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Posted 1/17/2014

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By Ryan McClymont
District Public Affairs Office

The philosophy of treating others as you would like to be treated takes on a whole new meaning after attending the California Department of Rehabilitation’s “Windmills Training” Jan. 15.

“People with disabilities are a population that is greatly discriminated against and one that we are most likely to join ourselves,” said Eve Cimino, Staff Service Analyst Employment Coordinator for the California Department of Rehabilitation.

People with disabilities make up the largest minority group in the U.S. and it’s the only minority group a person can become a member of at any time. The training is geared toward helping people understand the biases and attitudes directed at people with disabilities. Negative attitudes and feelings of discomfort result when people focus completely on a disability instead of focusing on the person as an individual.

“This training is about breaking down barriers and getting people to think about interacting with people with disabilities,” said Cimino.

Understanding a person’s disability is a big part of who they are, but does not define them, creates an atmosphere of acceptance and reduces discrimination.

“I think the most important thing I learned from the training was that it's important to focus on a person’s abilities and not their disabilities,” said Abbey Loftus, chief of Resource Management. “It was an opportunity for us to learn more about working with people with disabilities and it was also an opportunity to share our experiences, which I thought was very helpful.”

The program first explores emotions, fear and the lack of knowledge about disabilities that can lead to unconscious and unintended acts of bias. It then breaks down attitudinal barriers and gets participants to focus instead on the abilities and diversity of our workforce.

“This training is about awareness, how to interact, communicate and address the most common things that we encounter with people with disabilities,” said Joseph Aguila, district Equal Employment Opportunity Specialist. “I’m glad that it became an open discussion for people to express what they have experienced with people with disabilities, because when people start talking about it, it increases everyone’s level of understanding.”

Due to the program’s success and positive feedback the district Equal Employment Opportunity office is already planning a second training event later this year with the California Department of Rehabilitation. If you missed the training or just want a refresher, the “Ten Commandments of Communicating with People with Disabilities” are listed at: http://www.dor.ca.gov/DisabilityAccessInfo/The-10-Commandments.html