sharing what they can do on the job when given the opportunity. “I Can” has aired nearly 20,000 times on national television and cable stations and more than 20,000 times on national radio stations.
Closer to home, the identified portal to state services for people with disabilities is the Minnesota State Council on Disability, a good starting point for employers and employees concerned about the employment of people with disabilities. This is a great start, but there’s much more happening on countless local fronts. I’d like to just name a few of those I particularly appreciate, not as a person with disability but as one very concerned about a inclusion and about how much we all have to learn.
- For nearly 30 years Closing the Gap, a conference originally organized by a couple from Henderson, Minnesota, has drawn hundreds of individuals with disabilities, families, teachers and service providers to Bloomington, Minnesota for a most extraordinary mix of displays, concerns and ideas. Assistive technology originally referred primarily to physical tools of every conceivable description to better the lives of people with a range of disabilities. I know this because for many years I attended the exhibits if not the entire conference. It cheered me to see the ways in which the conference expanded from physical to intellectual access as a priority. Though I just missed this year’s conference October 10-11 I have October 12-14, 2011 on my calendar for the 30th gathering.
- One of my favorite regular reads is Access Press, an excellent statewide newspaper in which Tim Benjamin continues the work of the late Charlie Smith. For twenty years now Access Press, housed in a humble office on University Avenue in the Midway, Access Press has served the vast community of people with disabilities and those who serve that community. Access Press continues to grow with the launch this fall of an e-letter and a group of blogs by and for people with disabilities. It’s an amazing, quiet but effective journal that provides unique and essential information in a timely manner. Access Press also offers an up-to-date Directory of Organizations with scores of organizations by categories ranging from Advocacy to Visual Impairment. . (btw:The Annual Charlie Smith awards banquet sponsored by Access Press is November at the Airport Marriott.)
- The University of Minnesota provides extensive information about on-campus disabilities services. I learned a good deal about the diversity and range of services by poking around at the greatest of all learning smorgasbords, the Minnesota State Fair. (I even took the Accessibility Scavenger Hunt through which I learned that there are exactly four wheelchair rental booths on the State Fairgrounds). One broad-based locus for services to the U of M community is the Disabled Student Cultural Center in Coffman Union. The links on the DSCC website take the curious to all sorts of unknown resources. For example, my librarian heart leapt up (!) when I learned that LUMINA to U is a document delivery service for students with mobility and print disabilities to assure access to library materials. A great map from DSCC indicates essential services for students with disabilities ranging from paratransit service to disabilities parking and accessible restrooms to the “most accessible football stadium in the Big Ten.”
- CCP Works! (aka Cooperating Community Programs) “uses an individual-centered approach, community resources and service components to meet the unique needs and goals of the individual.” For thirty years CCP Works! Has served the community with a evolving array of services. New to CCP Works is an Independent Living Services program serving people with disabilities in Ramsey and Washington Counties. Employment services and opportunities are an important feature of CCP Works!
The list goes on – cities and towns, colleges, school systems, corporations, health care facilities, places of worship, football stadiums and virtually every other responsible institution has a program or service in place. And yet…. Just yesterday the Minnesota Council on Foundations’ Philanthropy Potluck Blog presents some sobering facts. A recent Harris Interactive survey commissioned by the Kessler Foundation and the National Organization on Disability offers a reality check. To wit:
Twenty years after passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Americans with disabilities still lag behind on key indicators”
- Of all working age people with disabilities, only 21 percent say that they are employed,.
- People with disabilities are still much more likely to be living in poverty.
- People with disabilities are less likely than those without disabilities to socialize with friends, relatives or neighbors
- The second-largest gap between people with and without disabilities is regarding Internet access. Eighty-five percent of adults without disabilities access the Internet, whereas only 54 percent of adults with disabilities report the same.
Disappointing as these observations are, I appreciate MCF’s bringing the survey to the fore during National Disabilities Employment month. We need to know.