Release Date: Feb. 2, 2023
CHARLESTOWN, Ind. – Charlestown Mayor Treva Hodges has announced the creation of a Disability Advisory Committee to inform city planning and policy decisions. The Committee will provide guidance on ways to improve accessibility and expand resources for people living with disabilities and their caregivers.
Citing the city’s recent growth trends and new developments including downtown revitalization, Hodges said it’s important to practice inclusion in the design process.
“We’ve taken many steps toward increasing accessibility in our city in the last three years, but we still have ways we can improve,” said Hodges. “This committee places people with disabilities and advocates in a position to lead the conversations and drive the action plans so that Charlestown is a place where everyone feels included and welcome.”
The city has made concentrated efforts in recent years to offer programming and improved access and services to people with disabilities including parks programming that offers special events, disability-based stakeholder meetings during the development of the 2021 Parks Master Plan, and announcing its designation as a Hidden Heroes Community for military caregivers.
“Some of the steps we’ve taken have been relatively easy, like working with parents who want street signs that caution visitors about the presence of children with autism,” said Hodges. “Other projects are bigger. We’re currently in the process of building an accessible playground with features requested by parents from our stakeholder groups and listening sessions. During our holiday celebrations this past winter we partnered with a local disability service provider to host a dinner and dance party for people with disabilities and their caregivers.”
It’s was the “Light Up the Night” Hodges said motivated her to take disability access farther with the creation of a special committee.
Hodges said that the opening of Outward Bound Support Services and owner Jennifer David’s involvement in the city with the dance party and other items inspired her to develop a more focused approach to informing city services and policies.
“Jennifer has been a wonderful advocate for people with disabilities,” Hodges said. “She helped us find and receive a grant to supply communication boards to all of our first responders and office staff and introduced and led the dance party last December.”
In conversations with David about how to offer more services, David recommended the mayor assemble a committee of people who live with disabilities and caregivers so that their lived experiences could provide guidance.
“Mayor Hodges and I discussed at length the need for the committee to be representative of persons and families living with special needs in our community,” said David. “Besides having committee members who are self-advocates and parents, there are many grandparents raising grandchildren with special needs, often due to the opioid epidemic in Indiana and across the United States. It’s important for them to be represented as well.”
The committee will consist of seven members, three of whom must be people with a disability, one who represents a disability service provider, two parents or grandparents of children with disabilities, and one adult advocate who is either a caregiver or agency representative.
Committee members should reside in the municipal limits of the City of Charlestown and should be at least 18 years old.
People interested in serving are invited to send a letter of interest that describes their commitment to advancing services and rights for people living with disabilities to the attention of Mayor Treva Hodges via email at Mayor@cityofcharlestown.com or by mail to 304 Main Cross Street, Charlestown by Friday, February 24, 2023.
Although committee participation is limited, anyone who wishes to provide feedback about improving city services or access for people with disabilities can submit responses to the city’s new feedback link at the city’s “Disability Services” section of their website.