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 DHS News October 2013     


An Education in Living With a Disability

Five students visiting the Department of Human Services on Disability Mentoring Day, Oct. 16, learned lessons in the daily challenges faced by people with disabilities. Judy Barricella, Director of Disability Connection in the DHS Office of Community Relations, supervised the lesson, part of a discussion and tour she lead with the students, who attend Keystone Oaks School District and Friendship Academy in the Pittsburgh Public Schools.

Judy, who has been advocating for people with disabilities for more than 30 years, gave the students a tape measure and checklist of questions to use as they investigated accessibility. They measured doorways to see if they were at least 32 inches wide – the minimum width needed to accommodate wheelchairs -- and used a wheelchair to test such things as the restroom door and water fountain height.

She instructed them on terminology with which they said they were not familiar, such as “curb cut” – the ramp built into public sidewalks that lets wheelchair users cross streets -- and on why accommodations for one person aren’t necessarily useful for another.

“When we talk about this, we have to talk about people with all sorts of disabilities,” she said, noting that she may have better use of her arms to open doors, for example, than some other person might. So a door without a switch to open it means a building might be accessible to her, but not to someone else.

The students told Judy that they plan careers as nurses, teachers and doctors. She advised them to make sure that in their training they learn how to tailor their skills to accommodate the needs of people with disabilities.

DHS was one of several county offices visited by students participating in Disability Mentoring Day. The students also had lunch and met with county Executive Rich Fitzgerald.

The day is part of National Disability Employment Awareness Month.



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