Time to Appreciate: Disability Awareness Enlightens CA DCSS

By: Nicole Darracq, CA DCSS

On Thursday, October 11, the California Department of Child Support Services (CA DCSS) Disability Awareness Committee (DAC) hosted its annual Disability Awareness event for employees. Timed to coincide with Disability Awareness Month in October, the event brought organizations that assist the disabled and state resources for employees with disabilities together to celebrate the enormous contributions made by individuals in our workplace and society whose abilities may differ from our own.

The theme for the 2018 celebration was “Equal to the Task” and as always, the presenters and performers delivered a wonderful time and lots to think about. The pups with Guide Dogs for the Blind and Canine Companions are perennial crowd-pleasers, and it is simultaneously humbling and impressive to watch these good dogs work hard to please their handlers and, in time, change the lives of their owners. Other presenters offered food for thought: Women Escaping a Violent Environment (WEAVE) had a table, and when asked their connection with Disability Awareness, explained how WEAVE advocates not only for battered women, but all victims of abuse. Their caseloads show that the disabled experience higher incidences of both domestic abuse and financial victimization than the population at large, and the presenters made an excellent case that those of us with disabled colleagues should be aware of this and alert for signs of these abuses so the victims can be directed to help and resources.

More new information was offered by CMT Association representative Ernie Hinde, a presenter who suffers from Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) disease, a inheritable neurological disorder. CMT is particularly relevant for employers to understand, as it damages the peripheral nerves that activate muscles and carry signals to the brain but is slow to progress, rarely life-threatening and almost never affects mental acuity. CMT sufferers most commonly experience muscle atrophy and weakness in the arms, legs, hands and feet but remain intelligent, capable, valuable employees who simply need accommodation for certain tasks.

Music was provided by the Southside Ensemble, whose renditions of Motown standards and pop classics are always a hit. The talented band’s sponsoring organization, Southside Unlimited, offers vocational training, performing and visual arts classes, employment services, a participant-staffed recycling service, and community integration programs for disabled adults in Sacramento, Auburn, Roseville and Elk Grove. The group also had art pieces for sale made by adults served by Southside Unlimited, hopefully you were lucky enough to snag one of their pieces.

Other participants in the day’s festivities were Paratransit, the California Department of Rehabilitation, New Dawn Treatment Centers, and of course CA DCSS’s own DAC. Director David Kilgore presented all of these resource and advocacy groups with certificates of appreciation for their participation, and every attendee went back to work with a renewed awareness of the hurdles that some overcome every day, and an increased sensitivity to and appreciation for the contributions of a diverse workforce. Thanks to DAC for a very enlightening event.