Outstanding Achievement Award (cities under 100,000)

Medford: Major Michael J. McGlynn
Comprehensive Citywide Approach for Community Acceptance of Disabilities

1. Briefly describe your program
Our program is a comprehensive citywide approach, spearheaded by the Commission for Person with Disabilities, designed to create an accepting and educated community with knowledge of disability issues aimed at all ages. The Commission produced a three-fold approach with, "The Kids on the Block Puppets", "Understanding Handicaps Program", and the "Disability Friendly Business Campaign." "The Kids on the Block Program" took life-size puppets with disabilities, representative of our school population, into Medford classrooms. These puppets, operated by high school drama students, used scripts to demonstrate that a disability does not mean that can NOT do something, rather, it means you just do things a little differently than others.

The "Understanding Handicaps Program" focused on Blindness and Vision Impairment. Fourth graders participated in two, two-hour sessions simulating what life is like as person who is visually impaired. These exercises, from writing with a brailler to performing detailed tasks while blindfolded, created true empathy for situations most students knew little about previously.

The third part of the program focused on businesses through the "Disability Friendly Business Campaign." We informed businesses how to easily and at minimal cost, assist persons with disabilities by making simple adjustments to their business and/or their employees' attitude to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

2. When and why was it created?
The Commission instituted these programs to increase the knowledge at all community levels about disabilities, and persons with disabilities. Since statistics show that 20% of the population has a disability, there is a need to address community awareness. We are not successful if 20% of community needs are met, but the other 80% of the community is not accepting of those persons. The project began taking shape in 1995, and all programs continue today.

3. How has the program improved the quality of life in your community?
These programs improved the quality of life in our community in a number of ways. 'The Puppets' and the 'Blindness' Programs taught teachers and students how to interact with children with disabilities in their classrooms. With "school inclusion", children with disabilities are no longer segregated in special classrooms, but are mainstreamed. Many students and teachers without sufficient training did not know how to appropriately interact with these children. These programs helped to educate at all levels, and reached over 900 students in its first year of implementation alone. Both youth programs were positive, informative, and created a relaxed sense of understanding for children.

The "Disability Friendly Business Campaign" was developed because persons with disabilities are consumers. This program reached approximately 1000 businesses and created a sense of awareness and understanding through the entire community.

4. Why is your program outstanding or innovative?
Our programs are outstanding and innovative because they enabled the Commission to address all aspects of our community in a positive, proactive, and non-threatening manner. Businesses must comply with the American with Disabilities Act, yet were not provided with assistance on how to do so. Other Massachusetts communities have witnessed these programs and asked to be educated and trained in how to implement these important projects in their respective cities and towns.