Whenever I find myself complaining about the weather (too hot, too cold, too much snow) I remind myself of the floods, tsunamis, earthquakes and tornadoes taking place all over the world, and I say a silent thank you for our New England weather, our latitude and longitude -- our place on the map.

Everyone says thank you for something on Thanksgiving, but what about the rest of the year? What does it take for someone to realize they are blessed? Take, for example, the blessing of good health. Maybe your skin isn't perfect and everything about you is heading south. Your hair is thinning, your glasses are getting thicker, and you keep misplacing your keys. But then you see someone in a wheelchair trying to navigate a sidewalk with no ramps, or a blind person trying to cross a busy road, with no one by their side to tell them when the light has changed, and it puts things into perspective. No question about it, being disabled is a challenge no matter where you live, or what the weather happens to be.

Did you know that 20 percent of the population has a disability, or that 40 percent of people over 65 are disabled. According to my copy of the Census Bureau's "Current Population Reports," there are 54 million Americans with disabilities. And here's the interesting part: Persons with disabilities have a combined income of nearly $700 billion, and of that figure, $175 billion is discretionary income!

Just like people who are 100 percent healthy, disabled people are consumers. What is your business doing to make it easier for them to shop? Providing access to facilities and services will win the hearts and minds of the disabled, but even if they have access to your business, do you treat them with the utmost dignity, courtesy and respect? If so, they are likely to come back to your business again and again.

It's really simple: To accommodate the disabled, be a great listener, be patient and flexible. In other words, treat the disabled the way you would wish to be treated if you were in their shoes.

Here I am preaching to you, and yet I am unable to accommodate or service the disabled here in the Fairfield Chamber offices. Once through the double blue doors at sidewalk level, there are eight steep stairs to get you midway, and another seven stairs after that in order to reach the second floor. There is no elevator, thus even healthy people huff and puff their way to the top. And there is no easy way down either, so carrying heavy boxes of marketing materials to street level can be dangerous.

Uh oh. I'm complaining, so I do apologize. Let me take a moment to be thankful for my ability to drive, to walk, to climb, to see, to hear, and to live where tornadoes and floods are rare. Let me be thankful for my office smack dab in the middle of Fairfield with a set of 15 stairs that make it easy for me to do my daily aerobic exercise. I am a very, very lucky person. How about you?

Win Some, Lose Some

The Fairfield Chamber of Commerce sometimes takes up causes on behalf of the majority of our members, and sometimes we win and sometimes we lose. After vigorous debate at the state level, the House and Senate voted to pass the Paid Sick Time bill. In spite of what you've heard, manufacturers are affected because they've named specific job titles, including secretaries, receptionists, data processors, telemarketers and other sales staff. While advocates said that only businesses with fewer than 50 employees would be affected, the bill affects everyone, regardless of size, because the cost of this mandate will be passed on to you. Additionally, the bill prohibits employers from punishing or reprimanding employees for abuse of sick leave. And if your sick leave policy isn't the same or better than the state's parameters, you could be in trouble.

Lastly, this bill makes Connecticut the first state in the nation to require paid sick days. Does this help Connecticut, already number 49 out of 50 states considered friendly to business? Is it any wonder that all these unfunded mandates give businesses a reason to look elsewhere to set up shop? It will be interesting to see what the future holds for our small business people. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

New Chamber of

Commerce members

Verizon Wireless: Joshua Braithwaite, 40 Black Rock Tpke., Fairfield, CT 06825

Premier Wine and Spirits: Patrick Misciagna, 525 Tunxis Hill Road, Fairfield, CT 06825

Apricot Lane: Diane Holtz, 1499 Post Road, Fairfield, CT 06824

Élan Vital Holistic Healing LLC: Karen Drena, 66 Burroughs Road, Fairfield, CT 06824

Innovative Ideas & Incentives Inc.: Melinda Crews (local contact), 23 Melrose Ave., Bridgeport, CT 06605