Athens Mayor Paul Wiehl Asks What Can The City Do To Help?

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I was approached last month to contribute to WOUB’s Blog “The Journey ~ Embracing Inclusion.”  My first thought was “Where to start?” As Mayor and public servant my duty is to assist all residents of the city in providing the means to live, work and play in our beautiful City of Athens.

That word “all” in the previous sentence assumes our dedication to inclusiveness. This may be at times not an easy task. We have a wide range of citizens in age and abilities, from the eternal eighteen year-old freshman arriving full throated to learn and experience to the tottering stroll of a wisdom steeped Emeriti Professor who I pass on the street and who I wish to tell how much s/he taught me in their class I took many years ago. As for me, I fall in between that spectrum neither that young nor that wise.

In the previous blog Dr. Carolyn Bailey Lewis spoke of “able bodies” and our city’s Commission on Disabilities “Challenged by Choice” event. Having participated in this event let me relay two of the most poignant concepts I learned. First- the night before I did not sleep well wondering what disability I would be given at the “Challenged by Choice” exercise. I was thinking “Maybe I can choose.”

And that is the point…. when the time comes to be burdened or blessed with a disability we will most likely not have a choice. The second concept is Dr. Lewis’s use of the term “able bodies.”  As brought up by a City Disabilities Commission member a more accurate term is that we are “temporarily abled bodies” or TABs. If we live long enough…and acquire a disability that will impact our daily living in an unknown way..we will have no choice in this matter If we live long enough we will fall out of being a TAB.

Which brings me back to my task as Mayor and my challenge to you- How do we make our city function/work for everyone whether you are a TAB or not? How do we work together to make us that inclusive city that we love so much…. a place for all to live, work and play.

How do we do this? That is my challenge to you.

The Athens City Commission on Disabilities is an agency of city government whose commitment is to provide a means for the concerns of people with disabilities to be heard; to advocate for public policy change; to provide expertise to the community on disabilities; and tell the community about the strengths and limitations of people with disabilities, as well as how the community can help them improve their quality of life, thereby ensuring equality of opportunity and full participation in community life for everyone.  Contact: Sharlene Plott at or call 740.592-3338.