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Access for All Week aims to end stigma

By TRINITY CAREY

Journal Staff Writer

MARQUETTE — One in five people live with a disability, according to the Superior Alliance for Independent Living.

As part of its Access for All Week, a celebration of the 28th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act, SAIL hosted a Living and Working with a Disability — Devices and Resources presentation Thursday evening.

The goal of the event was to ensure that every facility, program and bit of information is accessible to individuals with disabilities, said SAIL Executive Director Sarah Peurakoski.

“We want to get rid of the stigma of people with disabilities and want the community as a whole to understand that even though there’s struggles and barriers, that there are resources, and people with disabilities can do anything with some support and help,” Peurakoski said. “We want people to recognize how one in five people live with a disability. It’s really not that abnormal. The resources are out there.”

The presentation focused on Assistive Technology — called AT — or any item, piece of equipment or product system that increases, maintains or improves the functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities. This includes technology such as stabilizing spoons, real-time captions and text-to-speech technology. SAIL has more than 700 of these devices available for all different categories of disabilities.

Cost is often a factor for an individual with a disability obtaining an AT device, as most insurance providers will not cover the technology. SAIL has a 90-day loan period that allows a disabled person to test a device and make sure they will use it to its fullest capacity before purchasing. They also try to make the devices affordable and accessible to everyone in the U.P., Peurakoski said.

“Everything that you see you can find on Amazon. All these devices are found online, so it’s very readily available,” she said. “That’s the one thing in the U.P. we struggle with, there’s not just one store that has these. They are available and that’s why we try to focus on the low cost because it would be more readily achievable.”

While these devices make changes that may seem small, they make big differences for individuals with disabilities at home and in the workplace. AT allows those with disabilities to retain jobs by filling the gap between their disability and their employment goal.

Presenters at the event discussed the importance of individuals with disabilities being comfortable requesting accommodations in the workplace. The fear of being terminated is common among those who may need additional assistance, they said, but by normalizing conversations about disabilities, employers and others can remove that discomfort and help disabled individuals retain jobs.

“We want to make it normal practice to talk about,” Peurakoski said. “So that’s really our focus, get people aware, educate, provide resources. Fifty-one percent of our staff lives with a disability so it’s talking to people, it’s getting the word out.”

Other events of Access for All Week included a presentation on the historical perspective of disabilities, adaptive sports and recreation and a What Does it Mean? presentation, which focused on the impact of the ADA and how to find resources.

Visit UPSAIL.org for more information.

Trinity Carey can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 243. Her email address is photos@miningjournal.net.