Approximately 75,000 county residents (6.7 percent of our population) have a disability (and we’ll be hosting community forums through the end of June to prioritize needs and services).
It is difficult for many of us to imagine the barriers that people with disabilities encounter when trying to do things we often take for granted, such as finding a suitable home, getting to a doctor’s appointment, finding a job, getting a degree, or even visiting a friend’s house.
Having a disability also impacts your employment opportunities and earning potential,according to Cornell University’s Disability Statistics:
|Age 18-64 in Virginia||People WITHOUT Disabilities||People WITH Disabilities|
|Annual Individual Earnings||$48,400||$35,300|
|Annual Household Income||$73,300||$45,000|
Although the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed more than 25 years ago, people with disabilities continue to face many physical and attitudinal barriers. There is still a lot of work to be done. In our county, this barrier-breaking work is led by the four staff in the Disability Services Planning and Development Office in the Department of Family Services. Their focus is on system-wide change and transformation to make the county a better place for people with disabilities to live, work and play. Examples of this work includes:
- Partnering with and providing training to county agencies to make programs and services more accessible.
- Consulting with local businesses to help them accommodate their customers and employees with disabilities.
- Advocating for a person with a disability who may be facing discrimination or barriers at work or other aspects of their life.
- Empowering people with disabilities with information and assistance with the top three challenges they face in our county – housing, employment and transportation.
- Monitoring compliance with federal, state, and local disability laws.
The Disability Services Planning and Development staff works closely with the 15 volunteers who make up the Fairfax Area Disability Services Board. Notable successes that the staff and board have made include:
- Securing state funding for regional programs that support assistive technology, employment and vocational resources to help people with disabilities find jobs, and funding for home modifications for accessibility.
- Accessibility improvements to county facilities, public libraries, pedestrian pathways, our public transportation infrastructure.
- Enhancing the stock of affordable, accessible and integrated housing.
- Ensuring people with disabilities have equal access to vote in elections.
- Working toward enabling older adults and people with disabilities to remain in their own homes rather than having to move into a nursing facility which can be far more expensive.
You can help to make Fairfax County a better place for people with disabilities. We need your input to help us prioritize community need and services. Forums are being held countywide through June 29. After the forums, we will develop a community action plan addressing community needs, which will be posted online and distributed to forum attendees.