In recognition of Disability Pride Month, Nassau County Executive Edward P. Mangano recently honored five individuals and one organization for their work as disability rights advocates who have fought for equal rights and committed themselves to programs, services, outreach and enforcement efforts. Recognizing these individuals during Disability Pride Month, highlights an important part of American history when The Americans with Disabilities Act, (ADA) was passed by Congress in 1990 which was created to prevent discrimination based on disabilities as well as to require that employers provide reasonable accommodations, and ensure that public accommodations meet certain accessibility requirements.
County Executive Mangano stated, “As we celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, it is important to recognize the hard work and efforts many people have made in achieving equal accessibility and treatment for all individuals. My administration and the Nassau County Office for the Physically Challenged have always been committed to and will continue to advocate and strive for further equal access and raised awareness of rights for people with disabilities.”
Melanie Emmons – A Parking Enforcement Aide (PEA) for the Nassau County Police Department for more than 10 years, PEA Emmons is assigned to the First Precinct. She believes public education and enforcement are the keys to upholding accessible parking regulations and insuring these parking spaces are available for those with qualifying mobility concerns. PEA Emmons has issued hundreds of summonses for misuse, expired, altered, and/or forged accessible parking permits; and recently, has facilitated four felony arrests for forgery of accessible parking permits; which are official state documents.
Team Red, White and Blue (RWB) – Team RWB is a national non-profit organization with over 70,000 members across the United States. RWB’s mission is to enrich the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity. Many Team Red, White and Blue members continue to demonstrate top-notch athletic achievement despite physical disabilities, including those who are amputees, visually-impaired and those who compete in wheelchairs. Many RWB team members struggle with the invisible wounds of war; post-traumatic stress, hearing loss, traumatic brain injury and depression, but the team provides a healthy support network which helps them work through their hardships.
Liz Treston – A Hofstra University graduate, Liz is a retired speech-language pathologist who is an active community organizer and disability rights advocate. Liz spent her career working with children with special needs and improving their lives through technology. Her work was focused at the United Cerebral Palsy Association of Nassau County, where she was Program Director for the Nassau-Suffolk Technology Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities. Liz’s passion and commitment to accessibility for all, compliance of universal design standards and unabashed advocacy for children and adults, improves lives and enriches the entire community.
Julie Keffer – In 2008, Julie founded PeerPals.org in response to the lack of social opportunities for preschoolers with disabilities. The mission of PeerPals.org is to create communities of inclusion for children with disabilities as they enter kindergarten. Julie Keffer is an inspiration to all parents of children with disabilities, and an example of how one person with a will and desire, can improve the lives of countless individuals.
Anthony “Fitzy” Fitzgerald – A Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor for the New York State Department of Education, Fizty was paralyzed in a car accident in 1987 and ever since has dedicated himself to the memory of his brother Dan Fitzgerald who was killed on that fateful day. Fitzy is the founder and president of the Nassau Aviators wheelchair softball team and recently started a youth team which he coaches. A member of the United Spinal Mets, he helped the team capture the Major League Championship in 2000 and a National Championship in 2003. He is an original member of the Nassau Kings Wheelchair basketball team. In 1998, Fitzy made the U.S. Paralympic sled hockey team and competed in the Winter Paralympic games held in Nagano, Japan. He is the co-founder and has captained both the Islanders and Rangers sled hockey teams. Tony assists persons with disabilities to explore, identify and pursue employment. He received his Master’s degree in Education from Hofstra University and speaks at middle and high schools throughout Long Island about the power of positive thinking, the benefits of sports and accident prevention. Fitzy’s passion is helping others improve their lives by becoming active and productive whether it is on the ice or in the office.
Ellen Abberbock – Ellen has worked as an attorney for the Nassau County Department of Social Services (DSS) for the past 28 years. She created and implemented DSS’ Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 policy which ensures that DSS clients with disabilities receive equal access to all DSS programs. Ellen has been a member of the Board of Directors of the Long Island Center for Independent Living (LICIL) in Levittown since the mid 1990’s, and currently serves as Vice-President of the LICIL Board. LICIL’s mission of serving as a down-to-earth home base where persons with disabilities and their families can access services and information to open doors for a more productive, independent healthy and secure life. Most recently, Ellen has been involved with LICIL’s efforts to ensure that people with disabilities are seamlessly included in Nassau County’s Emergency and Disaster planning.
About the Nassau County Office for the Physically Challenged:
The Nassau County Office for the Physically Challenged serves as the Disability Rights Advocacy agency for the County’s population of over 250,000 adults and children with disabilities. In doing so, the Office plays a leadership role in the provision of programs and services to enhance the independence and productivity of citizens with disabilities, developing and advocating for legislation on the local, State, and Federal levels of government, and working with the business community, health systems agencies, educational institutions of higher learning and school districts, transportation providers, cultural and arts centers, local municipalities, and private and non-profit disability and rehabilitation organizations to remove attitudinal and architectural barriers to consumerism, employment, education and independent living.