Friday, October 10, 2008

Disabilities advocates win local recognition

People First has been active for 10 years.
Sara Small remembers being singled out and made fun of when she was in school. As secretary of Columbia’s chapter of People First, Small is active in an organization that advocates for Boone County residents with developmental disabilities. "We’re people, too," Small said. "We’re human."
Yesterday, Small was among about 10 people recognized with a "People First Proclamation" by the Boone County Commission. Barb Griffin, a retired elementary special education teacher, is the group’s vice president. Her husband of 28 years, Greg Griffin, is president. The recognition came on the 10th anniversary of People First in Columbia.
"There are a lot of disability groups in this town," Barb Griffin said, with her 2½-year-old black Lab assistance dog, Mardi Gras, sitting calmly at her feet. Born blind, she said people with developmental disabilities sometimes have difficulty integrating into other groups because they "get lost in all the big words and phrases."
"We want to live, work and play in the community, be as much a part of the community as anybody else" instead of being pushed aside as "those people," she said.
People First promotes self-advocacy and supports programs that help its members and others with developmental disabilities get involved in their community. The group meets monthly in the Friends Room at Boone County Family Resources, 1209 E. Walnut St. Griffin said group members are clients of BCFR, which provides staff members as advisers for People First meetings. The local group has 33 members. There are about 40 People First chapters throughout the state.
Boone County Presiding Commissioner Ken Pearson presented the proclamation to the group, honoring their fundraising efforts, partnering with other agencies, hosting social gatherings and, among other things, advocating for more public transportation options.
"Public transportation is not nearly what it should be for a town this size," Griffin said. "They’re working on it, I know. It’s a funding issue."
Not having public transportation available Sundays and evenings means limited or no access to churches and social events, she said.
Small said the local group continues to be part of an annual effort to lobby state lawmakers to drop the term "mental retardation" from the Division of Mental Retardation and Development Disabilities.
"Just call it ‘developmental disability,’ " Greg Griffin said.
Small added: "That’s a very hurtful word that nobody likes to hear."

Source:
http://www.columbiatribune.com/2008/Oct/20081010News004.asp

Congratulations all you work hard everyday for every disabled citizen in this entire area guiding the way.

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