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Minority Matters July 2014

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We talk about a very special group of Arkansans, Those who live and work everyday with a disability. We learn first what it means to live with a disability and about the laws designed to provide support for those living with disabilities. Panelist: Christian Adcock - Advocate; Matt Lyles - Living with a disability; Tom Masseau - Executive Director, Disability Rights Center of Arkansas, Inc.

TRANSCRIPT

WELCOME TO "MINORITY MATTERS". I AM YOUR HOST SYLVESTER SMITH. THIS MONTH WE WILL TALK ABOUT A SPECIAL GROUP OF ARKANSANS THOSE THAT WORK AND LIVE EVERYDAY WITH A DISABILITY. WE WILL LEARN FIRST HAND WHAT IT MEANS TO LIVE WITH A DISABILITY AND LEARN ABOUT THE LAWS TO SUPPORT PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES. JOINING ME FOR THIS DISCUSSION IS MATT LYLES WHO IS LIVING WITH A DISABILITY. MATT IS BLIND. CHRISTIAN ADCOCK AN ADVOCATE FOR THE DISABILITIES RIGHTS CENTER OF CENTER OF ARKANSAS INC. AND TOM MASSEAU FROM THE DISABILITY RIGHTS CENTER OF ARKANSAS INC. AND THANK YOU FOR JOINING ME TODAY AND BEFORE WE BEGAN WE TALKED ABOUT THOSE THAT LIVE WITH DISABILITIES AND WE SEE EVERYDAY EVEN WHEN WE DON'T SEE A PERSON WITH A DISABILITY IT SEEMS BUT IT'S NOT TALKED MUCH IN THE PUBLIC SPHERE SO I APPRECIATE YOU JOINING ME FOR THIS IMPORTANT DISCUSSION. TOM, I THINK WE WILL START WITH YOU. WILL YOU DESCRIBE FOR THE AUDIENCE WHAT IT MEANS TO HAVE A DISABILITY AND THE LEGAL DESCRIPTION OF IT AND IT CHANGES OFTEN.

IT DOES. I THINK ONE OF THE THINGS IS THE TERM "DISABILITY" IS QUITE BROAD AND A PERSON WITH A DISABILITY MEANS YOU HAVE AN IMPAIRMENT, IF YOU WILL, THAT SUBSTANTIALLY LIMITS YOUR ABILITY TO ENGAGE IN EVERYDAY LIFE, FOR EXAMPLE BATHING, CARING, TRANSPORTATION, WORK SO ALL OF THOSE FACTOR IN WITH THE LEGAL TERM OF DISABILITY BUT IT COVERS A INDIVIDUAL WITH CEREBRAL PALSY, AN INDIVIDUAL WHO IS BLIND OR VISUALLY IMPAIRED, MENTAL ILLNESS, AND OTHER DISORDERS AND COVERS A WIDE RANGE OF DISABILITY FOCUS YOU WILL.

LET'S TALK ABOUT WHAT I WOULD LIKE TO DESCRIBE FOR DISCUSSION SAKE IS THE INVISIBLE DISABILITIES AND MATT AND I WENT TO HIGH SCHOOL TOGETHER AND WHEN I SAW HIM WALKING DOWN THE HALL WITH A CANE I KNEW THIS PERSON HAD A DISABILITY. WHEN I SAW ANOTHER PERSON IN A WHEELCHAIR I KNEW IT WAS A PERSON WITH A DISABILITY BUT SEEMS 20, 25 YEARS AGO WE DIDN'T TALK IN TERMS OF PEOPLE WHO TERMS HAS A LEARNING DISABLE AND WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO CONSIDER THAT A DISABILITY?

I THINK ALL DISABILITIES PRESENT CHALLENGES FOR THAT INDIVIDUAL, ESPECIALLY WITH A LEARNING DISABILITY TRYING TO NAVIGATE SCHOOL OR WORK. IT'S A FORM OF DISABILITY FOR THEM AND PEOPLE CAN'T SEE THAT SO A LOT OF TIMES -- ESPECIALLY SOMEONE WITH A MENTAL ILLNESS OR SCHIZOPHRENIA AND TAKE MEDICATION FOR IT SO WHEN THEY'RE ACTING OUT OR IN A CRISIS SITUATION OR A LEARNING DISABILITY IS PERCEIVED AS NOT WANTING TO LEARN; THAT THEY'RE BEING BULL HEADED; THAT THEY'RE NOT LOOKING AT THE WORK THEY HAVE TO DO BUT BECAUSE OF THE DISABILITY AND THAT IS A HUGE STIGMA FOR PEOPLE. SOMEONE WITH A LEARNING DISABILITY AS WELL AS A MENTAL ILLNESS.

MATT, I WANT TO TURN THIS OVER TO YOU A LITTLE BIT. TELL US ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCE LIVING WITH A DISABILITY.

I WOULD LIKE TO PICK UP WHAT YOU SAID ABOUT THE CANE. ONE REASON YOU KNEW IS BECAUSE YOU SAW THE WHITE CANE AND WE OFTEN TELL OTHER BLIND PEOPLE AND THOSE VISUALLY IMPAIRED THAT HAVE FUNCTIONAL VISION THAT THEY CAN SEE SOME -- WELL, THEY CAN, THAT CARRYING THE WHITE CANE IS AN ESSENTIAL TOOL BECAUSE IT IDENTIFIES TO THE PUBLIC HERE IS SOMEONE THAT DOESN'T SEE WELL OR AT ALL AND IT'S NOT OBVIOUS. PEOPLE THAT HAVE LOST THEIR VISION LATER IN LIFE DUE TO GLAUCOMA OR ANOTHER ILLNESS CONDITION THEY MAY NOT LOOK -- THEY MAY NOT HAVE THE PERCEIVED MANNERISMS OF BLINDNESS AND MAY LOOK LIKE ANYONE ELSE AND GO UP TO A INTERSECTION AND SEEM TO BE AWARE OF THEMSELVES AND MIGHT BE UNABLE TO SEE CERTAIN CONDITIONS LIKE THE COLOR OF THE LIGHT SO THEY MIGHT CROSS AT A DANGEROUS TIME AND OF COURSE THE DRIVERS HAVE NO UNDERSTANDING THIS IS SOMEONE TO BE WATCHED SO THERE OF ACCIDENTS AND SO FORTH AND WITHOUT THE CANE THAT VISUALLY IMPAIRED OR BLIND PERSON HAS NO LEGAL PROTECTION AND B, NO PHYSICAL PROTECTION, SO THE WHITE CANE IS AN ESSENTIAL IDENTITY TOOL WE SAY. IT'S ALSO A FUNCTIONAL INSTRUMENT FOR SOME OF US IT FINDS IMPEDIMENTS IN OUR WAY AND GIVE US SONIC FEEDBACK. WE CAN TELL BY THE SOUNDS BOUNCING OFF WALLS IF WE'RE CLOSE TO A WALL LINE OR A LAMP POST, SO FORTH SO THE CANE IS AN IMPORTANT TOOL FOR THOSE WITH VISUAL IMPAIRMENTS OR BLINDNESS.

NOW WHEN DID YOU LOSE YOUR SIGHT?

I WAS FOUR YEARS OLD. I WAS BORN OR DEVELOPED SOON AFTER RETINA -- I CAN'T SAY THE WORD. RETINA BLAST TOMA AND A CANCER OF THE RETINA OF THE EYES AND DETECTED AT A LATE PHASE AND TO PREVENT THE CANCER FROM SPREADING THROUGHOUT MY BODY IT WAS DETERMINED THAT THE EYES WOULD NEED TO BE REMOVED. PRETTY EXTREME MEASURE EVEN THEN. NOT NEARLY AS COMMON NOW BECAUSE OF IMPROVEMENTS IN TREATMENT AND DETECTION. A PERSON WITH THE SAME CONDITION NOW MIGHT VERY WELL NOT HAVE THEIR EYES REMOVED. THEY MAY BE CURED WITHOUT THAT BUT IN MY CASE BOTH EYES WERE REMOVED AT AGE FOUR SO I HAVE BEEN BLIND EVER SINCE AND I AM NOW 37.

AND I PROMISE YOU WE'RE GOING TO SPREAD THIS CONVERSATION AROUND BUT YOU MENTIONED A PERSON WHO IS VISION IMPAIRED CHOOSING NOT TO UTILIZE A CANE. WHY WOULD A PERSON MAKE THAT DECISION?

WELL, YOU CAN JUST IMAGINE WHEN A PERSON BEGINS TO LOSE VISION HE FEELS THAT A GREAT DEAL OF HIS OWN SENSE OF SELF IS GOING. MOST DIRECTLY THE SENSE OF INDEPENDENCE, THE SENSE OF CONTROL. PEOPLE TO SPEAK THE OBVIOUS THINK IN TERMS OF THEIR LIVES, THEIR INDEPENDENCE, AS BOND UP WITH WHAT THEY CAN SEE AND ASSUME THEY MUST SEE TO DO, SO WHEN THAT CAPACITY BEGINS TO FADE OR FALL AWAY COMPLETELY THE PERSON FEELS TOTALLY UNDONE YOU MIGHT SAY, AND IT'S A TREMENDOUS PSYCHOLOGICAL TRAWM A IT'S GREAT DISRUPZ IN LIFE IN GENERAL AND PEOPLE THINK THAT LIFE IS OVER. WELL, LIFE IS OVER AS THEY HAVE KNOWN IT SO TAKING THE WHITE CANE AND ACTUALLY IDENTIFYING SOMEONE AS VISUALLY IMPAIRED OR BLIND CAN BE AN EXTREME WRENCH, A BREAK FROM THE PAST, AND I HAVE HEARD PEOPLE SAY "I DON'T WANT TO LOOK BLIND" AND I SAID BLESS YOU. IF YOU DON'T HAVE THE CANE YOU MIGHT LOOK WORSE THAN BLIND. YOU MIGHT LOOK DEAD. IT'S NOT WORTH RISKING YOUR LIVES AND OFTEN I SAY YOU WILL LOOK WORSE THAN BLIND. YOU WILL LOOK CLUELESS OR WORSE IF YOU CAN'T SEE WHO IS NEARBY, WHAT THE LIGHT IS. WITHOUT THE CANE THE PERSON IS IS LOST IN LIMBO AND IT'S IMPORTANT TO ADJUST AND THIS IS LIFE NOW AND I MUST LIVE ACCORDINGLY AS PRAGICALLY AND SENSIBLY AS POSSIBLE AND THE WHITE CANE IS THAT ESSENTIAL TOOL. IT'S SOMETHING LIKE A PERSON WHO IS PHYSICALLY CHALLENGED AVOIDING A WHEELCHAIR FOR SIMILAR REASONS POSSIBLY.

I'M GOING TO INTERRUPT YOU BECAUSE I WANT TO MAKE SURE I GET CHRISTIAN INVOLVED BUT BEFORE I TRANSITION I WENT TO COLLEGE WITH A FRIEND I NEVER KNEW WAS VISION IMPAIRED. HE WALKED AROUND CAMPUS LIKE EVERYONE ELSE, WAS IN CLASS LIKE EVERYONE ELSE AND YEARS LATER I WENT TO SAY HELLO AND HE WALKED BY AND I THOUGHT HE WAS ANGRY WITH ME AND I RAN INTO HIM AGAIN AND I ASKED WHY DIDN'T YOU SAY HELLO "I DIDN'T SEE YOU" AND WHAT DO YOU MEAN? "SYLVESTER, I'M LEGALLY BLIND." IT'S AMAZING TO ME THE CHALLENGES THAT PEOPLE WITH DISABILITY HAVE AND KEEP GOING AND OFTENTIMES WE DON'T EVEN KNOW IT BUT LET'S TALK WITH YOU CHRISTIAN ABOUT THE WORK YOU'RE DOING. TELL THE AUDIENCE WITH THE DISABILITIES RIGHTS CENTER AND THE SERVICES YOU PROVIDE AND WHAT YOU DO IN GENERAL.

AT THE DISABILITY RIGHTS CENTER WE PROVIDE SERVICES AND ADVOCACY SERVICES FOR INDIVIDUALS WITH DISABILITIES. WE HANDLE EDUCATION MATTERS, EMPLOYMENT MATTERS, HOUSING, ACCESSIBILITY, A LAUNDRY LIST OF THINGS AND WE HAVE AUTHORITY TO GO IN AND MONITOR INSTITUTIONS FOR THE DISABLED.

I'M SORRY. WHAT IS A PNA.

PROTECTION AND ADVOCACY. SORRY ABOUT THAT. BUT WE HAVE THE AUTHORITY TO MONITOR FACILITIES THAT HOUSE INDIVIDUALS WITH DISABILITIES LIKE YOUR RESIDENTIAL CARE FACILITIES AND THE HUMAN DEVELOPMENT CENTERS. WE ARE WORKING WITH THE ALEXANDER YOUTH SERVICES CENTER AND INVESTIGATING AND MAKING SURE EVERYTHING IS OKAY.

AGAIN TOM FEEL FREE TO JUMP IN AS WELL, BUT WHY DOESN'T A DISABILITY RIGHTS ADVOCACY GROUP NEED TO MONITOR WHAT IS GOING ON AT ALEXANDER? AREN'T THEY JUST YOUTHFUL CRIMINAL OFFENDERS THERE?

I WILL TAKE THAT ONE. YOU'RE RIGHT BECAUSE THEY COMMITTED A CRIME BUT WHEN YOU LOOK AT THE NUMBER OF INDIVIDUALS IN THE PRISON SETTING OR CORRECTIONAL SYSTEM A LOT OF THE INDIVIDUALS HAVE DISABILITIES AND MENTAL HEALTH, LEARNING DISABILITIES, ATTENTION DEFICIT DISORDERS SO WHAT WE FOUND AND WHAT WE'RE LOOKING AT IN YOUTH DETENTION FACILITIES IS THAT THE BEHAVIORS THAT THE YOUTH ARE EXHIBITING ARE AS A RESULT OF THEIR MENTAL ILLNESS BUT BECAUSE THEY'RE NOT IDENTIFIED COMING IN THEY'RE NOT GETTING THE TREATMENT THEY NEED SO THE BEHAVIORS THEY CAME COMING OUT AND OUT IS PERCEIVED AS SEEKING SPECIAL TREATMENT IF YOU WILL SO WE'RE NOT ADDRESSING THE NEEDS OF THE INDIVIDUAL IN THERE WHICH IS THE MENTAL HEALTH NEEDS SO YEAH WHEN YOU LOOK AT THAT YOU LOOK AT PRISONS A LARGE NUMBER OF INDIVIDUALS IN THE PRISON SYSTEMS HAVE SOME FORM OF MENTAL ILLNESS AND THEY'RE NOT ADDRESSED AND WE'RE GOING IN TO MAKE SURE THEY'RE GETTING SERVICES AND EDUCATIONAL SUPPORTS AND EVERYTHING IS RUNNING SMOOTHLY.

IF YOU CAN TALK ABOUT THIS PUBLICLY WHAT HAVE YOU FOUND BECAUSE THERE IS A SIGNIFICANT AMOUNT OF DISCUSSION IN THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA ABOUT ALEXANDER?

YES WE HAVE BEEN MONITORING AND PULLING INCIDENT REPORTS AND GETTING A IDEA HOW THE CORPORATIONS OPERATE THERE AND HOW THE STATE INTERACTS WITH THE CORPORATIONS. WE HAD STAFF THERE MONITORING THE FACILITY TODAY BUT WE'RE FINDING OUT THAT THE NUMBER OF ASSAULTS REPORTED IN THE PAPER -- OUR CONCERN IS ARE THEY FOLLOWED UP? SO IF SOMEONE REPORTS A ASSAULT IS THERE A FULL INVESTIGATION WITH THAT? IS THERE A BRIEFING -- A DEBRIEFING TEAM COMING IN, TREATMENT TEAM AND FINDING OUT WHY THAT INDIVIDUAL EFNLG ESCALATED AND WE'RE NOT SEEING THAT AND WE'RE LOOKING FOR A REPORT TO SEE WHAT THE STATE CAN IMPROVE CONDITIONS THERE AND EVALUATE WHETHER THEY WANT TO CONTINUE CONTRACTING WITH THE CORPORATION OR HAVE THE STATE TAKE IT OVER OR DO WE EVEN NEED THE CENTER? IT'S A LARGE FACILITY AND MANY ARE IN A HUGE FACILITY THERE AND THE GIRLS AND WE NEED TO BRING THAT BACK TO THE DISCUSSION.

BACK TO YOU CHRISTIAN I INTERRUPTED YOU BEFORE YOU TALKED ABOUT WHAT YOU DID SUPPORT?

I DEAL WITH THE CLIENTS SIDE AND ACCESSIBILITY ISSUES AND VOTING RIGHTS ISSUES. GENERALLY MY ROLE IS LESS ADVERSARIAL THAN SOMEONE IN THE LEGAL DEPARTMENT. IF IT'S A HOUSING ISSUE I WILL CONTACT THE LANDLORD AND WORK OUT A COMPROMISE AND WORK OUT ACCOMMODATION WHETHER KEEPING A SERVICE ANIMAL OR HAVING A RAMP INSTALLED, THAT TYPE OF THING AND I TRY TO DO IT IN THE LEAST CONTRONTATIONAL MANNER POSSIBLE AND AS IT ESCALATES WE HAVE OTHER TOOLS WE CAN USE.

NOW WHAT ARE THE OBLIGATIONS OF A PRIVATE LANDLORD UNDER THE AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT TO MAKE ACCOMMODATION.

IT'S THE AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT AND THE FAIR HOUSING ACT AND THEY REQUIRE IF A TENANT CAN SHOW THEY NEED ACCOMMODATION AND GENERALLY DOCUMENTATION AND A LETTER FROM A DOCTOR AND DOESN'T HAVE TO STATE THE SPECIFICS OF DISABILITY BUT SAYING THE ACCOMMODATION IS NECESSARY WITH DOCUMENTATION. AT THAT POINT THE LANDLORD NEEDS TO MAKE CHANGES AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE. THERE ARE LIMITATIONS TO IT OBVIOUSLY. YOU CAN'T HAVE A PONY AS A SERVICE ANIMAL IN AN APARTMENT BUT WITHIN REASON THE LANDLORD HAS TO MAKE A ACCOMMODATIONS.

IT'S 2014 AND WE FEEL WE'RE MORE AWARE IN SOCIETY. DO WE STILL HAVE THESE ISSUES LANDLORDS NOT MAKING THE ACCOMMODATIONS AND NOT RENTING TO THEM?

ABSOLUTELY. YOU MENTIONED IT COMES FROM THE LESS OBVIOUS DISABILITIES EARLIER SO IF YOU HAVE INDIVIDUALS WITH MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES OR ANYTHING THAT IS NOT RIGHT IN YOUR FACE THEY TEND -- THERE TEND TO BE PUSH BACK ON MAKE THE ACCOMMODATIONS AND THEY'RE TRYING TO GET OVER FOR LACK OF A BETTER TERM AND AVOIDING THE FEES FOR A PET AND CALLING FOR A SUPPORT ANIMAL AND THAT TYPE OF THING SO YOU GET PUSH BACK FROM LANDLORDS AND THE BUSINESSES AND THE GENERAL PUBLIC. THERE ARE INDIVIDUALS WITH MENTAL ILLNESS AND THEY DON'T WANT TO PUT IT OUT THERE AND UNFORTUNATELY THERE IS A STIGMA ATTACHED TO THAT SO YOU HAVE TO STRIKE THAT FINE LINE BETWEEN A CLIENT WHO NEEDS A CERTAIN ACCOMMODATION BUT AT THE SAME TIME THEY DON'T WANT TO JUST ANNOUNCE THEIR BUSINESS TO EVERYONE IN THE WORLD AND SO THAT'S WHERE YOU SEE SORT OF THE LANDLORDS OR THE BUSINESS OWNERS PUSHING BACK AND ASSUMING SOMEONE IS JUST TRYING TO GET SPECIAL TREATMENT AND IT'S REALLY A SHAME.

ALSO TOO I THINK YOU RAISED A GOOD POINT IT'S 2014 AND WE'RE STILL DEALING WITH SOME OF THE ISSUES AND CHRISTIAN MENTIONED THE ACCESS ISSUES AND INDIVIDUALS WHO HAVE SERVICE ANIMALS TRYING TO GET INTO BUSINESSES OR SCHOOLS AND WHAT HAVE YOU, AND I THINK IT'S WHAT IT IS THAT WE NEED TO DO -- WE, MEANING THE ADVOCATES IN THE DISABILITY COMMUNITY WE NEED TO DO A BETTER JOB EDUCATING THE PUBLIC ABOUT THE HIDDEN DISABILITIES. THE POINT ABOUT THE SERVICE ANIMALS NOT JUST BECAUSE YOU WANT TO TAKE YOUR PET IN WITH IT. IT ALERTS THE INDIVIDUAL IF THEY'RE HAVING A SEIZURE OR IF SOMETHING IS GOING TO HAPPEN SO WE NEED TO DO A BETTER JOB OF EDUCATING THE PUBLIC ABOUT THE ACCESS AND ABOUT SERVICE ANIMALS AND ABOUT DISABILITIES IN GENERAL.

SORRY TO INTERRUPT BUT SPECIFICALLY WITH SERVICE ANIMALS THE KEY DISTINCTION THAT MOST PEOPLE DON'T UNDERSTAND AND IT'S SOMETHING I DIDN'T REALLY GRASP UNTIL I STARTED DOING THIS WORK IS THAT A SERVICE ANIMAL IT'S NOT A PET. IT'S AN ACCOMMODATION LIKE ANY OTHER. IT'S LIKE TELLING SOMEONE THEY COULDN'T BRING THEIR WHEELCHAIR INTO THE RESTAURANT AND NO ONE WOULD DO THAT BUT IF IT'S A DOG TO DETECT SEIZURES IT'S A WHOLE ANOTHER MATTER.

LET'S TALK ABOUT THE PROGRAMS AND SERVICES THAT ARE AVAILABLE TO PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES. I THINK THAT ANY -- AS STATE AND FEDERAL BUDGETS GET TIGHT PEOPLE LOOK AT THINGS THEY SHOULD CUT AND OUR AUDIENCE THEY ALL HAVE STATE REPRESENTATIVES AND U.S. CONGRESS PEOPLE TO KIEWKT WITH. WHAT ARE THE SERVICES AVAILABLE AND WHY IS IT IMPORTANT THAT THEY CONTINUE?

WELLS, I THINK ONE OF THE SERVICES THAT WE HEAR ABOUT IN THE DISABILITY RIGHTS CENTER OF ARKANSAS IS THE LACK OF AFFORDABLE ACCESSIBLE HOUSING IN THE COMMUNITY AND JUST THE OPPORTUNITY FOR INDIVIDUALS TO LIVE IN THE COMMUNITY OF THEIR CHOICE. THERE'S NOT A LOT OF PROVIDERS OUT THERE WHO CAN OFFER THE SUPPORTS THAT AN INDIVIDUAL NEEDS TO LIVE INDEPENDENTLY IN THE COMMUNITY, AND SO AS BUDGETS START GETTING TIGHTER AND TIGHTER AND TIGHTER WE LOOK -- ONE OF THE FIRST THINGS WE LOOK AT IS HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO HAVE THIS INDIVIDUAL LIVE INDEPENDENTLY IN THE COMMUNITY? WHAT SUPPORTS DO THEY NEED? AND WE ARGUE THAT FUNNEL THE MONEY INTO THE COMMUNITY AND YOU CAN DRILL DOWN AND GET MEDICAID DOLLARS AND WE DON'T NECESSARILY NEED TO SPEND A LOT TO HOUSE PEOPLE IN CERTAIN SETTINGS SO THAT IS A CONCERN FOR US AS WE REDUCE THE BUDGETS. ANOTHER IS EDUCATION AND SUPPORTS. AS SCHOOLS LOOK AT THEIR BUDGETS THIS YEAR. WHAT IS THE FIRST SERVICE TYPICALLY CUT? IT'S SPECIAL EDUCATION, IS THE COUNSELORS, THE THERAPISTS, SOCIAL WORKERS. WE NEED TO MAKE SURE THAT FOR INDIVIDUALS -- FOR STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES IN THOSE SETTINGS THEY HAVE THE SUPPORTS TO BE SUCCESSFUL BECAUSE WITHOUT THOSE PROFESSIONALS THEY'RE JUST LINGERING. THEY BECOME BEHAVIORAL CHALLENGES FOR THE TEACHERS. THEN THEY GET MOVED INTO THE ALTERNATIVE ENVIRONMENT SO EDUCATION SUPPORTS IS A HUGE ISSUE AS WELL AS COMMUNITY SUPPORTS AND I WILL LET MATT TALK --

YES, I WAS GOING TO SAY AS A BLIND PERSON THAT LIVES DOWNTOWN LITTLE ROCK I AM PLEASANTLY SURPRISED AT THE SERVICES AVAILABLE AND SENSIBLE SERVICES, NO COST INCLUDED. I OFTEN CORRESPOND WITH STAFF OF THE CITY BUS SERVICE, NOT PARATRANSIT, BUT THE CITY BUS SERVICE ITSELF AND I WILL CONTACT AND ASK ABOUT ROUTE INFORMATION, WHERE A ROUTE GOES, WHAT STOP TO TAKE, AND I HAVE BEEN EXTREMELY THANKFUL OF THE STAFF TO ANSWER QUESTIONS. I THINK IN MOST CASES THAT A PERSON WITH A DISABILITY CAN DEVELOP A RELATIONSHIP WITH A SERVICE PROVIDER. IT CAN LEAD TO A PLEASANT EXPERIENCE FOR BOTH PARTIES AND CAN PAVE THE WAY FOR BETTER RELATIONS GOING FORWARD AND IN CERTAIN CASES WITH CENTRAL ARKANSAS TRANSIT I EXPLAINED FOR THOSE OF US THAT ARE BLIND TO KNOW WHERE THE STOPS ARE ON A GIVEN ROUTE AND THE ONLINE SCHEDULE MENTIONS NOT ALL THE STOPS SO THE MEMBER OF THE STAFF EMAILED ME A COMPREHENSIVE LIST OF EACH ROUTE, BUS STOP SCPIS THOUGHT IT WAS CHRISTMAS AND NOW I KNOW EXACTLY WHERE I CAN GET ON THE BUS AND OFF THE BUS AND THESE ARE SIMPLE THINGS THAT THOSE THAT ARE SIGHTED NEVER IMAGINE ARE IMPORTANT AND THE BUS DRIVERS ABOUT 50 STOPS, SHELTERS, BENCHES, ET CETERA AND UNLESS A BLIND PERSON KNOWS WHERE THEY ARE IT'S IMPOSSIBLE TO PLAN A ROUTE EFFECTIVELY SO THAT CAN BE DONE EASILY AND WITH A SENSITIVE INFORMED MEMBER OF A STAFF AND THAT'S JUST ONE EXAMPLE.

WHAT ABOUT A PERSON FROM CAN -- KANSAS AND FROM ARKANSAS AND HOW DO THEY GET TO WORK EVERYDAY? IT'S IMPORTANT FOR SOCIETY TO DO WHAT WE CAN TO MAKE SURE THAT A PERSON HAS A QUALITY OF LIFE AND THE ABILITY TO LEARN A LIVING IF POSSIBLE BECAUSE THAT REDUCES THE SERVICES THAT SOCIETY HAS TO PROVIDE AND WHAT ABOUT A PERSON IN RURAL ARKANSAS.

TO SPEAK TO THAT THOSE IN SOUTHWEST ARKANSAS ARE BLESSED. THERE IS PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION FROM THE OKLAHOMA STATE LINE TO MISSISSIPPI TO LITTLE ROCK SOUTH. THERE ARE THREE NETWORKS THAT PROVIDE PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION AND/OR MEDICAL SERVICES TRANSPORTATION AND THE ONE THAT SERVES CAMP DON IS ARKANSAS DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL AND ARKANSAS SOUTH CENTRAL TRANSIT AND PROVIDE A BUS SYSTEM EQUIPPED FOR A LIFTS FOR WHEELCHAIRS AND PROVIDES FARE PAYING TRANSPORTATION THAT NEED TO TAKE TRANSPORTATION TO WORK IN COMEDEN. IT'S A WONDERFUL SERVICE. I USE IT TO COMMUTE HOME EVERY WEEK.

I'M GOING TO INTERRUPT YOU AND I HAVE ONE MORE THING TO COVER. I NOTICE YOUR ATTIRE AND YOU'RE WELL MANICURED AND CLOTHES MATCHED AND MAYBE THIS IS A STUPOR QUESTION AND HOW DO YOU ACHIEVE THAT WHEN YOU'RE VISION IMPAIRED.

I WAS TRYING TO TALK ABOUT SERVICES IN THE COMMUNITY. AS TO TALKING ABOUT THE REAL ISSUES AS A PERSON WHO IS BLIND -- I CAN ONLY SPEAK TO MY SITUATION, MUST FIND SOME WAY TO KNOW WHAT CLOTHES ARE, WHAT COLORS THEY ARE AND TO LEARN FROM OTHERS SINCE WE MIGHT NOT KNOW WHICH COLORS MATCH AND WHICH DON'T MATCH AND I KNOW IN MY CASE I SELECT MY WARDROBES AND CERTAIN COLORS ARE IN THIS PLACE AND I KNOW THAT BECAUSE OF ASSISTANCE OF SOMEONE WHO IS SIGHTED OR A FRIEND AND THIS IS BLACK, NAVY OR KNACKY SO IT TAKES A GREAT DEAL OF THOUGHT AND ONE OF THE INCONSEQUENTIALS AND DOESN'T MATTER IF WE MATCH BUT IT MAKES A QUITE DEAL OF DIFFERENCE SOCIALLY OF COURSE.

THANK YOU MATT. WE'RE ABOUT OUT OF TIME. WE HAVE A MINUTE LEFT. TOM, I WANT TO TURN IT OVER TO YOU FOR CLOSING THOUGHTS THAT THE AUDIENCE NEEDS TO KNOW ABOUT.

THANK YOU FOR HAVING THIS SEGMENT. IT'S VITALLY IMPORTANT FOR ALL ARKANSANSS TO REALLY UNDERSTAND THE DISABILITY CONCEPT AND THE STRUGGLES THAT PEOPLE FACE BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY I THINK WHAT WE NEED TO DO IS LOOK AT THE INDIVIDUAL WITH A DISABILITY AS AN INDIVIDUAL. THAT THEY MAY BE DIFFERENT BUT AT THE END OF THE DAY THEY CAN DO EVERYTHING WE CAN DO. THEY JUST NEED SUPPORT TO DO IT SO I THINK WE NEED TO LOOK AT THE INDIVIDUAL AS AN INDIVIDUAL AND DO A BETTER JOB OF COMMUNICATING THAT TO THE STATE.

THANK YOU AND I WANT TO THANK EACH OF EVERY ONE OF YOU FOR YOUR TIME. FOR ME THE REASON THIS CAME ABOUT IS I WORK IN DOWNTOWN LITTLE ROCK AND FOR YEARS THERE'S A YOUNG LADY THAT WORKS IN DOWNTOWN LITTLE ROCK THAT LITERALLY DOESN'T HAVE ARMS YET SHE GOES TO WORK EVERYDAY AND SHE IS LIVING A FULL LIFE AND ACHIEVING THINGS AND I DON'T KNOW HER BUT SHE INSPIRES ME EVERY TIME I SEE HER AND I THINK ABOUT MATT AND WHAT HE ACHIEVED GOING TO YALE AND I PUSH MYSELF AND PEOPLE WITH CHALLENGES, WITH DISABILITIES CAN STRIVE AND GET UP EVERYDAY AND I CAN CERTAINLY DO MY PART AND I DEFINITELY THINK IT'S IMPORTANT TO EDUCATE OUR FELLOW ARKANSANS SO WE KNOW WHAT TO DO TO BE UNDERSTANDING AND SUPPORTIVE SO WITH THEY WANT TO THANK THE PANEL AGAIN AND I WANT TO THANK YOU, THE AUDIENCE FOR WATCHING. THIS HAS BEEN AN EXCELLENT DISCUSSION AND CERTAINLY EDUCATIONAL FOR ME AND WITH THAT I WILL SEE YOU NEXT TIME.

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