WATERTOWN — Celebrating the 29th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Northern Regional Center for Independent Living (NRCIL) hosted an event at the Thompson Park Pavilion on July 24.
“The civil rights act for those with disabilities really codified in law the fact that we should have equal access to all goods and services in our communities,” said Aileen Martin, executive director of NRCIL.
On July 26, 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed the ADA prohibiting discrimination of those with physical and intellectual disabilities.
“A lot of businesses, school districts and municipalities did not know they were discriminating because from the perspective of someone able bodied, they might not see the discrimination,” said Ms. Martin. “If you are able bodied, you may not realize the need for a ramp or accessible restrooms, but when you have a disability it is in your face.”
Reasonable accommodations help provide a more vibrant workforce, according to the executive director.
“Written into the law in the 1970s were independent living centers. We help people of all ages, not just kids and not just adults,” she said. “We are run by, and for, people with disabilities. At least 51 percent of our board of directors, and 51 percent of staff have to be people with disabilities.”
Ms. Martin said this allows services to be delivered with the disability perspective.
Several local agencies who serve the needs of those with physical or intellectual disabilities were on hand to offer information, and a variety of sponsors provided food, entertainment and games to enhance the day’s experience.
Chandler, 11, and Noah, 10, Pridell of Lowville traveled to Watertown for the event.
“We’re here to have fun,” said Noah.
“The music is fun,” said Chandler.
Albina Rennie and Shawn Corbett were some of many NRCIL employees assisting with food service and entertainment at the pavilion.
“NRCIL does wonderful work in the community,” said Mr. Corbett.
During the event, NRCIL’s 2019 Barrier Buster Awards were presented at the event to:
n Barbara Case, Superintendent, General Brown Central School, for efforts to transition General Brown Central School into a school district that fully includes students with disabilities
n Kathy Lettiere and Kathryn Beagle for their efforts to put a face to the issue of suicide prevention by hosting an event titled “Stomp Out Stigma”
n Leslie Keefer for her work to raise awareness of children’s mental health and autism by hosting and coordinating many awareness events for families
n Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Northern New York for the many improvements in access to services for people who are blind or have visual impairments.