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November 5, 2002

Governor's Committee on People with Disabilities visits Sherman

From: Sherman Denison Herald Democrat, TX
Nov. 5, 2002



Representatives of the Governor's Committee on People with Disabilities came to Sherman last week to discuss the possibilities of establishing a local committee in the Texoma area.

The Governor's Committee on People with Disabilities envisions a state where people with disabilities have the opportunity to enjoy full and equal access to lives of independence, productivity and self-determination.

Pat Pound, executive director, and Cindy Counts, community outreach coordinator of the Texas Governor's Committee on People with Disabilities, said they like being out in the community and one of their main functions is to exchange information with groups and individuals about disability resources.

"We have a staff of only six people but have 30 people around the state and 12 members appointed by the governor," Pound said.

Counts showed the key law publication listing Texas laws pertaining to disability issues.

"People with disabilities really need this for a resource," Counts said. "It's easy to read."

Pounds also said the document is accessible through the committee's Web site and it's easier reading there because it has links that will automatically move the reader to other, similar and referenced sites.

Establishing a local committee allows the state committee to help people learn what works best in their communities.

"We won't tell you exactly how to do it (put together a local committee); we don't have any cookie-cutter local committees because we think you have to locate the shortcomings in your area and work through it to decide what direction you want to take," Counts said.

The committee is known for recognizing local employers who support a disability program. They also have a Barbara Jordan award for journalists who help bring disability issues to light.

"We generally publish a poster each year to promote an artist with a disability and this year's artist will be the first to study abroad from a disability group," Pound said.

They have put together quite an extensive history of Texas as it relates to people with disabilities.

"We found more stuff than we had known before," Pound said. "Our criteria in dicing this history is, you had to do something significant after getting the disability. An example is Deaf Smith. Nobody knows how deaf he was because he trained a dog to tug on his clothiers instead of barking to warn him of danger. I don't know anyone who has read the history without being impressed."

Pound and Counts went on to tell how Deaf Smith had a dollar bill printed with his picture on it and it used large numbers suggesting the first large-print dollar bill.

A new program called The Scoop on Reporting on People With disabilities was just put together with the high school journalism class the target. It's a 28-minute video that I can be used for disability training. Pounds said it's about words and the way to describe people with disabilities. It just deals with the way different media outlets have portrayed people with disabilities and shows what is wrong with some.

People with disabilities just want to be looked at as people and not as a disability, she said. For instance, a man who plays tennis from a wheel chair considers himself an athlete who happens to be in a wheel chair and does not want to be portrayed as a disabled man who plays tennis. Another point that was made is that newspapers and electronic media frequently put their accomplishments in the Living Section. Going back to the individual who plays tennis, he would prefer to be in the sports pages as an athlete than to be relegated to the living pages.

Pound and Counts said they were there to help the local committee get started and to figure out which way they want to go as the local committee comes together.

© Herald Democrat