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Mayoral candidates discuss issues within the Columbia disabilities community

Thursday, March 25, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Improved accessibility and interaction with police are two of several concerns community members with disabilities want their next mayor to address.

At a forum Wednesday, they got a chance to ask  their questions of three mayoral candidates: Sid Sullivan, Jerry Wade and Bob McDavid. Paul Love answered their first question but had to leave early; he left typed answers to other questions at the door. Candidates Sal Nuccio and Sean O'Day did not attend.

Forum Sponsors

The forum was sponsored by:

  • Alternative Community Training
  • Access Interpreters
  • Boone County Family Resources
  • Central Missouri Subcontracting Enterprises
  • Columbia Disabilities Commission
  • Great Plains ADA Center
  • Missouri University Office of Disability Services
  • People First of Boone County
  • Services for Independent Living

The Disabilities Coalition solicited questions from members of the disabilities community. They selected questions that addressed the issues that came up most frequently.

Aimee Wehmeier, executive director of the Services of Independent Living, and Max Lewis, president of the board of directors for Services of Independent Living, were the moderators of this event.


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The candidates were in agreement on most issues, with a few minor differences and additions to others' responses.

Attendees asked the candidates if they would support increased funding for transportation services for those with disabilities as Columbia grows.

Both Wade and McDavid said the city's budget was tight and sacrifices had to be made. Sullivan agreed, but added that he advocated for a land use plan to guide Columbia's growth.

"A land use plan is needed first and then a transportation plan," Sullivan said. "We need to look at the way we're growing, and we need to know where you live and shop so we can have bus routes to accommodate you."

Candidates were also asked what they would do to ensure city officials, including law enforcement, are sensitive to those with disabilities.

"This is a huge concern for Columbia," Bob McDavid said. "I think the average police officer may not interact with people with disabilities. They undergo a sensitivity training, but what I think would be best is direct interaction. If the police participated with you directly, they may be able to more easily recognize a disability."

Wade said police needed better training be able to identify and address the needs of a person with disabilities. Sullivan said the City Council needs to create a "policy of guidance" and a way to ensure police adhere to the policy.

All the candidates frequently mentioned that lines of communication between the those with disabilities and the council need to remain open and the council needs to look for new means of raising revenue so funding for social services won't be cut.

"I promise you, people with disabilities will have a seat at the table, but you will have to let us know what issues you face so that we can work with you to fix them," Wade said.

DeAnna Noriega, legislative liaison for the Services for Independent Living, said people with disabilities are underrepresented. Noreiga helped coordinate the forum, which approximately 30 people attended.

"Democracy only works if you have a committed, well-informed public," Noriega said. "This forum gives a face and a voice to the people with disabilities in this community. It gives them an opportunity to listen to the candidates and make our voices heard and that is our obligation."


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Comments

Ray Shapiro March 25, 2010 | 1:28 a.m.

I found the forum to be very disheartening.

-The meeting was more Services for Independent Living "heavy" and I heard nothing on NAMI.
http://www.nami.org/Template.cfm?Section...
This is a concern of mine as I have noticed that during the last 5 years, or so, SIL has become more focused on people depending on wheelchairs, and less for the more "unseen" disabilities. (Disabilities which many folks dependent on wheelchairs may also experience.)
This of course would include, but not be limited to brain disorders and physical disorders such as Autism, Manic Depression, Schizophrenia, Seizure disorders, PTSD, Adult ADD, Adult Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and more:
http://www.ssa.gov/disability/profession...

-What I think Jerry Wade failed to convey is an understanding that the first hurdle that many individuals with disabilities have is the need to have a sense of meaningful purpose and to feel connected to some cause, mission or higher power, greater than themselves, greater than their "disability" to even function and get themselves through the day.
(Let alone be "in need" of a job.)

-Bob McDavid's "nonprofit" hospital opted to close its psychiatric unit placing an even greater strain on this town's capacity to help people with emotional and mental health issues.
http://www.columbiamissourian.com/storie...

-Sid Sullivan, on the other hand, (with his insight and wisdom), acknowledged that there are doctor/court deemed disabled individuals, who truly should be receiving SSDI and that there should be opportunities for people with disabilities to have a decent life and receive essential support services for their disabilities and life challenges.

-It is imperative to the quality of life of all people, and even more so with people challenged with disabilities, that:
1. Pandering false hopes not be promoted.
2. Sensitivity not to instill "guilt" in people with disabilities who can not be "cured" but can only have the disability/disabilities treated and managed.
3. Address people with disabilities on a one-to-one basis, which encompasses their doctors, therapists and medical treatment plans.
4. Focus on meaningful purpose, basic human physical and emotional needs and encourage and accommodate the disability, as an integral part of the person, but not define the entire person by their disability.

Additional:

Brain Disorders:
http://www.brainsource.com/brain%20injur...
Traumatic Brain Injury:
http://www.traumaticbraininjury.com/
PTSD and our Veterans:
http://www.ptsd.va.gov/

(Report Comment)
Aimee Wehmeier March 25, 2010 | 10:00 a.m.

Ray,
I appreciate your comments. I can see how serving as emcee, using a wheelchair, and working as the ED of Services for Independent Living (SIL) made the event appear more focused on physical disabilities. I will share your comments and perception with the rest of the planning committee. I also would welcome the opportunity to meet with you personally and hear your ideas for better serving individuals with more hidden disabilities. Our agency is engaged in strategic planning and have set up a website for the sole purpose of discovering how we can better serve individuals with all disabilities. The weblink is: http://silcolumbia-strategicplanning.org.... We would greatly appreciate public comment. Thank you again for your input. Sincerely, Aimee

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro March 25, 2010 | 1:39 p.m.

Public Comment:
Item #4.
The selection choice which reads:
Mental Illness/Substance Abuse
You've got to be kidding me.
While I can understand speech/language impairment being a choice, why would any person, who is not a substance abuser, check off Mental Illness/Substance Abuse?
My only guess is that someone is focusing on dual diagnosis or assumes people with mental illnesses must also be substance abusers.
Sorry, Aimee. I'll get back to you on your "invite" when I see an agency which is of the same caliber of an SIL I once knew.
https://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=r...

(Report Comment)

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