Fishers Disability Awareness Month Returns With Full Lineup of Events
Photography Provided by Brian Brosmer & the City of Fishers
Since 2016, the Fishers Advisory Committee on Disability (FACD) has rallied the community to work together to make Fishers an inclusive and awesome place to live, work and play for those with intellectual and physical disabilities. By doing so, they have inspired those in neighboring communities like Carmel, Westfield and Lawrence to follow suit and form their own committees that celebrate inclusion.
“We’re super excited about what has transpired within the city of Fishers, as it relates to disabilities and working together as a city with stakeholders and community partners to build a more inclusive environment and community,” says Cecilia Coble, co-chair of the FACD.
“We’re the model of what can be done 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 our first year to expand and include not just people from other cities, but also more citizens in Fishers who have never been involved before.”
According to Hartman, while Hamilton County has returned to pre-pandemic unemployment rates of lower than 3%, the unemployment rate amongst qualified people who have a disability is more than 70%.
“We have talented people who happen to have a disability who are very employable and aren’t always given opportunities in the employment market,” Hartman says.
The FACD has partnered with OneZone, the local Chamber of Commerce, to empower local employers to hire individuals with disabilities and connect them to available resources.
Every March the FACD and the City of Fishers celebrate National Disability Awareness Month with a series of special events and programs to bring awareness to what life is like for those with physical and intellectual disabilities. This year OneZone will host a luncheon that includes a presentation called “A Photographic Journey Through an Inaccessible World.” Featuring real-life pictures of challenges in navigating in the environment, the presentation is eye-opening to business owners and gets them thinking about changes they might make so their establishments are more accessible to people who are disabled.
The kickoff event for Disability Awareness Month took place on March 1 at the Fishers City Hall Auditorium, where keynote speaker Darcy Keith, a Fishers resident, delivered a message about being a traumatic brain injury (TBI) 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 crash changed the trajectory of her life as she lost 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 to function with a TBI, which can be tricky when there are no outwardly visible signs of injury. When she was transparent about her condition, sometimes it backfired. For instance, 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 TBI, and the interviewer’s eyes got so big,” Keith recalls. “Lack of awareness on her part cost me that job.”
Nevertheless, Keith reinvented herself, embarked on a new career and started speaking publicly to raise awareness about TBIs. She’s honored to speak at the Fishers event.
“I love the ‘Achieving More Together’ theme, as that has been the story of my life,” she says.
At the kickoff event, they honored individuals and organizations with three awards including the Life Without Limits award, the Cornerstone Employer award and the Accessibility award.
“It’s an opportunity to recognize those individuals who have made significant strides and contributions as disability advocates, or significant strides in our community, whether through the arts, athletics or advocacy,” Coble says.
In the past couple of years, this initiative has helped to create positive developments. For instance, SouthPointe Village Apartments, a 62-unit RealAmerica development that features 13 units designed for individuals with developmental disabilities, opened. In September of 2020, a new social club for young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities launched in Fishers called Thrive Social Club. A book club geared towards including 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 City of Fishers has plans to build a community recreation center that will include aquatics, basketball courts, a walking path and some community space for collaboration. There will be dedicated inclusion programming for people with disabilities in the Fishers community housed at the center.
Hartman, who has worked in this arena 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 come alongside those champions to make something happen for the community at large.
“This isn’t just about people who happen to have disabilities,” she says. “This is about a city that wants to be accessible for all people. The fact that Scott Fadness and the City of Fishers have been champions for this has made it a bright and shining beacon for other cities to follow.”
Other events for Fishers Disability Awareness Month include the “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.
The 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.