Access for All is a county-wide, diversity and inclusion initiative spearheaded by James Thebery, Director of the Division on Disability Services for Bergen County’s Department of Human Services. East Rutherford’s Access for All Committee operates in collaborative partnership with Access for All committees established in municipalities throughout Bergen County.
In support of this County initiative, the East Rutherford Borough Council adopted a Resolution to form an Access for All Committee. Led by Chair, Sherrill Curtis, the team comprised of community and council members includes: Ellen Engels, Councilman Michael Homaychak, Joanne OBara, Ruth Polifronio, with oversight by Councilman Joel Brizzi and Committee Liaison, Thomas Banca.
Our mutual goal is to ensure special needs residents in our communities have access to information, services, resources, and buildings operated by each municipality. We do this by bringing together municipal and business leaders, public safety officials, and volunteers to share inclusion practices, leverage resources and deliver supportive programs. Throughout the year, we host community events designed to deliver or provide access to information about services and resources, legislative updates, and support options available on a county, state or federal basis. Collectively, Committees across the County focus on developing strategies to address longer term concerns related to accessibility in employment, housing, and education.
This outreach approach is intended to foster diversity and inclusion amongst community members, while providing networking opportunities for those differently-abled or with special needs, their family, friends and caregivers.
Commitment to Community
Initiatives that support the needs of all community members
Committee strategy and planning meetings are held at the East Rutherford Community Center on the last Monday of each month from 7:00PM to 8:00PM.
Emergency Preparedness Community Registration Program
Serving differently abled or special needs residents
One of the Committee’s goals is to ensure that all community members are cared for, timely and appropriately, should a natural disaster or emergency situation strike. This is also a top priority for the Borough’s Police, emergency management and kindred first responders. Collaborating with Chief of Police, Larry Minda, the Committee first focused on understanding how we may better support differently-abled or persons with special needs in our community in this important way.
Global statistics also support that when first responders have key information about a resident’s special needs or disability, they are better prepared to provide the most efficient as well as compassionate care for those individuals. Imagine if your loved one was well able to live alone, yet for a variety of special needs reasons, may not become aware of an emergency situation or able to evacuate on their own. Also consider how the person in your care might react to loud sirens, flashing lights and other disturbing emergency-related factors.
In 2013 Geneva released the first-ever UN Global survey of persons living with disabilities. The survey focused on understanding how the respondents cope with disasters. Disturbingly, the survey revealed only 20% of respondents could evacuate immediately without difficulty in the event of a sudden disaster. If given sufficient time, 58% feel they would still have either some, or a lot of, difficulty evacuating, while 4% would still not be able to evacuate. Respondents also cited a degree of difficulty either hearing (39%) or seeing (54%), walking or climbing steps (68%), and difficulty communicating (45%). These are concerning statistics.
To address evacuation challenges for special needs or differently-abled residents, the Access for All Committee collaborated with Police Chief Larry Minda to develop a voluntary emergency management questionnaire.
Based on successful models in other towns, the questionnaire will be mailed to all residences in October. The Police Department’s Records Management will maintain the information, allowing first responders to deliver the most efficient and appropriate methods of emergency or disaster management support.
Precious minutes prove invaluable in times of a natural disaster evacuation or emergency situation. Lives may be saved simply by having key information about who needs what type of assistance. It is also important that in the event of an evacuation, loved ones or caregivers are notified timely when someone in their care is transported by first responders to a safe location or healthcare facility.