Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Clay Forms Council on Disability

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Clay Forms Council on Disability

Article excerpt

Byline: R. Michael Anderson, County Line staff writer

GREEN COVE SPRINGS -- For the first time ever in Clay County, an official board has been established to represent the interests of a group that has been overlooked for years: people with physical and mental disabilities.

The County Commission unanimously adopted a resolution Tuesday creating a seven-member Clay County Advisory Council on Disability, similar to groups in Jacksonville and many other communities throughout Florida.

A policy adopted by commissioners states that four of the advisory panel members "shall be disabled individuals and/or parents or guardians of disabled individuals."

Upon a recommendation by Commissioner Larry Lancaster, the board also decided to seek ex-officio members from the Clay County Council for the Blind, the Clay County Council on Aging, the Clay County School Board and CCAR Inc., a private agency that works with disabled of all ages in Clay.

"In my opinion, this is long overdue," said Lancaster, who praised Commissioners Patrick McGovern and Christy Fitzgerald with taking an active role in the creation of the advisory council.

The first appointee was Donna Sumlin, a Pace Island resident who serves on the Florida Independent Living Council and is co-chairwoman of the Florida Alliance for Assistive Services & Technology Inc. Sumlin started drumming up support for the advisory council last year, when she termed Clay County "backward" in terms of services offered to people with disabilities.

Sumlin, who was stricken with polio when she was 7 years old and left paralyzed from the neck down, was seated in her wheelchair in the audience when she was named the council's first member.

"We're looking forward to working with you and to make Clay County a disability-friendly area," she told commissioners. "It's a very, very happy day for us. …

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