Sometimes the things that are most difficult to talk about are the things that need to be addressed. We’ve all been touched by an individual with a disability, either first hand, or in passing. Perhaps you have a grandparent that is hard of hearing, or a peer that struggles to keep up in class. Rather than tabling the issue, we must reach out and make resources available to those individuals. With March being Disability Awareness Month, it’s important that we recognize the family, friends that may have different abilities than we do. Indiana Disability Awareness Organization has stated that this month’s theme is “Love Where You Live” which reminds us that communities can thrive when everyone takes an active part.
This session, we have been working to provide resources to programs that enable or assist people that live with a mental or physical disability. There is a need for funds when it comes to those with a disability, and many of those funds come from the state or federal government. House Bill (HB) 1001, the biennial budget, allocates $750,000 to the Hearing Aid Fund. Making our students feel equal to their peers is important in their development and education. It was also important for us to increase the amount of funds that we give to schools that have children with disabilities. For nearly a decade, we have not increased the per student disabilities grant. In HB 1001 we increased the per student severe disabilities grant to $8,800 and the moderate disabilities grant to $2300. This funding would be in addition to the per student funding amount. Increasing disability awareness in Indiana can help community members gain a better understanding of their peers. I am happy that we are working towards enacting legislation that makes more resources available and provides information to parents and community members. Sticking with this year’s theme of “love where you live”, did you know that right here in our community there are several events that aim to educate the public and allow neighbors to get involved?
On Saturday, March 28th, the Southern Indiana Center for Independent Living is hosting a Wheelchair Basketball Game in French Lick. The Indiana Rehabilitation Hospital worked with Orange County coaches and former basketball players to form teams to play in wheelchairs that would battle hospital teams. I love being a part of a community that allows all players on the court, no matter their skill set or disadvantage.
Another community event in French Lick is the Southern Indiana Autism Expo, held on April 11th. Guests will have the opportunity to learn about autism services, programs, support and resources. Awareness and understanding is key in being able to support our friends and family.
Understanding why disabilities occur and how we can help is important for all of us; Disability Awareness Month gives us the opportunity to learn about how those around us could be affected and how we can help them.
To learn more or find events, visit IndianaDisabilityAwareness.org. Information on legislation this session can be found at iga.in.gov. Regarding questions or concerns, please contact my office at H74@iga.in.gov or (317) 232-9815.