Conference focusing on abilities

Alisa Boswell

The Eastern Plains Council of Government is holding a Focusing on Abilities (FOA) conference today at Eastern New Mexico University.

According to EPCOG Technical Support Coordinator David Brown, the meeting will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and is geared towards teaching the working community that people with disabilities, such as being blind, deaf or elderly, are just as capable of working as anyone else.

“People with different disabilities are just like you and I,” Brown said. “Our main focus is letting communities and employers know that it is okay to hire people with disabilities.”

Brown said his presentation will be on the types of technology available to employers for people with disabilities to utilize.

Brown, who is more than 80 percent deaf, said text messaging is one technology that benefits both deaf and blind people. He said with the push of a button, a person can speak a text message to their phone and the phone can recite text messages to the user.

“Being able to assist people in general and being able to try to be normal like everybody else is what empassions me for my job,” Brown said. “My bluetooth and hearing aid technology, I would give all that up in a heartbeat if I could just have normal hearing like everybody else.”

Another speaker at the conference is Pat White, an independent living teacher with the New Mexico Commission for the Blind.

White, who is legally blind, said he will discuss the role blind people have in society and what jobs they are capable of doing.

“The main thing that I would like to stress is the information that potential employers and people who deal with people with disabilities is that people with disabilities are just people,” White said. “They are able to do many jobs and without much assistance and without much cost for technology.”

White said his job with the commission is to teach people who have become blind how to cope with their new disability and go about their daily lives.

“When we’re in their shoes, we know what they’re thinking and how they’re feeling,” White said. “We’ve overcome a lot of problems with disabilities so we can talk to people about it.”

Brown said another topic which will be covered is law enforcement, ambulance and firefighters adopting a system of identifying individuals with disabilities.

He said the goal is to get dispatchers in various communities to keep lists of people with disabilities, so they will know the situation they are going into when called upon.

White said some cities, such as Roswell, have already adopted this system.

“Someone with a disability could call dispatch and it would already be in the system that they have a disability and what it is,” Brown said. “You need to be aware of who your elderly are and who your disabled are.”

Brown said today’s event is open to the public and has no cost. He said representatives from both Curry and Roosevelt counties will be in attendance along with other organizations from both Clovis and Portales communities.