New Jersey’s 36th Legislative District took a step forward in its effort to improve the quality of life for people with disabilities with the recent announcement that grants, which will produce funding from the Recreation Opportunities for Individuals with Disabilities program, will be employed to enable people with special needs to engage in such activities in Lyndhurst, Passaic, and Rutherford.
The three legislators who represent the 36th District have a track record for working to help individuals with disabilities. As the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, Senator Paul Sarlo (Democrat - Woodridge) has supported programs for our vulnerable citizens. According to Sarlo, "A physical or developmental disability should never stand in the way of being able to enjoy recreational activities….. Rutherford, Passaic and Lyndhurst are to be commended for taking the initiative in trying to create better and greater opportunities for those with disabilities. These are the kinds of worthwhile investments we need to be doing more of in New Jersey."
Assemblyman Gary Schaer (Democrat –Passaic) has been a champion of those with disabling conditions, particularly those with Autism. In fact, he has introduced a myriad of legislative actions that are designed to serve children with disabilities. In addition, Assemblyman Schaer works closely with the parents of children with special needs. During the seven years that he has been in office, he has focused on the educational needs of such children. Now he is supporting the recreational needs of children and adults with disabilities.
According to Schaer, “While many people with disabilities are active, there are some who may not know there are recreational programs that cater to their specific needs or that they can be physically active despite their disability…..These grants will go a long way in supporting efforts by Passaic, Rutherford and Lyndhurst to better serve residents living with disabilities, without placing an additional financial burden on taxpayers.”
Assemblywoman Marlene Caride (Democrat – Ridgefield) has been in office since January. However she has wasted no time in addressing the needs of New Jerseyans with disabilities. Within weeks of her being sworn in, she became a primary sponsor of a bill that will require safety measures to be taken for wheelchair-bound citizens who ride in vans and buses. Her bill will require all wheelchairs to be securely fastened. Her efforts in recognizing the recreational value of the new grant money will help people with disabilities to become integral members of their communities.
According to Caride, “All residents should have access to recreational opportunities regardless of physical or mental impairment…..These grants will help supplement existing programs that avail these types of opportunities to residents in Passaic, Rutherford and Lyndhurst. Kudos to these town officials for securing the necessary funding to provide equal recreational outlets for all residents.”
Too often, people with disabilities have become the forgotten members of our society. In fact, true community acquiescence has always been a challenge. The grants that the 36th District legislators have acquired will serve as a step forward in the effort to have individuals with special needs engage in the same community activities as the non-disabled population.
Dr. Salvatore Pizzuro, a Disability Policy Specialist, holds a doctorate in Developmental Disabilities from Columbia University and an advanced degree in Disability Law from New York Law School.