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Saturday, June 7, 2014

The Ins and Outs of Mainstream Life

Two contrasting stories caught my attention this week.  One exemplifies the continuing efforts to include people with disabilities in mainstream life through various media forms.  The other dramatizes the fact that, in reality, people with disabilities are often excluded, or forgotten, from mainstream life.

The good news is that Archie has a new girl friend...and she has a disability.  After more than 70 years, the venerable Archie comic strip has finally added a person with a disability to the gang from Riverside.  Her name is Harper, cousin of Veronica (my favorite was always Betty.  Stop me when I've exceeded the nerd quotient) and she uses a wheelchair.  She is described as having a spunky personality and, according to the Archie Comics people, does not let her disability define her.  Good for you, Arch!

A new report from the National Council on Disability is urging better planning and coordination to ensure that people with disabilities are not left behind in emergency situations. (Joe Burbank /Orlando Sentinel/MCT)When we move away, however, from the colorful pages of a comic book to the black and white pages of real life, we see news that is not as positive.  According to the National Council on Disability, as reported in a recent article in Disability Scoop, serious barriers continue to jeopardize the well-being of people with disabilities in the wake of disasters and other emergency situations.  Many 911 systems are still unavailable by text.  Shelters and televised emergency announcements often lack sign-language interpreters for those who are deaf.  Broadcast alerts feature language that is unclear for individuals with intellectual disabilities.  Evacuation maps and websites with emergency information are inaccessible to people with sight impairments.  Said Jeff Rosen, chair of the National Council on Disability, "The concerns of people with disabilities and others with access and functional needs in emergency situations are frequently overlooked, minimized or not even recognized until after the fact."  The agency is recommending that several federal agencies work together to establish guidelines for communicating with people with disabilities in emergency situations.  They are also suggesting more oversight, training and collaboration with the disability community.

Maybe Harper, Archie and the gang can help with that.

Mark Bernstein
Growth Consultant, Central East Regional Group and UUA Liaison to Equual Access

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