Visibility and progress are key messages at ADA celebration in Iowa City

Representation is important for those with disabilities

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IOWA CITY — For Erin Noon, visibility is important.

That’s why events like Saturday’s 27th anniversary celebration of the Americans with Disabilities Act in Iowa City are important for Noon, who has cerebral palsy and serves as resources coordinator for the Johnson County National Alliance on Mental Illness — or NAMI.

“I think the ADA celebration is very important for visibility and making sure people with disabilities — whether you have an invisible disability or an actual physical disability — are represented in the Iowa City community,” Noon said during the event that took place from 10 a.m. to noon on the Pedestrian Mall.

Iowa City has celebrated the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act since it was signed into law in 1990. The federal civil rights law prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in employment, state and local government services, public accommodations, commercial facilities and transportation.

“I love this program because since I actually have a physical disability, it’s just so wonderful to celebrate it and get excited,” Noon said.

The annual ADA celebration is presented by a host of community organizations including Access 2 Independence, Combined Efforts, Goodwill of the Heartland and NAMI. Notable attendees at Saturday’s event included Iowa City Mayor Jim Throgmorton; Dave Leschtz, who formerly served as a social worker and University of Iowa disabilities educator; and Democratic U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack, who represents Iowa’s 2nd District.

Throgmorton read two proclamations from the city, including one designating the week of July 17-21 as National Disability Voter Registration Week and July 22, 2017, as Americans with Disabilities Act Awareness Day.

The proclamations, he said, were to urge community members to participate in activities that celebrate and honor the spirit of the act.

Loebsack, who kept his message brief, encouraged his constituents to keep fighting for their rights because, “the minute you rest on your laurels, that’s when somebody is going to try to turn the clock backward.”

“You can never, ever assume that we’re going to continue to make progress,” Loebsack said, noting ways to engage in the political process. “It’s going to be up to you to talk to me ... to talk to your other representatives, to send letters and emails to your senator ... to be in touch with the President of the United States to make sure that we do not fall back.”

His bottom line: “To make sure that we keep going forward.”

With informational booths set up to promote education and advocacy in Iowa City, groups in attendance included the UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital and the Aktion Club, a service club for adults with disabilities.

Jeoffrey Hacker, of Iowa City, an advocate for those with disabilities, also was on hand collecting signatures on his petition to ask the Iowa City Community School District to reinstate its Special Olympics program.

With Special Olympic medals wrapped around his neck, Hacker said he uses the medals as an example to show others with disabilities what they, too, might achieve through Special Olympics.

“I want equal opportunity for sports,” Hacker said.

Collecting signatures for nearly a month, Hacker said Saturday morning he was up to 58 as he works toward a goal of 1,000. Benefits of reinstating Special Olympics he said, include equal opportunity and providing an avenue for people with disabilities to gain self-confidence, obtain community building skills and have fun.

Also during Saturday’s celebration, longtime disabilities advocate Keith Ruff received the Terry Cunningham Community Award and the Bill Reagan Vitality Award went to Combined Efforts, a visual and performing arts company with a mission of artistic excellence through purposeful collaboration between artists with and without disabilities.

l Comments: (319) 368-8531; alexandra.connor@thegazette.com

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