The Norman Transcript

October 17, 2013

Coalition promotes support for people with disabilities

By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t do is this decade’s mantra for persons with disabilities. With that in mind, the disABILITY Coalition was formed in Norman.

The disABILITY Coalition unites a group of professionals to work together to promote accessibility and to support Progressive Independence and other area agencies that work with people with disabilities. With independence as the goal, the coalition has been reaching out to the community through a number of efforts. Next up is a Community Engagement meeting from 8:30 to 10 a.m. on Nov. 1 at Norman Regional Hospital Education Center, 901 N. Porter Ave.

“We’re going to try to let the community know that we have this coalition and that we are advocating for persons with disabilities,” said Renee O’Leary of United Way.

Guest speakers include Mayor Cindy Rosenthal, Sen. John Sparks, D-Norman, Norman Public Works Director Shawn O’Leary and city activists Wanda Felty and Kay Ham.

Rosenthal will speak on the city’s efforts toward inclusion and diversity.

“This definitely builds on what the Human Rights Commission has been trying to do on inclusion and building an inclusive community,” Rosenthal said. “The Human Right Commission is part of the coalition.”

Renee O’Leary will provide information about the coalition, and Sparks will give legislative updates related to disability issues. Shawn O’Leary will talk about building accessibility into the city and will give an update on infrastructure projects on Norman’s horizon.

Felty, who is the Community Leadership and Advocacy Coordinator for the Center for Learning and Leadership with the OU Health Science Center, will discuss family perspectives and will give a wait list update.

“We are trying to bring awareness of the needs for persons with disabilities,” Renee O’Leary said. “For a person to quality for DDSD (Development Disabilities Services Division) they have to meet an institutional level of care. These services provided supports to live in the community.”

Ham, who serves on the city’s Human Rights Commission, will talk about how the city can serve persons with disabilities through the human rights perspective.

The Community Engagement is the beginning of a dialogue to bring information and awareness about the needs of persons with disabilities and how to support independence at multiple levels.

Residents are encouraged to report blocked sidewalks and any other obstructions that would hinder people with disabilities.

“If there is a sidewalk that is obstructed, if people would call the city action line, the city is very willing to work on those and prioritize,” Renee O’Leary said.

The City Action Center can be reached at 366-5396.