About 20 percent of Cary residents will experience some kind of hearing loss by 2030, according to the town, and leaders want to be ready to help those residents as well as those with other types of disabilities.
The Town Council received a report Thursday, Aug. 27, from the Information Services Advisory Board with recommendations on ways to improve communications with people who have disabilities, including visual impairment, communication disorders or learning disabilities.
The board, at the direction of the Town Council, researched the current state of town communication with residents who have disabilities and discussed opportunities to improve that communication.
“Many people with disabilities and their caregivers are unaware of the services the town has to offer,” said Jamie Dixon, chair of the advisory board. “In addition, town staff might not be uniformly aware of procedures that address communicating with people with disabilities.”
The report, which serves as a blueprint of how to address the issue, said the increasing number of people with disabilities and the “uneven awareness” of services present a challenge to the town.
In the report, the advisory board recommends confirming target audiences and the types of disabilities in the community; collecting benchmark data and best practices, including gathering data on communication methods used by other municipalities; and beginning to focus on individual groups with specific actions.
“The board also advocates using nontraditional mechanisms and building awareness that can leverage Cary’s existing assets,” Dixon said. “For example, a C-Tran bus campaign or trailers at The Cary might be a highly effective, and cost very little, way of reaching individual groups.”
The town of Cary must make their services accessible to people who have disabilities, according to the Americans with Disabilities Act. The town offers features such as curb cuts in sidewalks to make them more wheelchair friendly, handlebars in bathrooms and door-to-door C-Tran services.
The town’s Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department provides specialized recreation programs for people with disabilities, including movie nights, a zip line adventure and tennis clinics. The department also offers program modifications to allow people with disabilities to participate in any activity.
“We have a wealth of programs going on for folks, and this is for preschool age all the way up to senior citizens,” said Judy Newsome, Cary’s specialized recreation and inclusion specialist.
Cary spokeswoman Carrie Roman said Friday that the town has contracted with an outside company to assess town facilities to ensure they meet all state and federal requirements in regards to accessibility.
At Thursday’s meeting, Councilwoman Lori Bush praised the advisory board’s innovative ideas to improve communications by “finding new ways to reach out to this community.”
“It’s a great list, and I really think this is something we can utilize to make Cary an even better place for everyone,” she said.
Because some of the recommendations could have funding requirements, Bush recommended the staff prioritizes the list.
Councilman Ed Yerha said the council received the report at an appropriate time as 2015 is the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
He said it also complemented a report issued by the Aging Issues Task Force earlier this year about how well Cary serves residents who are 65 and older.
“Both the disabled population and the aging population are increasing rapidly here,” Yerha said. “So I think both of these reports are great places to start meeting the needs of that population.”
Staff will review the findings and report back on ways to incorporate them into town operations.
In other business, the council:
▪ Approved entering into an agreement with the N.C. Department of Transportation for the construction of the Green Level West Road widening project.
▪ Held a public hearing on the rezoning of 1.27 acres at 532 Walnut St. No one besides the builder’s representative spoke. The proposal was referred to the planning and zoning board.
▪ Held a public hearing on proposed amendments to local development rules, in regards to connectivity and density. No one spoke for or against the proposal, which was referred to the planning and zoning board.
▪ Approved demolishing and removing a home at 214 Trackers Road that was determined to be dilapidated. If the dwelling is not demolished and removed by the property owner within 45 days, the Town will contract for demolition and removal, and a lien will be placed against the property.
Kathryn Trogdon; 919-460-2608; @KTrogdon