The 2nd Annual Independence Day Forum, which took place on April 19 at the Marin County Fairgrounds Exhibit Hall, had a great turnout of booths, speakers and attendees alike.
The day began with Cynthia Murray, Marin County Supervisor, giving a welcoming speech to the disabled community.
She began by explaining that according to sociologists we need three things: 1. home; 2. work; 3. communities. When one of these is lacking, then the other two also suffer.
Murray went on to talk about the possibility of becoming disabled at any time, which means that we all have a responsibility to care. She applauded bravery and courage through patience and understanding, and said that we must all look to each other for leadership.
She also paid a tribute to two heroes of the Marin disabled community who were lost this year: Bill Lipscomb, "a gentleman of spirit not found elsewhere," who died on Valentine's Day, and Vernon Cox, who was "adored by the community."
Murray then introduced Catherine Blakemore, Director of Protection and Advocacy, Inc., who lobbies on a full time basis for the rights of those with disabilities. Blakemore stressed how important it is to be informed about the constitutional rights of those with disabilities and the current state of affairs, and to "take the time to make your voice heard."
She went on to talk about building a community that is accessible to all. She is currently working on behalf of the people who are in Laguna Honda in San Francisco, a 1200-person facility that is used to house disabled people, often against their will, because of insufficient suitable accommodation elsewhere. The city wishes to tear it down and rebuild it, and so Protection and Advocacy has filed a lawsuit against the state for failing to recognize the needs of its inhabitants.
Protection and Advocacy, Inc. hires disabled people to work in their legislative department, and are available to contact via e-mail at www.pai-ca.org (phone at 1800-776-5746 or contact Catherine Blakemore personally at Catherine.email@example.com).
After a pleasant buffet at lunchtime, the second part of the day involved the opportunity to visit different booths that offered speakers and information on such things as technology (new computerized gadgets available to assist many different disabilities), In Home Support Services (IHSS) and transportation.
Sponsors of the event included College of Marin's Disabled Students Programs and Services, Disability Rights Enforcement, Education, Services (DREES), Marin Center for Independent Living (MCIL) and the Marin County Department of Health and Human Services Division on Aging.
College of Marin student Jon Niggeman attended the Forum, driving his wheelchair with his chin.
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