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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Making History, RTM Approves Disabilities Commission

By James Lomuscio

To a round of applause, the Representative Town Meeting (RTM) tonight unanimously approved an ordinance establishing a new Westport Commission on People with Disabilities.

Sarah Heath, the town’s new human services director, made the proposal, saying such a commission had been “almost 10 years in the making.”

The idea for a disabilities commission took root in 2007 when the Community Inclusion Task Force, which had been appointed by the Health & Human Services Commission and the Westport Weston United Way, issued its final report.

Heath said that creating the new town body would demonstrate “that Westport is a community where people with disabilities are valued,” and that they contribute to the town.

Heath’s comments were galvanized when resident Jim Ross stepped up to the podium. Ross, who is sight impaired, called the launch of a disabilities commission’s “a historic moment for the town.”

“We are people first,” Ross said about the disabled. “Not only do we contribute. We can do great things.”

Prior to the ordinance’s first RTM reading in June, First Selectman Jim Marpe said that from children through seniors, an estimated 15 percent of the town’s population has some form of disabilities.

Tonight, state Rep. Jonathan Steinberg said he heartily endorsed the commission, especially at a time when Hartford is meting out cuts to social services.

“Disabilities cut across every aspect of our society,” Steinberg said, from ones that go unnoticed to those that are obvious due to their their severity.

“This will be a very positive influence on the entire community,” he said.

Jack Klinge, chairman of the RTM’s Heath and Human Services Committee, called the request “a commission whose time has come.”

“It’s now ready for our vote for an official town commission,” he said. “It just makes an awful lot of sense to pay respect to all people with disabilities and all those who work with those individuals.”

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Posted 07/19/16 at 09:51 PM  Permalink



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