March declared Disability Awareness Month

Library Hanging Posters Image  Pathfinder Services

PATHFINDER — Kari Goetz, who works in integration services at Pathfi nder, and Michelle Duncan, a Pathfinder client,

Indiana governor Mike Pence has declared March as Indiana Disability Awareness Month. The purpose of the month is to educate the general public about all disabilities — physical, cognitive and developmental — as well as celebrating the contributions and achievements of those with disabilities. Several area agencies are celebrating the month in different ways. David Nelson, president and CEO of the League for the Blind and Disabled in Fort Wayne, said his agency is working on educating the public. “We just issued an article to all of the local newspapers,” Nelson said.The League is also helping to bring the Blind Boys of Alabama to For Wayne this month. The Blind Boys are considered to be living legends of gospel music. The Grammy winners have played for three United States presidents and have collaborated with numerous artists. Three of the band’s singers — Jimmy Carter, Ben Moore and Eric “Ricky” McKinnie — are blind. “They are a great example of people (living with disabilities) who are outstanding,”Nelson said of the group.The League is also part of a coalition organizing the Abilities Abound event being hosted at Parkview Field in Fort Wayne. “We are doing a number of things,” Nelson said.
“It’s a busy month for us.”Nelson said he aims to change the public’s perception of people with disabilities.
“When people think of disabled people, they think of kids or young adults,” he said. “A large percentage of people with disabilities are older. It’s a condition of aging. Yes, some people are born with disabilities, but if you live long enough you will be a person with disabilities.”

As the number of baby boomers age, Nelson said society needs to think about the issue differently. Pathfi nder Services is another agency that assists people with disabilities and aims to improve their quality of life. Michelle Duncan, a Pathfinder client, has been volunteering in the community for a number of years. She visits with people and talks to them, as well as volunteers at the Quayle Museum in Huntington.
She is described as a “social butterfly.” Duncan has also
been doing work for Disability
Awareness Month for six years. Aside from Pathfinder Services, there are other groups that aim to help those living with disabilities. Chris Denton, with New Hope Church in Huntington, is starting an amputee support group.
Denton’s right leg was amputated in May 2011. She was going to a support group in Fort Wayne, but was inspired to start one closer to home.
“We’ll talk about the emotional ups and downs,” she said of the group, which meets on March 11 and 18. Denton is also planning to connect group members to services that can assist the with things such as taxes and hopes to organize field trips or outings in the future.
While the city of Huntington and Huntington County are not planning anything special for the month, they have been working on plansto improve accessibility in buildings and on streets. Huntington City Mayor Brooks Fetters said this is important for Huntington. “It’s important because it allows the city to become the kind of place that is welcoming to all people and that we’re lowering barriers as much as we possibly can to allow people to participatefreely within a democratic society,” he said. Fetters said he wanted to create equal opportunity for people to participate not only in government but also in “the life that we’re privileged to live here in Huntington.”

BY TONI THRASHER  [email protected]