- About ODC
- Agency ADA Coordinators
Office of Disability Concerns
Will’s Corner, Oklahoma
(Serving the Disability Community of Oklahoma)
Volume 12, issue 2
What Is People First?
People First is an organization of people with and without disabilities who want the public to see them as people (common humanity) first and then look at the disability. That’s just the reverse of what we do.
We see that wheelchair or that service animal and lots of times never see any deeper. There’s a person behind that wheelchair. There’s a person behind that learning disorder, and that person has the same aspirations as we do. They want good relationships. They want a job. They want an affordable home.
So what obstacles do people with disabilities have in achieving their goals? Public attitude is a bigger obstacle for people with disabilities than the disability itself. We feel superior to people with disabilities. We feel sorry for people with disabilities.
Sometimes we put people with disabilities on a pedestal which relegates them and their needs to the level of unreality. Oh, you get up every morning by yourself and shave. You’re my hero. People with disabilities would argue that you do the same. Why are they any different?
Nancy Ward, Vice President of the state People First organization underscores that she wants people to believe in her as a person with disabilities. She wants people to see her as a person first before they view her disability.
Transportation, employment and public access are some more big obstacles for people with disabilities. Access may be simple language for a person with a cognitive disorder or a ramp and curb cuts for a person in a wheelchair.
Lance Davis is the Executive Director of Oklahoma People First. He says he envisions People First as a place to empower people with disabilities to get off the fringes and get involved in life. He sees his job as helping people to realize their goals—not wait for someone else to tell them what they need.
One way to do this is to expand the number of People First chapters across Oklahoma. We’ve got thirteen today, and Lance is looking at adding chapters in Chickasha, Pauls Valley, Stillwater and Bartlesville in the next year.
Starting up a new chapter involves state People First going to a group of local, interested people and answering their questions. If they want to form a chapter, he provides a starter kit of information and makes a couple more visits to get the new community off and running. That includes $190 of seed money for the new chapter and a digital camera.
Lance also wants to get Student First chapters organized in public schools in Oklahoma to teach students their worth as human beings and how to advocate for themselves. Early empowerment of individuals makes for stronger adults.
Oklahoma People First is a 501C3, non-profit organization. Their office is located at 4405 N.W. 4th Street, suite 138 in Oklahoma City 73107. They can be reached at 405-602-2704 or their website www.oklahomapeoplefirst.org. Check it out. You may want to form a chapter in your town.
Oklahoma Department of Human Services: Facts at Your Disposal
The Oklahoma Department of Human Services serves many Oklahoma citizens—some with disabilities and some without disabilities. They have an office in all 77 counties in the state.
More than one million Oklahomans received help from OKDHS in fiscal year 2010 alone. That is one in three Oklahomans, and they have a major impact on the state’s economy.
OKDHS determines eligibility for SoonerCare which is the Medicaid insurance program with 719,000 people served. They provide Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (food stamps) with 271,125 cases in December, 2010 alone. (A case may include several individuals.) December, 2010 also processed 9762 cases for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).
The short answer is that the economic downturn has increased the food stamps cases well over a third since 2009 and over 15% in Medicaid. TANF has increased about 11% over the same time period. OKDHS is a safety net for Oklahomans who have experienced their own personal economic downturn.
Safety net means just that. It does not mean a program designed to encourage bad decisions and dependency. The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families
Program was born in 1996 and has totally changed its goal of cash assistance to limited cash assistance with a strong emphasis on working to meet family needs.
Food stamps is a program directly tied to poverty, and a large percentage of adults in the program do work. They are the working poor. Food stamps is almost 100% federally funded, and the program costs the state only some administrative dollars.
SoonerCare insurance costs Oklahoma about one of every three dollars it spends. This means that if the program has less state dollars, it draws down less federal match, and the program must contract.
SoonerCare can contract in a number of ways like reducing provider payments, tightening eligibility requirements or adding to the co-payments which recipients must pay. Unfortunately, when Medicaid is most needed is when the state has the fewest dollars to fund it.
OKDHS has a lot of other programs such as funding licensed child care for eligible individuals, many of whom are mothers going to work to support their children. OKDHS also houses the Oklahoma Child-support Enforcement program where the agency goes after parents which are not paying child support. This program saves state tax dollars.
People who are in this country illegally are not eligible for SoonerCare with one exception. Pre-natal medical care is available to undocumented, pregnant women who are going to give birth to a legal American citizen. (At present our country offers citizenship to any child born within its borders regardless of citizenship of the parents.)
If you would like to know more about the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, google Oklahoma Department of Human Services to pull up their website. You’ll learn all kinds of information about this largest agency in state
government. At the bottom of their home page is a video entitled “Did You Know.” Check it out.
Point A to Point B
I live in Coalgate, and I have a dialysis appointment twice a week in Oklahoma City. Who do you call—Southern Oklahoma Rural Transit System. I live in Healdton, and I need to get to the Goodyear plant in Ardmore Monday through Friday to work. Who do you call—Southern Oklahoma Rural Transit System (SORTS).
SORTS has fifty-seven vans of all sizes going all over Coal, Bryan, Carter and Love counties. I may have a way to shop, get to a hair appointment, get to the doctor, go to work or even go to school. Folks in rural Oklahoma love all 19 of their rural transit providers because sometimes they’re the only way to get from point A to point B—especially if you don’t have a car.
It’s all about dependable, safe service with trained drivers. That makes a big difference for the people with disabilities who ride on those lift-equipped vans, but it’s also something that all citizens appreciate regardless of ability.
Allen Leaird is the director of the Southern Oklahoma Rural Transit System, and he doesn’t hesitate to tell about his commitment to serve the needs of the people who live in the four-county SORTS catchment area. Service is what they’re all about.
Allen’s going to do everything he can to get you where you need to go with your needs top priority even when gas prices skyrocket which may not have been built into his budget. It may cost you $25 to get that ride to Oklahoma City or $1.50 for
(Point A: continued)
that ride in Durant, but those fares are held low to only about 11% of the actual cost of the ride. I recognize a good deal, don’t you?
The Oklahoma Department of Transportation provides some grants to transport that person with disabilities to work. The City of Ardmore and other cities in the 4-county area also allocate funds to SORTS because they know that SORTS is sometimes the only way their citizens have to get around if a person doesn’t have a car.
And people are finding out about what a good deal SORTS really is. Ridership is up 5-6% from the same time last year. Some students are getting to college classes at Southeastern in Durant using a SORTS van. People are getting to/from their jobs too.
SORTS has a Road to Work transportation program and A New Freedom program to specifically get people with disabilities to work. That’s a big issue in rural Oklahoma where there may be a big distance between jobs and where people live.
Riding a safe, dependable vehicle and with a well-trained driver is critical to people who are considering using public transportation. Drivers have regular background checks and are trained in meeting the needs of people with disabilities.
One issue which is important to people with disabilities using public transportation is assistance with packages onto and off the van. SORTS drivers will assist with packages not over 25 lb. The caretaker of a person with disabilities rides free. That’s another plus for this rural transportation provider.
Find out more about Southern Oklahoma Rural Transit by searching Google. You can also call their main office in Durant at 580-924-5331. Email Allen Leaird at email@example.com.
CALENDAR OF EVENTS
May 7, 2011 Jim Thorpe Rehab. Hospital in Oklahoma City sponsors their
wheelchair/handcycle run. For more information contact Greg
Horneber at 405-522-2847 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
May 10-12, 2011 “Real World, Real Aging” conference for people over 60
or professionals who work with those people. Call 800-
211-2116 for more information. The conference will be
at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Norman.
May 19-20, 2011 The Oklahoma Association for the Deaf offers self-advo-
cacy training at the OSU Oklahoma City campus. Email
email@example.com to register.
May 21, 2011 State People First sponsors their annual membership rally at
Regional Park in Midwest City. Contact Lance Davis at
405-602-2704 for more information.
May 21, 2011 The National Alliance of Mental Illness sponsors its annual
fundraiser walk. Call 405-230-1900 for more information.
June 11, 2011 The Oklahoma Library for the Blind and Physically Handi-
capped sponsors the kickoff of their summer reading pro-
gram. Contact Vicki Golightly at 800-523-0288 for more
If you have an event coming up relating to disability, let us know at 800-522-8224, and we’ll help you publicize.