On April 23rd, 2014 the Association of Agencies (AOA), a network of non-profit, government agencies and educational institutions in South Florida that work together to address the needs of diverse populations including persons with disabilities, veterans, and seniors, hosted its annual Abilities Awareness Day Fair Forum and Recognition Event. Supported by ACCESS-MEED department staff at MDC Wolfson Campus, the event focused on the topic of:
“Health & Wellness in the Disability Community as it relates to Living, Learning, Earning or Serving”
A panel of community leaders presented the challenges that individuals with disabilities face and best practices that seek to alleviate difficulties and address the most pressing needs. Presenters included:
Dr. Lynette Estrada, from CARD (Center for Autism & Related Disabilities), shared the challenges that persons with autism face to secure employment and the successes achieved from the efforts of her program at CARD.
Lucy Binhack – Parks Disability Services, Miami Dade Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces, spoke about the advantages of recreation and outdoor activities for persons with limited mobility and pointed out many of the parks and recreational facilities in Miami Dade County that are accessible for persons with disabilities.
Dr. Angel Rodriguez, Principal, of the Kruse Educational Center, explained the mission of his school, which is to provide specialized educational and therapeutic services for emotionally behaviorally disturbed students in grades K – 12. Their goal is to empower students and providing all the necessary support and training towards their independence.
Kevin Bulger, of Switchboard of Miami, shared his experience working with AmeriCorps members and the importance of creating community service opportunities for people with disabilities as a platform for work-based learning experiences as well as a way to provide personal benefit.
After the panel presented a question and answer session gave participants a forum for discussion of positive and common-interest issues that will lead to continued dialogue and problem solving through the AOA.
After the Forum, Miami Dade College staff and faculty were recognized for their consistent and dedicated support of the ACCESS department and their students. This year ten students, who receive ACCESS services, were recognized for their academic excellence but what is most admirable is that they embody the phrase, “see my abilities, not my disability”.