Approximately 100 people attended ceremonies at the Rockland Independent Living Center (RILC) to mark the 21st anniversary of the passage of the American with Disabilities Act (ADA). The Rockland County executive designated Friday as Rockland County Disability Day and the county legislature recognized it as Rockland Independent Living Center Day. RILC representatives presented four awards to individuals for their advocacy of the rights of people with disabilities.
Audrey Rosenfield, RILC board president, spoke about the need and continuing work to make the promise of ADA for people with disabilities to be treated equally – a reality. Each speaker’s remarks were also shared with the audience by sign language.
New York State Manager of Independent Living Centers Robert Gumson said 37 centers served 83,000 people and 6,000 businesses across the state were assisted on a budget of $12 million. Businesses were helped to make their facilities more accommodating to people with disabilities and taught how to reach them. Individuals with disabilities were helped to leave institutional settings and learn to live more independently.
Rockland County Legislative Chairwoman Harriet Cornell noted RILC serves 1,200 individuals yearly and assists them with self-advocacy skills, job placement and personal care training.
County Legislator Robert Jackson received the Senator Eugene Levy Memorial Independent Living Award. Hoehmann, who presented the award, said Jackson had been instrumental in getting the Silver Alert passed in the county. The speeds notification if someone with cognitive impairment is missing by allowing law enforcement agencies to share information.
“Yet because of his efforts, Rockland is not only a better but safer place to live,” said Hoehmann.
Hoehmann said the state governor signed a similar law named the Golden Alert into effect earlier in the week. Jackson said he started working on the Silver Alert because of the tragic experience of a legislative office colleague. He thanked Triad and the County Sheriff’s department for their assistance.
“She has helped numerous people on the path to greater independence,” is how Peter Groos described Julie Cardone, recipient of The William H. Mullin Community System Change Advocate of the Year Award.
“I am proud to partner with RILC as we strive to break down barriers and promote the inclusion of people with disabilities in the workplace as well as in residential housing," said Cardone, a counselor with the state Commission for the Blind and Visually Handicapped.
Sheila Hayes presented the Keith B. Hayes Memorial Spirit of Mentoring Award in honor of her son. The award was given to Candace Everett, a chemical dependency counselor at Nyack Hospital, who mentors those struggling with addiction.
Carlos Martinez, assistant director of ’s PACER program,presented the Will Morales Award to consumer/employer Charles Cohn. Martinez said Cohn who started with RILC in 2003 has managed six personal care assistants demonstrating that he effectively manages his own care.
“It is clear that his employees care and trust for Charles as well as Charles trusts and cares for them,” said Martinez.
After the ceremony, guests viewed artwork on display that had been created by participants in Camp Venture’s Creative Arts & Recreation Program donated to RILC.
Hoehmann described the original works of art as pieces that “brightened up halls and brightened our hearts.”
Orangetown Supervisor Paul Whalen, a member of the Venture board of directors, presented certificates of appreciation to artists Michael Constable, Fred Drachman, Jeffrey Elgot, Jason Kluger, Maria Sanchez and Michael Sparta.
“The most important charge of government is to never forget those who need help the most,” said Whalen.
A cross section of county and local officials and representatives from other community organizations participated. Among those attending were RILC’s board of directors; County Legislator Connie Coker; Sheriff’s Department Police Chief Louis Falco; Clarkstown Town Board Member Frank Borelli; Clarkstown Town Clerk Justin Sweet; Retired Clarkstown Police Detective Sargeant Tim O’Neil; Catherine Nowicki of the Clarkstown Economic Development Office; members of the Triad organization of retired police officers, and representatives of the Westchester and Newburgh Independent Living Centers, and Taconic Resources
RILC mission is to provide advocacy and leadership in the creation and development of an accessible and integrated community for people with disabilities so that they may pursue lifestyles of their choice. The not-for-profit organization is based in New City.