OSWEGO – At its meeting Thursday, the Oswego County Legislature designated July 26 as Americans with Disabilities Awareness Day to promote education about advocacy, resources and services available to county residents. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 guarantees that people with disabilities will have access to employment, public accommodations, transportation, services and telecommunications.
ARISE (Advocacy Resources Information Services Education) is a center for independent living. It’s is a nonprofit organization that operates in Onondaga, Oswego, Madison, Cayuga and Seneca counties. It connects with people of all ages with any type of disability so that every person, regardless of disability, can fully participate.
Sabine Ingerson, director of Oswego ARISE shared the history of the ADA with the legislators.
In honor of the occasion, members of ARISE presented legislators with cupcakes, wrapped in silver foil with silver sprinkles on top – signifying the 25th anniversary.
Decades ago, treatment of people with disabilities, in many cases, was deplorable, she noted. More and more protests began to happen because of the Civil Rights movement.
“That’s when members of the community decided something needed to be done,” Ingerson said. “People with disabilities, over the years, have gotten more rights.”
The goal of the ADA wasn’t to give persons with disabilities “special rights,” she stressed. “The goal was to level the playing field, for everybody, and, to provide equal access and opportunity regardless of a person’s abilities.”
On July 26, 1990, President George H. W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The ADA is a Civil Rights law that covers things from employment to transportation to access, Ingerson explained.
Some of the progress recently includes: curb cuts, accessible parking spots, being able to use public transportation, the pedestrian signals at various busy intersections in Oswego and Fulton to help visually impaired persons safely cross the streets, and the Ramps Project that allows those with handicaps to easily access their own homes.
She cited the students at CiTi who helped construct sections of ramp to be installed at homes around the county this spring.
When the ramps aren’t needed any more, they can be taken down and reassembled elsewhere, she added.
“A ramp doesn’t just give you access. It gives you freedom and independence. There are so many other things (about the ADA). Employers have to make accommodations in the workplace,” she said. “What’s important is that the individuals that we work with have a voice and that you hear them.”
ARISE is the federally funded independent center for Oswego County.
“So, we get federal funds to be the center that talks about ADA, answers questions from anybody with a disability,” Ingerson said. “We try to employ as many people with disabilities as we can. So really the voice of people with disabilities is heard and we go by what they’re telling us. They tell us their needs and we respond to them.”
ARISE also has a program that enables people to remain independent in their own homes. About 10 people in this program would be in some sort of nursing home if they weren’t receiving these services, Ingerson pointed out.
The savings is about $16,000 per person per year to the taxpayer. So that’s $160,000, she said.
“The program is giving people independence and it is also cost effective,” she told the legislature.
When someone comes to ARISE for services, “we work on a plan that they would like to develop for themselves,” Ingerson explained. “We really ask them ‘what do you what out of life?’ So we work on a plan with them and provide service coordination and skills building.”
ARISE has helped many people find employment, Ingerson said, adding that they have some who are self-employed as well.
“We also have a mental health clinic, not many people know that. We have an office in Fulton,” she said. “Physical activity is important to us, also. So we have a golf clinic that we run every year.”
They have started a group for those who’ve suffered brain injuries.
On July 14t at 6 p.m., members of the Oswego Traumatic Brain Injury Support Group will hear a presentation from guest speaker, Carrie E. Garcia. The meeting will take place at the ARISE Oswego office located at 9 Fourth Ave
“We don’t just work with people with disabilities. We also work with their families and support groups. It’s kind of unique for all of Central New York,” she said. “We are involved with a lot of groups in the community. We also like to give back to the community by volunteering for various events and projects.”
This year, for the first time in Harborfest history, ARISE will partner with SUNY Oswego’s Office of Business and Community Relations to host an event for children with disabilities at the festival.
Harborfest will start early on July 26 for families with children who have disabilities. Families are welcome to participate in the festival from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. to enjoy music, food from participating vendors, and children’s activities. A shuttle will be provided to transport children and families to the start of the Children’s Parade following the event at 1 p.m.
“One person speaking up makes more noise than a thousand people who remain silent. That is exactly what I am asking you to do. If you see some injustice happening in the area you represent, speak up, bring it to our attention,” Ingerson told the legislators.
ARISE has been providing advocacy and services since 1979. Each year, it works with approximately 4,000 people of all ages who have all types of disabilities.
It operates ARISE at the Farm, a 77-acre recreational facility in Chittenango and ARISE & Ski at Toggenburg Winter Sports Center in Fabius.
To learn more about ARISE services, call the Oswego office at 342-4088 or the Pulaski office at 298-5726 or go to http://www.ariseinc.org/programs/oswego_services.html