Disabilities Act has helped, but more to do in society
The 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act is being observed this month across the nation.
This legislation is being celebrated by organizations such as Independent Living Services of Northern California of Chico, which serves the residents of Glenn and Butte counties.
"This is a pretty exciting occasion for us," Director Evan LaVang said Monday.
However, the celebration is tempered by the fact full inclusion of disabled people into society is yet to be achieved, he said.
The biggest problem is economic stability for the disabled, LaVang said, because they encounter a 70 percent or more unemployment rate statewide, while also facing program cuts from California.
Finding employment can be hampered by blindness, deafness or the need to use a wheelchair, he said, but it does not mean people with disabilities cannot be successful in careers.
Still, it is difficult for the severely disabled to get work, which in turn, makes some more dependent on state services for support in an era of devastating budget cuts, he said.
Programs on the chopping block include in-home support services that allow people to live at home with a caregiver instead of in a care home. Other services include childcare programs, mental health assistance and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). LaVang said.
LaVang praises Glenn County for its "reputation of trying hard and looking for ways to improve services," he said. "We are always impressed by that."
Independent Living Services of Northern California also works with businesses and service groups in Glenn County to fund its services, he said.
The organization provides free counseling, housing assistance, assistive technologies to the disabled and more based on funding, LaVang said. But its main focus is advocating for the disabled on the state level.
In Glenn County, most local governments and newer businesses are complying with the act, but they still have a way to go in doing infrastructure to make sidewalks and all facilities compliant.
Orland continues to work on its sidewalks to provide ADA accessible curbs, but city officials admit many are not up to code.
The city is an old town with a lot of older sidewalks that need updating and some streets with no sidewalks and curbs at all.
City Manager Paul Poczobut Jr. has been checking out streets ever since he came to town three years ago, and he presently is looking for grant funds to help improve sidewalks along Highway 32 and Walker Street.
Orland has used grant funds for similar projects in the past and continues to identify sites for its projects list, according to Grants Administrator Janet Wackerman.
Wackerman said Thursday she knows the city made the bathrooms at Library Park and the Orland Library ADA compliant and it put in a ramp at the Carnegie Center years ago.
Current projects call for more sidewalks and ramps at Spence Park with grant funds, she said. The city also recently completed new ADA accessible sidewalks at the corner of Fourth and Yolo streets by the Alta Schmidt House.
"Anything built new must comply to ADA standards," Wackerman said, whether it is built by the city or a business.
As a result, the new recreation center is ADA compliant and new stores like the Walgreen's Drug and Arco station and mini-mart are compliant as well, officials said.
Wackerman said the city had an "Ad Hoc ADA Committee" about four years ago that met for a brief time under former City Manager Joe Riker.
It included local citizens and educators as well, she said.
Ex-committee member Will Tasto said the committee's goal was to help the business community "conform without it being a burden on them."
It would tell business people what they need to do, he said. "I think it brought attention (to the act) to business owners. It got them to start thinking about these things."