The Joy of Inclusion – Fishers Magazine
Angler Disability Awareness Month returns with a full range of events
Photograph courtesy of Brian Brosmer and Fisherman’s Town
Since 2016, the Fishers Advisory Committee on Disability (FACD) has rallied the community to work together to make Fishers an inclusive and great place to live, work and play for people with developmental and physical disabilities. In doing so, they inspired residents of neighboring communities like Carmel, Westfield and Lawrence to follow suit and form their own committees that celebrate inclusion.
“We are excited about what has happened in the Town of Fishers, with respect to disabilities and working together as a town with stakeholders and community partners to create a more inclusive environment and community,” said Cecilia Coble, co-president of the FADC.
“We are the model of what can be achieved when we collaborate and work together, which is why our theme for this year’s Disability Awareness Month is ‘Achieving More Together,'” adds Kelly Hartman, co-chair of the FACD. “We started out trying to lead the way, but this is the first year that we’ve expanded to not only include people from other cities, but also more citizens of Fishers who have never been involved before.”
According to Hartman, while Hamilton County is back to pre-pandemic unemployment rates below 3%, the unemployment rate among qualified people with disabilities is over 70%.
“We have talented people with disabilities who are highly employable and don’t always have opportunities in the job market,” Hartman says.
FACD has partnered with OneZone, the local chamber of commerce, to enable local employers to hire people with disabilities and connect them to available resources.
Each March, FACD and the City of Fishers celebrate National Disability Awareness Month with a series of special events and programs to raise awareness of what life is like for people with physical and developmental disabilities. This year, OneZone will host a luncheon that will include a presentation titled “A Photographic Journey Through an Unreachable World.” Featuring real-life images of challenges navigating the environment, the presentation opens business owners’ eyes and gets them thinking about the changes they could make to make their establishments more accessible to people with disabilities.
The Disability Awareness Month kick-off event was held March 1 at Fishers City Hall Auditorium, where keynote speaker Darcy Keith, a Fishers resident, delivered a message about of being a traumatic brain injury survivor. Keith was a 22-year-old student at Ball State University when she was involved in a horrific car accident that left her with a TBI. The accident changed the trajectory of her life as she lost her memory of her entire college major.
“I lost everything mentally, physically, emotionally and financially,” says Keith, who had to relearn how to walk, eat and swallow.
She also had to learn how to operate with a TBI, which can be tricky when there are no outwardly visible signs of injury. When she was transparent about her condition, it sometimes backfired. For example, during a job interview, she was asked to describe how she handled a difficult time in her life.
“I talked about my accident and my head trauma, and the interviewer’s eyes got so wide,” Keith recalls. “The lack of awareness on his part cost me this job.”
Nonetheless, Keith reinvented himself, embarked on a new career, and began speaking publicly to raise awareness of TBIs. She is honored to speak at the Fishers event.
“I love the ‘Achieving More Together’ theme, because it’s been the story of my life,” she says.
At the launch event, they honored individuals and organizations with three awards, including the Life Without Limits Award, the Cornerstone Employer Award, and the Accessibility Award.
“This is an opportunity to recognize people who have made significant progress and contributions as disability advocates, or significant progress in our community, whether through the arts, athletics or advocacy,” says Coble.
Over the past two years, this initiative has helped create positive developments. For example, SouthPointe Village Apartments, a 62-unit RealAmerica development that includes 13 units designed for people with developmental disabilities, opened. In September 2020, a new social club for young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities was launched in Fishers called Thrive Social Club. A book club for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities called Check Your Shelf meets at the Hamilton East Public Library on the first Thursday of every month. In addition, the Cité des Pêcheurs plans to build a community recreation center that will include water courts, basketball courts, a walking path and a collaborative community space. There will be a dedicated inclusion program for people with disabilities in the fishing community hosted at the centre.
Hartman, who has worked in the field for more than three decades, notes that while there are champions in every community for disability inclusion and awareness, it’s rare to see city leaders, elected officials and an entire community join these champions to make things happen. for the community as a whole.
“It’s not just people with disabilities,” she says. “This is a city that wants to be accessible to everyone. The fact that Scott Fadness and the City of Fishers were champions made it a bright and shining beacon for other cities to follow.
Other Angler Disability Awareness Month events include “OneZone Luncheon: A Photographic Journey Through an Inaccessible World” on Wednesday, March 9, the 2022 Hamilton County Transition Fair on Wednesday, March 16, “Prism Project of Fishers: Spring Performance” on Sunday, March 20 and the “OneZone Caffeinated Conversation: Disability Employment” on Tuesday, March 22.
For a full list of events, locations and times, visit fishers.in.us/999/March-Disability-Awareness.
City of Fishers offices are located at 1 Municipal Drive. For more information, call 317-595-3111 or visit fishers.in.us/1289/Fishers-Advisory-Committee-on-Disability.