Photo by Michelle Chance

It’s election season, and advocates for those with disabilities are paying attention.

Nearly 40 Maricopa residents discussed special needs services offered by the city Saturday morning at Global Water.

A joint event of Coffee with Maricopa Police Department Chief Stahl and Henry Wade’s Councilmember on the Corner addressed solutions to obstacles residents with disabilities face statewide – much of it due to a lack of funding.

“I’ll just make one political statement: It is important to vote,” said Wade. “It’s important to know who you’re voting for and what they have done for and with you over a period of time that they’ve been in office.”

The Primary Election is Aug. 28.

Stahl expressed his frustration with state officials who he said reallocated money originally designated to improve emergency communication for those with vision, hearing and other special needs.

Next Generation 9-1-1 would offer multimedia emergency call, text and video options, Stahl said.

Police communication centers around the nation use the system, according to Stahl, but Arizona is not one of them.

“I’m not going to cast blame; I’ve already done that to their face,” Stahl said of state lawmakers. “I’m asking you to ask them ‘How are you going to fix it?’ because this needs to be fixed immediately.”

MPD offers a variety of services to the city without the state’s assistance.

You Are Not Alone, implemented three years ago, sends volunteers to make visits and phone calls to homebound residents living alone.

The recently unveiled Special Needs Registry  is a voluntary service that provides emergency personnel information about those with cognitive, medical and physical needs should they come in contact with Maricopa Police or Fire.

The city also provides a residential lockbox program providing first responders direct access to residents’ homes during emergencies.

Other services are available countywide.

Independent Living Skills Advocate Rosalie Perry with Phoenix-based non-profit Ability360 works with people with disabilities throughout Pinal County. The organization is federally funded. 

Perry, who is wheelchair bound, drives Pinal’s 5,000 square miles providing mostly free resources and referrals to those with disabilities.

“I had thought back when I acquired my disability 20 years ago that life was over, life was not happening for me. But through support and working with Ability360, I’m able to gain that confidence and now I’m out here talking to you,” Perry told residents Saturday.

The “empowering citizens with disabilities” event also highlighted the ways the city supports those whose challenges are not always immediately apparent, like those with chronic pain and people who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Suzette Gilbreth said she’s a resident with an “invisible disability” who, after attending the event, was surprised to see how many others in attendance were as interested in disability advocacy as she is.

Gilbreth said she’s motivated to begin pressuring lawmakers.

“I’m glad to know there’s this many people out here and now my thoughts are, how can we help Henry (Wade) get that word out to more people to start really bugging the government and start saying ‘hey, we have a voice now and what can we do?’” Gilbreth said.

For more information about Ability360, call Rosalie Perry at 602-443-0707 or email RosalieP@ability360.org.

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