Stow -- Members of an official group of volunteers want to get the word out that the city can do more to help those with disabilities, including to city officials.
The Stow Commission on Disabilities is planning a presentation for City Council, possibly in the fall.
"It's supposed to be about educating Council about the needs of the community," said commission secretary Teresa Powers during the commission's Aug. 30 monthly meeting.
The commission also discussed how the city might acquire equipment to help those with disabilities better take part in city parks and recreation programs, as well as how a West Coast city may be an example for what Stow can do for residents with disabilities.
Commission member Lisa Kamlowsky, who is assistant superintendent with the Summit County Developmental Disabilities Board, said that with the city reviewing its comprehensive plan, zoning might be a topic to bring up in terms of improving accessibility.
"So maybe it's a really good time to talk to Council," said Kamlowsky.
Commission member Dawn Doolittle, who uses a wheelchair, said a related topic would be if the ground around buildings in the city were more level.
"Everything seems to be on some kind of incline, be it large or small," she said.
Commission member Clair Wilson said she could talk about her experiences in dealing with the school district on disability issues when her granddaughter, now a Stow-Munroe Falls High School graduate, was a student.
"I had such a positive relationship with the Stow school system," she said.
Kamlowsky said that more than anything, the commission needs to tell Council that even if they currently are not disabled and do not know anyone who is, people age, they develop medical problems, get into accidents. In other words, it can happen to anyone at anytime.
"Try to make it personal to them," she said, adding later, "At some point in time, you're going to have a need."
Commission member Jessica Norwood said, "Disability's natural and not always physical."
"If we're not born with a disability, we're going to get one at some point," she said.
Commission Chairwoman Rose Schur commented that caring for her son suddenly became her life about 40 years ago after he was disabled in a dirt bike accident when he was 16.
"You're a great example of what we're talking about here," said Commission member Bruce Bach.
Commission members also said they would like to work with the parks and recreation department in helping make programs and facilities more accessible and publicizing resources on the city's website, as well as in the parks and recreation program brochures.
Kamlowsky said that even if the city is compliant with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, more could be done.
"Being compliant is different from being welcoming. Everyone has to be compliant," she said.
She said the city could seek grants to purchase adaptive equipment, such as a special wheelchair that can operate on sand for people to use at Bow Wow Beach Dog Park, and could appoint someone as a point person to assist people with disabilities.
"If the point person doesn't know what to do, we can give them a contact with Summit DD," said Kamlowsky.
Kamlowsky also provided fellow commission members with information from Eugene, Oregon, which she said is one of the most advanced communities in the nation in terms of helping those with disabilities through its Office of Human Rights and Neighborhood Involvement.
"It is from the top down and woven into everything they do," said Kamlowsky.
"People really need to know their rights," said Wilson. "It sounds like they are over and above."
Information provided by Kamlowsky, from the Eugene city manager's office, includes accessibility to city facilities, programs and events and rights under the ADA.
"We need to go through this thoroughly and see what we can use," said Schur.
The Stow Commission on Disabilities was started by Mayor Sara Kline shortly after taking office in January 2012. The next regular monthly meeting is Sept. 27 at 6 p.m. in the City Hall boards and commissions room, next to Council chambers.
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