Developmentally disabled share concerns with lawmakers, aides

By Holly Zachariah 
The Columbus Dispatch 

“When you hear from someone served by the community, and they advocate for themselves, it has so much more impact,” Leland said.

Scott Sundry had something on his mind Friday, and he wanted the panel of 10 state legislators or their representatives to hear about it.

So he stared down the row of men and women seated before him at the front of the gymnasium at the Bixby Center in Groveport, and told them he thinks the local developmental-disability community has a new safety issue: transport vans.

Late last year, mostly as part of a movement to be more inclusive and adaptable in getting clients out into the community more easily, the Franklin County Board of Developmental Disabilities stopped using school buses to transport adults to workshops, work and appointments. It uses more than 100 vans instead.

Though there is a law aimed at preventing people from passing a stopped school bus, no similar law protects these unmarked vans.

“We’re just seen as a vehicle with its flashers on,” said Sundry, who drives one of the board’s ARC Industries vans.

Just that morning, he said, he was stopped and loading someone in a wheelchair into the van when a school bus whizzed by him, honking its horn.

“I’m thinking this is a safety issue,” Sundry said.

He hoped voicing his concerns might lead to change. So did more than a dozen others who spoke their minds Friday during Legislative Advocacy Day, the fourth such event sponsored in the past few years by the county board and its Self-Advocate Advisory Council, ARC Industries, and the Ohio Self Determination Association. It was a chance for people with developmental disabilities to ask questions of those who make the laws that govern their lives and to tell the legislators in person what could help their communities the most.

Transportation — or lack thereof — was a hot topic. Jeff Davis, the newly appointed director of the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities, said he knows it must be addressed.

“We recognize the significance of transportation,” Davis said. The rules of reimbursement must be reviewed, he said, and more attention must be paid to transportation options in rural areas. One woman, for example, said her 28-year-old daughter can’t ride a van to her classes at Columbus State Community College because her funding comes from a different pot than the others on the bus, so a ride-share is prohibited.

Other issues raised were varied: that better technology needs to be made available for non-verbal individuals on the autism spectrum, that handicapped-accessible housing options are too limited and that potholes need to be filled and neighborhood crime must be reduced.

Christine Brown organized the event. She pointed out that the proposed state budget currently being debated would increase the hourly wage for workers who provide home and/or personal care to people with developmental disabilities by 11 percent, to $12.38 an hour.

That’s a historic and important step, she said, but not enough to solve the labor shortage in the industry.

“Are we here to shake things up and speak out?” she asked the crowd of probably 200 people. They answered her with cheers and applause.

State Rep. David Leland, a Columbus Democrat, said the day was important.

“When you hear from someone served by the community, and they advocate for themselves, it has so much more impact,” Leland said.

Read the original article here: The Columbus Dispatch