Fairfield's Committee for People with Disabilities upholds ADA

FAIRFIELD — The town’s Department of Human and Social Services celebrated the 29th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities with Act (ADA) by reflecting on the efforts of its Committee for People with Disabilities.

The Department of Human and Social Services works to extend the ADA’s protections to Fairfield’s disabled community, which U.S. census data counts as 10 to 15 percent of the town’s population. The year-old Committee for People with Disabilities has been an important addition to this effort.

According to Director of Human and Social Services Julie DeMarco, the Committee was formed last June based on a recommendation from the Human Services Commission’s Disability Task Force. The Task Force, which met monthly to discuss ways of making Fairfield more inclusive for people with disabilities, hosted a community stakeholders meeting that revealed the need for a more permanent solution to keeping up with the issue in Fairfield.

The Task Force also created and distributed a disability survey that quantified this need. According to the survey data, 65.7 percent of respondents reported some involvement with the disability community, and 75.4 percent of respondents indicated that local resources and support for individuals with disabilities “could be improved.” The leading issues facing people with disabilities were identified as transportation, housing, advocacy and education.

Based on these results, the Human Services Commission proposed formed an HSC subcommittee, an idea supported by First Selectman Michael Tetreau. Made up of five commissioners, the Committee for People with Disabilities has since worked to address gaps in the town’s accommodations. Beyond that, the Committee is also proactive and always on the lookout to “find opportunities for growth and inclusion in the community for people with disabilities in Fairfield,” DeMarco noted.

Chair Kris Burbank said that the Committee for People with Disabilities has been “energized and active” since its formation. In addition to meeting with and gaining insight from the Westport Commission for People with Disabilities, they’ve identified training opportunities and sought input from residents relating to disability issues.

“We are currently working with the First Selectman to establish goals and an organizational framework to help us move forward, and we encourage all persons interested in this work to attend our monthly meetings at the Bigelow Center for Senior Activities,” Burbank said.

The Committee is founded upon the principles of the ADA, which prevents discrimination against people with disabilities in all areas of public life, including businesses, employment and transportation. It provides civil rights protections similar to those provided to individuals on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, age and religion.

On the ADA’s anniversary, Burbank reaffirmed the Committee’s goal of upholding and enforcing the Act.

“We encourage our friends and neighbors to do their part within the community, businesses and other organizations to help expand inclusivity,” Burbank said. “The best way to honor the ADA is to incorporate its spirit into our everyday lives.”