Fishers Honoring Disability Awareness With Events Throughout March
Every March, the Indiana Governor’s Council for People with Disabilities sends out information and resources throughout the state to heighten awareness about intellectual and physical disabilities. Ever since Fishers became a city in 2016, the Fishers Advisory Committee on Disability (FACD) and the City of Fishers celebrate Disability Awareness Month with a series of special events and programs, designed to let the public know what life is like for those with disabilities.
This year’s theme is “Building Our Inclusive Community.” To celebrate, the FACD is producing a video montage that spotlights the collaborations occurring among city leaders, business owners, community partners, the disability community, and direct-service providers.
“We’re highlighting the things we’ve done to build awareness and bring more opportunities for employment, social life, accommodations, and accessibility for the people of Fishers who have intellectual and developmental disabilities,” says Cecilia Coble, Fishers City Council president and FACD co-chair.
“As a community, we lean into being vibrant, entrepreneurial, forward-thinking and inclusive,” adds Kelly Hartman, FACD co-chair. “I think it’s really an amazing testament to the leadership of our city that we take the time to celebrate that and see the goodness in folks with disabilities, people who employ those with disabilities, and people who include people with disabilities in all facets of our community. Fishers is a place all people get to live, play, love, and be a part of a community that celebrates all that.”
Unfortunately, due to the global pandemic, most of the month-long events are virtual, including the kickoff event on March 1, which includes keynote speaker Ben Trockman, diversity and inclusion specialist at Old National Bank.
The FACD has partnered with OneZone, the local Chamber of Commerce, to empower local employers to hire individuals with disabilities.
“We’ve had relationships with employers here in Fishers, but this opens it up even deeper to the Hamilton County community at large,” Coble says. “We’re super excited about that.”
According to Hartman, the pre-COVID unemployment rate among citizens in Fishers was well under 3% month after month. Hamilton County is typically in the bottom five or six counties in the state for unemployment.
“What people don’t realize is that we have folks with disabilities who have skills and are employable, and the unemployment rate amongst folks who are qualified to be working is around 70%,” Hartman says. “In these times folks definitely have gaps in the jobs they are able to accomplish with their current workforce – particularly in the service industry like hotels and restaurants.”
In 2018 the Advisory Committee formed the Fishers Disability Inclusion in the Workplace Business Networking Group, to connect Fishers businesses to potential job candidates. On March 10, members of the Advisory Committee and the Networking Group will present “Expanding Your Applicant Pool: Exploring the Untapped Workforce” at OneZone’s business luncheon. Kylee Hope, the director of Indiana’s Division of Disability and Rehabilitative Services, will share a global perspective on employing individuals with physical and developmental disabilities.
“We’ll share success stories of employers and employees around the Fishers and Carmel areas,” Coble says.
To celebrate Disability Awareness Month, the Fishers PRISM Project (developed by Ball State University) will perform a virtual show. In addition, an inclusive rhythmic gymnastics group will perform.
“We work together to provide opportunities, whether it’s through the arts, athletics, education, or social,” Coble says. “We want the community to know we have a lot of resources here in Fishers.”
On March 12 there will be a “Celebration of Inclusion through Art” event at Conner Prairie. There’s a reverse job fair scheduled at Grace Church on March 23. This is an opportunity for people with disabilities to pass their resumes along to employers in the community. Another popular event is “My Point of View Day,” where people with disabilities have breakfast with the mayor, elected officials and city staff to participate in a roundtable discussion about the challenges they face.
“It’s very impactful,” Coble says. “Through those discussions, the Fishers Advisory Committee on Disability works on initiatives and collaborations with all of our partners to try and move the ball forward.”
In addition to Hamilton East Public Library’s events and programs that celebrate Disability Awareness Month, the City of Fishers has launched a city lifestyle website called “This is Fishers.” Every Wednesday in March, it will highlight a different story of an organization or individual related to inclusion. The city’s social media network will also share statistics related to disabilities, frequently asked questions, resources, videos and photos.
In September of 2020 the Thrive Social Club, an inclusive social club for individuals 18 and older, was formed due to the stress and isolation of the pandemic.
“Once someone with a disability ages out of high school, they can feel a lot of isolation because those friendships and organized events are no longer available as an adult,” says Coble, noting that the club, which meets weekly via Zoom, has been hosting lots of fun events like dance parties, bingo and scavenger hunts.
Throughout the past year, the FACD and the City of Fishers have helped to solidify the first-ever affordable and accessible housing initiative in Fishers – SouthPointe Village Apartments.
“We were able to do that through making a commitment between the developer of that affordable housing and the disability community, providing a specific number of units set aside for the workforce and a specific number of units set aside for people with disabilities,” Hartman says. “People can age in their own community and not have to move to Marion County because they want to move out of their parents’ house. This is just another way that Fishers is looking to be a city for all people.”
The City of Fishers offices are located at 1 Municipal Drive. For more information, call 317-595-3111 or visit fishers.in.us.