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Speakers educate community on disabilities



Published: Fri, October 20, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



People with disabilities worked to ensure the Chevrolet Centre has adequate access for their peers.

By NANCY TULLIS

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Although the Americans With Disabilities Act became law in 1990, there is still much work to be done, said speakers at a disability awareness program at Park Vista Retirement Community.

Whether pursuing an education, a career, or an airline flight home, people with disabilities have the right to equal treatment -- but much of society falls short in ensuring those rights are not violated, said Julie Sofranko, chief development officer of Easter Seals of Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana Counties Inc.

"How to be Inclusive: A Disability Awareness Program," took place Thursday sponsored by the Community Diversity Committee and Youngstown State University's Diversity Council.

Besides Sofranko, other panel participants were Dr. Nafees Ahmed, retired Forum Health Hillside Rehabilitation Hospital physician, who served as moderator; and Jain Savage, coordinator, Center for Student Progress at YSU.

Her own experience

Sofranko said her first involvement with Easter Seals came after her father was struck by a drunk driver and left with severe injuries, including traumatic brain injury. Then Sofranko herself suffered a work-related injury as a nurse and had to give up that career.

She has been Easter Seals' chief development officer for two years. She said Easter Seals offers literature and programs to help people be more aware of the needs of people with disabilities.

Among the literature available is an accessible workplace survey. Easter Seals will visit places of business and evaluate the facility's accessibility to people with disabilities, she said.

Easter Seals has a committee of people with disabilities available to help with accessibility questions, she said. The committee was instrumental in ensuring the Chevrolet Centre had adequate access, she said.

Savage spoke about the needs of students with disabilities at YSU. She said students with disabilities want to be in the college environment, have a great desire to learn and will do whatever it takes to learn.

Help at YSU

Darlene Clinkscale of Liberty shared her experiences as a student with a disability attending YSU. She has earned a bachelor's degree in computer information systems and is now a graduate student in higher education student affairs.

She said the staff in the campus disability services helped her inform her professors of her needs and saw she was provided with a quiet place to take exams and extra time to complete them.

Savage said there are 620 students registered with the campus disability services as having one or more disabilities. She said the assistance people with disabilities receive in the workplace or on a college campus doesn't give them an advantage over people who do not have disabilities, but does level the playing field.

Savage said students with disabilities meet more resistance in college than in primary or secondary school because the right to education -- kindergarten through 12th grade -- was included in the 1973 rehabilitation act. Higher education, however, is still considered by much of society to be a privilege rather than a right, she said.

tullis@vindy.com




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