County Comment: October is Disabilities Awareness Month

County Comment
October is Disabilities Awareness Month
by Norman Bassett
Washington County Public Information Officer

On October 2nd, the Washington County Board of County Commissioners will designate October as Disabilities Awareness Month in Washington County.
October is Disabilities Awareness Month across the United States, a time when government and the private sector take time to recognize, with dignity, the abilities of all people, regardless of physical or mental limitation.
In Washington County, the Disability Advisory Committee (DAC) to the Board of County Commissioners, composed of people with disabilities, family members and professionals in the field, works to keep the Board aware of issues facing people with disabilities that need county support, and both physical and attitudinal barriers that can be eliminated by working together.
During October, NBC 25, WHAG TV will run a series of programs featuring disability-related themes on its daily "Today in the Valley" series. DAC Chair Peggy Martin will present one of the programs, and will talk about an upcoming public meeting to assess needs of people with disabilities in Washington County. Other programs in that series will feature services to people with disabilities provided by the Washington County Health Department, the Community Action Council and United Cerebral Palsy.
The DAC is charged with conducting assessments of such needs in the County. On October 15th, the Maryland Department of Disabilities and the local Committee will hold a public meeting for the purpose of ascertaining needs of people who have disabilities in the Western Maryland region. The meeting will be held from 1-4 p.m. on that day, at Robinwood Medical Center.
DAC conducted a county-wide formal needs survey in 2004 and as one result, Washington County's Transportation Consolidation Committee, a sub-committee of the DAC, was established to study and implement coordinated cost-effective transportation services for clients of service agencies in the County. A grant was secured from the Maryland Transportation Administration and a draft implementation plan is scheduled to be presented to the County Commissioners on October 16th.
The Washington County Office on Disability Issues acts as liaison between the Commission and the DAC. Recently the office, in cooperation with the County Emergency Management Agency, facilitated dissemination of an instructional DVD produced by the Maryland Department of Disabilities and the Baltimore County Fire Department titled "Working with People with Disabilities". All Fire and Emergency Service companies in Washington County received copies of the DVD, which provides best practices for interaction with people who have a variety of disabilities, in emergency situations.
The Disabilities Advisory Committee is looking for new members. Although more than 50% of the committee members have disabilities or have family members with a disability, anyone may apply for membership. The only criteria are that the individual live in Washington County, and be available to meet on the second Wednesday of each month, from 2-3:30 p.m. Meetings are currently being held in the Commission on Aging offices in the Aspire to Serve Building 140 West Franklin Street in Hagerstown.
Prospective members can go on-line to register, at www.washco-md.net. On the main page choose the link to eGeorge, the County's guide to on-line services. Ion that page there is a link titled "Volunteer for a County Board". If the Internet is not available, persons could call the Office on Disability Issues at 240-313-2077, and an application will be provided. Persons needing special accommodations with such an application should call the Disabilities office.