Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Disability Council Sets Goals in Informal Meeting

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Disability Council Sets Goals in Informal Meeting

Article excerpt

Byline: R. Michael Anderson, County Line staff writer

Sometimes, residents appointed to various county advisory panels are seldom seen or heard.

That's not likely to be the case with the newest bunch of appointees, however. The 11-member Clay Council Council on Disability, just created in the past couple of weeks, could become a real political force to be reckoned with in future years.

That was the message members boldly asserted during the group's first, albeit informal, meeting Monday at the Orange Park branch library on Plainfield Avenue.

Member Sondra Higgins, who has a family member with cerebral palsy, noted that programs for the disabled always seems to end up on "the short end of the stick" when it comes to obtaining public funding. She said she wants to work for improved services and facilities for the disabled "without making too many enemies."

"Some people will resent us for wanting things," she said. "But that's too bad."

Donna Sumlin of Fleming Island, who spearheaded a drive last year to organize the advisory council, told her fellow council members they have their work cut out for them because Clay County provides little in the way of help for the disabled.

"I hate to say it, but you've stepped back in time," she said. Moments later, she encouraged the group to be tenacious in its quest for goals such as improved transportation services, removal of architectural barriers, respite care and personal home care assistance.

"We need to become bulldogs," Sumlin said.

Higgins agreed, saying the council needs to seek news media assistance in spreading its message and contacting as many people in the public and private sectors as possible for help.

"It's the squeaky wheel that gets the oil," Higgins said.

County Commissioner Pat McGovern, who chairs the Clay County Transportation Disadvantaged Committee, said it isn't entirely the county's fault that services for the disabled are lacking in Clay. He faults the state. …

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