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Disabilities council forum is Monday

by MAUREEN DOLAN
Staff Writer | November 6, 2010 9:00 PM

COEUR d'ALENE - The Idaho Council on Developmental Disabilities wants your input.

The council, authorized under state and federal law to advocate for Idahoans with developmental disabilities and their families, is hosting a public forum Monday in Coeur d'Alene.

The forum's purpose: To hear what citizens in North Idaho are concerned about as the council develops its next five-year plan.

"I believe a lot of people don't think they have any power in how systems are operated. They think people in Boise are making these rules, and they have to follow them, but they don't have any say. It doesn't have to be that way," said council board member Denise Wetzel, of Coeur d'Alene.

Wetzel was appointed earlier this year to the 23-member volunteer board. Board members serve by appointment by the governor.

"We want to hear from people about what they think needs to change. Do we need more training for job experiences, or do we need more transportation? I know in some rural communities that's a huge problem," Wetzel said.

One of the council's more recent accomplishments took place during the last legislative session in Boise. The council successfully lobbied lawmakers to replace archaic, derogatory language once used to describe people once labeled as mentally retarded or mentally deficient. The preferred term is now intellectually disabled.

"A neat thing the council does is called 'Determined to Vote,'" Wetzel said.

It's an initiative that provides training for those with developmental disabilities on how to participate in the election process, how to ask for assistance, Wetzel explained.

They also work to raise awareness among poll workers so they can better assist those with disabilities.

Wetzel hopes the council's forum Monday is well-attended.

"You do have a voice. You do have a say, but you need to get out there and let them know," she said.

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