Who's Who 2011: Traci Ritter

Monday, March 21, 2011
Photo by Laura Simon

Ritter is involved with LaCroix United Methodist Church Junior High Youth Group and Open Arms ministry, Alma Schrader PTA and is a Parent Advocate. She is a paraprofessional for the visually impaired in the Jackson School District, initiated the development of the district's Parent Partnership Council to improve the educational experience for students with disabilities, and works with the council on the school system's annual Disability Week. She worked with her daughter to pass "Kaitlyn's Law" (Missouri HB 236) to allow individuals with disabilities to march with their peers in graduation ceremonies even if they plan to take additional classes after graduation. She has taken an active role in following the proceedings of the Cape Girardeau County Board for the Developmentally Disabled, and writes a blog for the Southeast Missourian about these developments and other disability-related issues.

"I see big things happening in Southeast Missouri in providing more choices in employment, recreation, social activities and living arrangements for persons with disabilities. I have already seen so many exciting things happening. Our local CCBDD (formerly known as the SB40 board) is really working together to ensure they are doing the most they can with the tax money they collect. They are working to make sure it gets into the hands of organizations or people that truly need it and that it serves a wide range of people. I would still love to see an organization step up to offer more progressive job training options in our area, offering people with disabilities the opportunity to become competitively employed if they should desire that. The CCBDD would be open to hearing those proposals," says Ritter.

Athletes Plus, a local gym, recently began offering a cheerleading class/team for children with disabilities. There are other children who don't have disabilities in the class as well, offering support to each other and fostering friendships. I would love to see more opportunities for physical recreation for persons with disabilities. I am excited about meeting with local Kiwanis members about starting an Aktion club, a Kiwanis-sponsored club specifically designed to include persons with disabilities in the Kiwanis organization.

My daughter Kaitlyn has mild Cerebral Palsy and had some balance and gross motor issues when she was younger, but could still visit the local parks and use most of the equipment with some assistance. She's grown now and definitely past the 'playing at the park' stage, but I cannot wait until Melaina's Playground is built and children with more involved physical disabilities can play alongside their nondisabled peers at a park designed specifically with them in mind. Lately our community seems to have stepped up when it comes to opening their hearts and minds to making sure we are including persons with disabilities in every facet of our community. I look forward to seeing more of that, and encouraging more of that whenever and wherever I can."

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