Disability Rights Pioneer Achieving More
At year's end, Dave Reynolds of Spokane, Washington, will retire from Inclusion Daily Express, the world's only international disability rights news service, which he founded in 1999. Lately, he has been writing a new chapter in life.
"First, I've always been an advocate for people with disabilities," said 56-year-old Reynolds in a telephone interview. "The kids I hung around with in junior high were out of the mainstream and misfits. Each of us could have had a label. I didn't get my label until I was in my 30s when I was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. In the '60s, they didn't say that, only that I was willful, not living up to potential, spacey, undisciplined. I wasn't very active physically, but mentally I was hyper all the time."
He began his work career as a special education paraprofessional in 1984 and eventually helped people with intellectual, development, mental illness, and physical disabilities find paying jobs. He started Inclusion Daily Express in 1999. More recently, he also became coordinator for Access 4 All Spokane, which has been a community-wide effort, in conjunction with Eastern Washington University, to build a searchable website. Through that website, people with disabilities and their friends, family, and co-workers will soon be able to find detailed accessibility information on Spokane's public buildings, grocery stores, coffee shops, places of worship, hotels, restaurants, and more.
"For example," he said, "a tourist visiting Spokane could look at our website (before arriving) to find an Italian restaurant with a Braille menu." The group also will provide best practices classes for groups seeking to improve customer service to people with disabilities.
What will make Access 4 All Spokane different will be the collaborative, comprehensive nature of its positive online reviews, which will include extensive input from many people and groups representing many different disabilities. The reviews will include things like lighting levels, customer service sensitivity, bathroom and front entrance accessibility, product accessibility, and much more. The first accessibility reviews should be online by September 1 at access4allspokane.org. Spokane will become the first U.S. city to have such an online service.
Said Reynolds, "We want to get the word out about what places in Spokane have (for people with disabilities) and, in turn, you can take your money there." As an aside: Access 4 All Spokane receives its state funding from the fines of people ticketed for illegally being in disability parking areas.
Sponsored by Blue Valley Sod.
Daniel J. Vance is a licensed professional counselor and national certified counselor from Vernon Center, Minn. His weekly newspaper column Disabilities has been published in more than 260 newspapers.
Daniel J. Vance may be reached at www.danieljvance.com
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