Well I went to my first in-person meeting last night at the local Moose Lodge. It wasn’t a Moose get together although I used to belong to the Moose and I enjoyed their Wednesday night pizza and inexpensive drinks. This was a Resources for Independent Living Board meeting and it was at the Moose Lodge because it allowed us to more easily social distance. I had my mask and wore it some, but there was a lot of space between us and I felt fairly comfortable.
There is so much that is not allowed to happen with the programs and clients and the state of New Jersey is not convinced that special needs individuals can attend programs at this time or in the near future. It seems to me that special needs citizens are almost always at the end of the line for things that the rest of us just assume we will have, This is another case of privilege that most of us don’t even consider. A friend who serves on the Special Services School Board indicated that when schools start in September, the special needs students will not be starting at that time. She indicated that they might not start until after the first of the new year. I do not like this decision at all.
Most of the students that have been involved in distance learning, and then off for the summer, will return to school with a much larger learning gap than ever before. Imagine what type of gap there will be for students that need accommodations, modifications and support in their daily assignments and tests on an on-going basis. Often, those students have not done well on computer based assignments during a normal school year and many families do not have computers and internet access. Now, the state is thinking about a further delay in their education.
Before Covid19 shut everything down, I was working with Resources for Independent Living clients as a volunteer to mentor and help facilitate their orientation to a competitive job. After this structured experience, which a grant paid their salary, the next step would be to help them get their first real job. This just abruptly ended and we are not sure when we will be allowed to resume. As a advisory board member for the Office for the Disabled in Salem County, we started to plan for Disability Awareness Day scheduled for October. Once again, uncertainty about what will happen.
Ray Leight and I have been talking about a virtual Disability Awareness Day. What would that look like and how can we make that happen. We talked about filming presentations by the vendors and agencies that attend; filming the keynote speaker and trying to plan a program that will add value; and finding a way to continue our awards ceremony to high light individuals and agencies that add value to our special needs citizens. Finally, I have something that I can start working on. If anyone has any ideas, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.