Area residents to encouraged to wear green Wednesday to support People with Disabilities Awareness Day at the State Capitol.
The U.S. Census Bureau estimates more than 577,000 Oklahomans – almost one in six — have disabilities.
Melissa Walker, Sunshine Industries, Inc. of Ardmore Executive Director said she and her staff will be wearing green Wednesday to raise awareness of the day and hope others will join them.
"The Department of Rehabilitative Services focuses on employment opportunities, which is very important to all people with disabilities who want independence. Sunshine is very involved in Oklahoma's legislative process. We want to make sure our representatives leave intact and expand community-based services, like job coaching. Being able to guide a person to successful employment takes their willingness and a lot of hard work." Walker said.
According to DRS, an estimated 800 Oklahomans with disabilities and advocates are expected to participate in the awareness event. Those participating in the event are also being encouraged to wear green.
"When decision makers at the state Capitol see a lot of people in the halls or rotundas all wearing disability-awareness green, our efforts have an even greater impact," said DRS Executive Director Michael O'Brien, Ed.D.
Sen. Frank Simpson, R-Ardmore, said events like "People with Disabilities Awareness Day at the State Capitol" were an important element in changing views.
"It is encouraging to see how our perception of people with disabilities has changed over the years. Those who were once viewed as dependent on society have shown themselves to be independent and productive members of society. People with disabilities should be appreciated as individuals who have overcome great challenges to become successful members of our communities. That's an example we can all learn from," Simpson said.
Rep. Pat Ownbey, R-Ardmore, said he looked forward to the event.
"Disability Awareness Day is an event that helps build awareness across our state for those who don't face the challenges of overcoming barriers that so many face. I look forward to hearing the stories that are shared each year while learning how we might empower others through access to resources, education and employment opportunities. That day is a day that brings in people of all ages that have unique talents and gifts with differing abilities," Ownbey said.
The theme for the awareness day campaign is "We are Oklahoma TOO." The theme emphasizes Oklahomans with disabilities have the same hopes, dreams, concerns and desire for success as their fellow citizens.
People with Disabilities Awareness Day has been annual event for 19 year, providing those with disabilities and their advocates a unique opportunity to visit with legislators and their staffs about critical disability services that impact the quality of their lives and opportunities to reach employment and other goals.
In addition to visiting with legislators the event will also by highlighted by performances by the Oklahoma School for the Deaf Performing Arts Company and the Oklahoma School for the Blind Jazz Band, as well as more than 70 exhibitors on the second and fourth floor rotundas.
Those planning to attend the event are urged to pre-register online at www.okdrs.gov/pwdad/2013. However, officials said late registrations will be accepted the day of the event.
Parking will be available on the south side of the state Capitol at 2300 N. Lincoln St. in Oklahoma City. Accessible parking is located at the base of the south steps. Overflow parking is available at the Jim Thorpe Building west of Lincoln Boulevard.
Awareness Day participants may enter the building at the accessible southeast entrance on the first floor. Every Capitol visitor is required to pass through a metal detector and run all purses and bags through an x-ray scanner.
Those who have pre-registered will speed through registration beginning at noon on the first floor. Legislative visits begin at 12:30 p.m. Experienced volunteers will be stationed in the halls to help first-time visitors find their legislators and others who need assistance.
To ask questions visit www.okdrs.gov/pwdad/2013 or phone (405) 951-3478 or (800) 845-8476.