Submitted on behalf of Deputy Erie County Executive Lisa Chimera
July is recognized nationally as Disability Pride Month. Here in Erie County, we have a long history of supporting accessibility and inclusion. While the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law on July 26, 1990, the Erie County Office for People with Disabilities (ECOPD) was added to the county charter a full seven years earlier in 1983.
In recognition of the 33rd anniversary of the ADA, on July 26, the county, along with the City of Buffalo and community partners, will hold the first Disability Pride flag-raising at Niagara Square in downtown Buffalo. Immediately following the ceremony at noon, a celebration will be held at Canalside. All are welcome to attend the event with food and live music. Anyone requiring paratransit to either location can contact the NFTA at 716-855-7268.
When the ADA was signed into law 33 years ago, it gave equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities in public accommodations, employment, transportation, state and local government services, and telecommunications. The ECOPD was created to ensure that all citizens with disabilities would have a direct voice in county government; in addition to giving them an advocate to develop and enhance services and to oversee facilities and programs by the county.
The ECOPD provides assistance, which generally falls into three categories:
√ Referral – The ECOPD links citizens with disabilities to affiliated agencies.
√ Representation – The ECOPD acts as a liaison to county government.
√ ADA/ACCESS oversight – The executive director of the ECOPD serves as the ADA compliance officer.
Anyone can experience a temporary, long-term, or permanent disability at any time, and access and inclusion are critical when you have a disability. Persons with physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments may experience barriers that hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others. While the ADA ensures equal access, it is important for all of us to practice inclusion and to treat our neighbors, family and friends with dignified compassion.
A wonderful project, that I am personally so excited to see come to fruition, is the installation of inclusive playgrounds at all five Erie County heritage parks. In addition to being fully accessible and inviting to people with disabilities, especially parents with disabilities, inclusive playgrounds are a resource for grandparents and aging caregivers who want to interact with the children in their care.
Their universal design permits all children to play together, including kids with disabilities, and has a wide range of play features to accommodate children’s interests. It is such a joy to watch children of all levels of ability play together, and I am proud of our county leadership for their support of this $3.5 million investment.
As co-chair of our Live Well Erie initiative, I acknowledge the great value the ECOPD plays in following through on the promise that, in the new Erie County, no one is left behind. From our children enjoying inclusive playgrounds, to providing our adults with an advocate to contribute to policy discussion, I am proud of this office and the work they do.
You can learn more about the ECOPD, and find a list of upcoming events at www.erie.gov/ecopd, or by calling 716-858-6215.