On February 26, 1987 President Ronald Reagan recognized March as Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month to increase “public awareness of the needs and the potential of Americans with developmental disabilities” and to provide the “encouragement and opportunities they need to lead productive lives and to achieve their full potential.” In Fishers, Indiana the Advisory Committee on Disability (FACD) was established to be the community voice representing 90,000 citizens of and for disability awareness.
Each year, the City of Fishers recognizes and celebrates the contributions of the disability community through the arts, athletics, employment, and advocacy. This committee is co-chaired by Cecilia Coble and Kelly Hartman. Cecilia has served on the Fishers City Council since 2015 and made history as the first woman to serve as Fishers City Council President in January of 2020.
Coble is a special-needs parent and strong advocate for the disability community, serving as co-chair of the Fishers Advisory Committee on Disability. In 2017, the City of Fishers was the recipient of the Champions of Inclusion Award as a result of the Committee’s efforts to bring more awareness, education, and celebration of individuals with physical and developmental disabilities in Fishers. Cecilia spoke to Make48 further on Fishers' committee on disability and the way local municipalities and communities can push awareness and champion for people with disabilities.
How did you get involved with Fishers' Advisory Committee on Disability?
Disability advocacy is a passion of mine because I am a parent of an adult daughter with autism and intellectual disabilities. My mother-in-law had a stroke a number of years ago. She uses a wheelchair and I see the challenges she faces with accessibility in everyday settings.
When Fishers was a town, I was part of a group of citizens who served on the Fishers ADA Taskforce. After Fishers became a city and I was elected to the Fishers City Council, I thought I could help foster a more impactful way for the disability community, business owners, city leaders, educators and employers to work together to address the many challenges facing individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, so the Fishers Advisory Committee on Disability was created in 2017.
What are some of the ways the organization champions for people with disabilities?
The Fishers Advisory Committee on Disability strives to make the City of Fishers a community where all individuals, including those with physical and intellectual disabilities, can live a life without limits. The mission of the committee is to establish priorities and strategies to address the various challenges and needs facing the disability community.
How has the Fishers community and local citizens been instrumental in helping push the awareness?
Recently, the Fishers Advisory Committee on Disability helped the cities of Lawrence and Carmel form their advisory committees on disability. We are reaching out to other cities in Hamilton County to encourage them to form committees so we can also work countywide in our efforts.
This year, we partnered with the OneZone chamber of commerce to bring more awareness about how businesses can recruit, train and hire individuals with disabilities.
The Fishers Advisory Committee on Disability helped the Kiwanis start the Fishers/Geist Aktion Club, which is a service club for individuals 18 years and older with disabilities. Thrive Social Club was also started right before COVID. It is a social club for individuals 18 years and older with intellectual disabilities. Membership has skyrocketed. People are calling to find out how they can join Thrive Social Club or form a club in their city.
The Fishers Advisory Committee on Disabilities helped to promote the development of Southpoint Village Apartments. The developer of the apartments set aside a number of units that are affordable and accessible for individuals with disabilities. This was the first type of development in the City of Fishers. There is a long waiting list for these types of apartments because there is a huge need for affordable housing for people with disabilities.
What are some creative ways that people can get involved?
Since 2016, the City of Fishers recognizes National March Disability Awareness Month. A series of special events and programs are held throughout the month of March to encourage the community to learn more about accessibility, share the value that individuals with disabilities have in the workplace, and to celebrate the talents and contributions of those with disabilities in the City of Fishers.
The City of Fishers encourages residents to learn more about disability inclusion by becoming an Ally. Toolkits are distributed with educational resources such as a language guide, FAQ, social media graphics, an ally pledge and more.
Awards are given every March to recognize individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the Fishers community through their leadership in disability inclusion.
Fishers' subcommittee plans the events for the month of March each year. Members work with community partners to establish a yearly theme, procure sponsors and guest speakers. Their goal is to promote inclusion and accessibility and to strive to make Fishers a community where people with physical and intellectual disabilities can live life without limits.