This past week I attended the chartering of a new club-Kiwanis Aktion club. This is Kiwanis clubs way of ACTIVELY recruiting or involving those with disabilities in their Kiwanis organization. I have said so many times that in my opinion unless we very purposefully INclude people with disabilities in their communities they will be inadvertently EXcluded. Thank you to the Kiwanis organization for this great opportunity for those with disabilities to get involved in serving their community and becoming a more visible part of their community. Thank you to the Jackson and Cape Girardeau Kiwanis clubs and to SEMO Alliance for Disability Independence for acting as sponsors of this club.
People with disabilities are not all the same- just as people without disabilities are not all the same. But generally speaking, there are more ready opportunities for those without disabilities to be involved in their communities. Think about something as simple as a person who uses a wheelchair shopping or attending an outdoor event in our community- the fair, the rodeo, the waterpark. Many of those things prove very difficult. Fortunately more and more facilities and organizations are realizing there is a population of people in our community who have very limited choices compared to those of us who do not have a disability and thank you to those facilities and organizations that are making sure you are accessible for everyone. When I go shopping I don't have to worry that I may not fit through the shelving units or racks because of my wheelchair, or worry that although if I could get in the pool I would be fine, but actually getting into it would be a huge production with no lift available for wheelchair users. I don't have to worry about not being able to negotiate steps, etc... Of course there are also people with other types of disabilities that don't require a wheelchair-some who communicate differently or maybe have learning challenges due to an intellectual disability. We need the community to embrace and accept people with these types of disabilities as well.
I am so excited to see the equipment for Melaina's Playland going up! Now playing at the park will be an accessible, natural part of childhood for children with disabilities! This playground will be accessible to everyone- with or without disabilities! One more step our community has made in including those with disabilities in every aspect of community living! Thank you to Jeff and Andrea Cunningham for inspiring this playground and following your dreams to completion.
There is another area our community needs to respond to- we need more businesses to bo open to hiring people with disabilities. I know economic times are tough, but there are statistics that prove that people with disabilities have some of the best attendance in the workplace, and there are real tax incentives available to businesses that employ those with disabilities. Working at the local sheltered workshop should not be the only choice for people with disabilities. For some people with disabilities that may be the right choice. That may be just what they want, but like everyone else, people with disabilities should have many options regarding employment. I think more and more people are seeing the real value of those with disabilities and some of the old stigma is being removed. If you are a local business owner or manager and you are interested in learning more about hiring someone with a disability to work in your business, or supporting an organization I am involved in whose goal is to improve job options for those with disabilities in Cape County, please contact www.blueskycenter.org for information on how we can help you do that.