From architectural standards to the environmental movement, Santa Barbara is considered a leader in community trends. Betcha didn’t know that included assistance for those with disabilities.
In the spirit of that tradition — which Mayor Marty Blum traced to the curb cutouts and wheelchair ramps installed at the urging of then-Mayor David Shiffman in the 1970s — more than 150 people turned out for the Fourth Annual Mayor’s Breakfast on Wednesday at the Cabrillo Pavilion Arts Center. The breakfast, begun by Blum and City Councilwoman Helene Schneider in 2005 and now part of October’s National Disability Awareness Month activities, recognizes local businesses that help promote and participate in the employment of people with disabilities. Noozhawk was among this year’s honorees.
Private-sector law’s loss was the public sector’s gain and Black has gone on to have a distinguished legal career. For more than 20 years, he worked in the California Community Colleges’ Chancellor’s Office, establishing the foundations for programs for students with disabilities on campuses throughout the state. In his current post, he advises Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s office on legislation relevant to employment, independence and equality for those with disabilities.
According to Black, 70 percent of working-age people with disabilities are not employed. He didn’t call for full employment but he appealed to employers to consider several points when making their hiring decisions.
» Don’t talk to the lawyers. By the time you’re done with attorneys and human resources directors, he joked, you won’t want to hire anyone!
» Don’t make assumptions about what people can or cannot do. Today’s high-tech tools are rapidly expanding the horizons of people with disabilities.
» Expensive changes to your workplace are not necessary; the law requires reasonable accommodation. “You tell me what you need and we’ll figure out how to do it,” is what Black advises. Open communication and talking through the issues is all he asks.
If equal responsibility is as important as equal opportunity, Scott Durfor, manager of Metropolitan Theatres Corp.‘s Paseo Nuevo Cinemas, is a model employer, albeit a modest one. In accepting the Employer/Accommodations Award from Blum, Durfor insisted his crew, which includes a number of workers with disabilities, was nothing out of the ordinary. The secret of their success, he said, is the expectation that a uniform standard will be met every day.
Blum bestowed the Design/Accessibility Award on Dan Cornet, recently retired from the state Department of Industrial Relations, and the Media Award on Noozhawk for its extensive coverage of disabilities issues.
Wednesday’s breakfast was coordinated by Julie Holmes of the Department of Rehabilitation, which co-sponsored the event with PathPoint, the city of Santa Barbara, Tri-Counties Regional Center and United Cerebral Palsy Work Inc.
Noozhawk publisher Bill Macfadyen can be reached at [email protected]