Increasing visibility: Asheville and Buncombe County’s Agenda for People with Disabilities

Press release from Sustain NC: 

Asheville City Council is expected to soon vote on changes to city hall’s 1995 Americans with Disability’s Act (ADA) performance policy. These changes will improve ADA issue responses. People with disabilities (PwDs) and PwD stakeholders—including parents, caregivers, medical professionals, and policy evaluators—should understand these changes.

To increase visibility of the local PwD population and their needs, a small team of Asheville residents have formed Asheville and Buncombe County’s Agenda for People with Disabilities (A-B PwD Agenda).

The Agenda exists to increase stakeholder involvement influencing local PwD improvements. Identifying inclusive policy opportunities, beginning with COA, is one step.

  • ADA performance changes are coming to City of Asheville (COA) affecting roadways, COA Department of Parks and Recreation, etc.
  • Asheville’s disabled are 14 percent of the population. That’s 12,000 men, women, and children. 40 percent live in poverty. – US Census
  • The COA Strategic Operating Plan and related activities emphasize diversity, equity, and inclusion. The disabled are rarely referenced.

“This Agenda is needed to support the voice of a group that is historically highly disadvantaged,” said Sustain NC developer and A-B PwD Agenda project manager Grant Millin. “The work includes capturing new PwD-oriented insights and relaying findings to the community. The excitement is about doing more, better and faster, for our disabled neighbors, friends, and family. A range of new, just outcomes are available… with new action.”

Millin will speak on the city’s proposed Strategic Operating Plan at a future city council meeting. Several PwD-oriented additions to city strategy have been identified already. Millin has also made recommendations for PwD inclusion in the COA Comprehensive Plan.

The A-B PwD Agenda teams finds this is a prime moment. COA recently announced a new Equity Manager position. This position should also be responsive to PwD needs. The Agenda will form a key document and body of input the Equity Manager and other leaders can use.

Agenda team member Ariel Harris says, “Navigating Asheville in my wheelchair is a daily risk. I am so grateful for the kindness of strangers who move obstacles or physically carry me to overcome obstacles on our uneven sidewalks that are often outside ADA formula. So many times I have come frighteningly close to becoming a statistic just crossing our streets!”

To better communicate with and include this large yet often disadvantaged Asheville minority, an A-B PwD Agenda workshop will be held Saturday May 6, 2017. Contact the A-B PwD Agenda team for more details: This guided discussion will include casual ‘cafe’ breakouts as well as education modules, while providing a safe space to discuss public healthcare and other PwD relevant topics. This is an opportunity to openly share challenges PwDs face living in this area.

“We need to better collect and publicize wellbeing data on Asheville and Buncombe’s disabled,” adds Harris. “Along with ADA issues there are other agenda items impacting our people with disabilities that are now ready to come to light.”

The Agenda team recommends PwDs and other community stakeholders log ADA issues into the Asheville-Buncombe, NC Community Issues watch area.

Non-disabled leaders from government, medical, business, education, and nonprofit organizations are welcome to attend the workshop. PwDs willing to identify as having a disability will be given priority seating. Note: Publicly identifying a PwD is never mandatory.

“As a parent, I want to make sure this city recognizes my son’s equal worth as a disabled person,” says Agenda team member Catherine Campbell. “This is a really vulnerable minority in Buncombe County. I don’t pretend to know every PwD’s daily challenges and opportunities. That’s why we need a way to openly collaborate. That’s why the Agenda exists.”

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One thought on “Increasing visibility: Asheville and Buncombe County’s Agenda for People with Disabilities

  1. Grant Millin

    Thanks for posting this, Thomas.

    Hopefully the large number of Asheville PwDs, the scope of the Asheville PwD poverty challenge, and the rest of the Asheville PwD Agenda will develop in a supported, welcomed manner and greater visibility + justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion will expand soon.

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