Tomorrow at 6pm, there will be a community meeting to discuss the proposed renovation of Milwaukee Center for Independence’ Southeast Campus, which serves as a day program for people with developmental disabilities. The meeting will be held onsite at 3333 S. Howell Ave., Milwaukee, WI 53207.
Tomorrow’s meeting will have a large effect on the members of the community with the least ability to advocate for themselves, and our community doesn’t exactly have a history of advocating on their behalf. I know that discussions surrounding community services for people with disabilities has become quite heated in the past, specifically in August, 2011 with the proposal of a day services center being built on Lincoln Ave. I was disappointed in the opposition presented by community members, both with the petition started by residents, and the vehement resistance displayed by the owners of Café Lulu. Their statement that “this type of business adds nothing positive to our community” was offensive, not only to members of the community who use this type of service, but to myself as well, as someone who works with people with disabilities on a daily basis, and sees firsthand the positive influence these day service providers have on the physical and emotional well-being of my clients. It was made clear to me during this time that the owners of Café Lulu, while claiming to care about the well-being of the community, cater to only certain demographics of that community, and see those with disabilities only as “the potential to create more of the problems we already face.”
I’m hoping that the same opposition is not presented for the renovation of an already-established business, which is already providing a wonderful opportunity for community involvement of people who rely on the members of their community to help them achieve the same opportunities in life that people without disabilities often take for granted.
My clients who attend this day service center have diagnoses which include Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Autism, Mental Retardation, and other developmental disabilities. This center serves ages from 18 and older, and provides classes to promote independence in cooking, self-advocacy, job skills development, and many other life skills. Community involvement includes activities such as walking through the community, going to the Domes, museum, etc., shopping in the community, going to coffee shops, etc. This center strives to promote independence and community involvement in people with disabilities. While some business owners may not see the value in this, I can assure anyone with doubts that my clients find extreme happiness in community involvement, learning the skills they need to live in their own community, and from the acceptance they receive from members of their community.
The renovations proposed for this building will allow for a better facility (larger spaces, larger bathroom stalls for clients in wheelchairs, a roof that doesn’t leak) and better services for the people attending the day service center. I cannot think of one reason why this would have any negative outcomes for the community, and I hope I can look forward to a positive community response.
Please feel free to attend this meeting, if you can, and provide input. All are welcome.