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November 30, 1990 - Image 57

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1990-11-30

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family member suddenly
became seriously ill with lit-
tle or no chance of recovery.
The task force also paid at-
tention to the way language
is used to describe people
with handicaps. Members
began referring to "a person
with a disability," instead of
"a disabled person."

Nearly three years were
spent conducting extensive
interviews with people with
handicaps, as well as their
parents, children, siblings
and other family members.
At the same time, represen-
tatives from agencies
throughout the Detroit area,
both Jewish and non-
sectarian, made presenta-
tions describing the services
their organizations offer to
people with disabilities.
The task force agreed there
is no need to re-invent many
of the programs that already
exist in non-sectarian set-
tings; rather the need is to
help Jewish people connect
with these programs. How-
ever, parents of children with
disabilities expressed a desire
for Jewish scout troops and
other recreational programs
for their children and others
who observe Shabbat.
Common complaints were
lack of adequate transporta-
tion, little understanding of
how to utilize existing
resources, and a sense of
frustration and isolation.
Many believe the schools,
synagogues and agencies of
the Detroit Jewish communi-
ty are not interested in the
participation of all members.
Persons with visual or hear-
ing impairments complain of
a lack of large print prayer
books, hearing enhancement
devices, and synagogue ser-
vices that include com-
munication alternatives like
signing and oral interpreta-

Helen Miller and Tom Dziurda dance at a Jewish Vocational Service party.

tion. People with physical
disabilities say they cannot
enter many Jewish com-
munal buildings due to stairs,
curbs and other barriers.
And, despite the efforts of
JARC, Kadima, and other
programs for people with
developmental disabilities
and mental illness, many
families found the Jewish
community-at-large insen-
sitive to their needs.
On the positive side, the
task force found that ex-
cellent resources already ex-
ist. The problem, they say, is
more a lack of information
than lack of resources.

To alleviate this problem,
the Jewish Information Ser-
vices has hired a new director,
Carol Kaczander, who will be
responsible for developing a
"disabilities database."
Because many people need
more than a simple referral
when tragedy strikes, Mrs.
Kaczander will also serve as
a resource to Federation agen-
cies and as an ombudsman to
the clients.
According to Nora Barron,
"We found people need more
than just an empathetic ear.
They need someone who can
help, tell them whom to call,
and then follow up."

The task force report in-
cludes a number of recom-
mendations, including a com-
prehensive printed directory
of community services; ex-
panded case-management,
guardianship and respite care
programs within Jewish
Family Service; support
groups for parents and sibl-
ings; more services and pro-
grams for people with visual
and hearing impairments;
and expanded educational,
social, and recreational oppor-
tunities for Jewish children
with all types of handicaps,
including learning disa-

It was also suggested that
an experimental environment
be established to allow people
without handicaps to ex-
perience the barriers and
limitations faced by those
with disabilities.
Other recommendations in-
cluded increased advocacy to
promote legislation and
government funding of pro-
grams and services, a
speakers' bureau to increase
community awareness, pro-
grams to promote greater ac-
cessibility to Jewish com-
munity facilities and expand-
ed transportation resources.
Many of these suggestions
can be implemented without
major allocations of funds, the
task force report says.
"There is a long list of
needs, but many can be dealt
with easily," said Mrs. Bar-
ron. "It's more a matter of at-
titude and what you believe
you can do."
Larry Ziffer, director of
planning for the Jewish
Welfare Federation of Detroit,
agrees. He is encouraged that
many of the agencies are
already doing much of what
was recommended.
"In many cases, it's a mat-
ter of rearranging dollars that
are already out there," said
Mr. Ziffer, who says it is
premature to put a price tag
on the total program.
Plans are under way for a
town meeting to be held in
1991 to increase community
Although the report was ex-
tensive and the recommenda-
tions far-reaching, task force
members and agency ex-
ecutives alike hope that this
is only the beginning. "I'd
like this community to never
have out of their minds that
there is a population, of
which they are a part, that
needs these changes," said
Mr. Wachler. ❑



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