Athens Disabilities Commission Wants To Expand Membership

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The Athens Commission on Disabilities is looking to expand its membership and have its annual service award written into the city code.

Last month Athens City Councilman Steve Patterson — who also serves as chairman of the Disabilities Commission — told Council that the Commission has been reviewing and updating its bylaws. He said that the Commission, which currently has nine voting members, was looking to increase the number of seats. Patterson said there has been a lot of interest among community members who want to serve on the Commission and recommended that the board be made up of a minimum of nine voting members.

When the idea was first proposed, Mayor Paul Wiehl said he was concerned about setting a minimum number of voting members, stating that too many members could make it hard for the board to come to a consensus on issues.

Patterson also asked that the Disabilities Commission’s annual service award be written into the city code. Wiehl said he also had concerns about that as some years the commission has trouble finding someone to honor.

On Monday, Patterson introduced legislation to increase board membership to 11. Wiehl said he was happy to hear that the Commission had selected a solid number instead of just a minimum number of members.

Scott Dennis, who serves on the Disabilities Commission and works at HAVAR Inc. (an organization that provides services to those with disabilities), told Council that individuals with disabilities want to be more involved in the Athens community and serving on the board is one way to do that.

Wayne Savage, studio coordinator for Passion Works (an art studio that feature the work of artists with and without disabilities), emphasized the importance of the board’s service award, which is now called the Athena Award. He said that many of those who work with the disabled go above and beyond to care for their clients outside of normal business hours.

“Our folks deserve recognition,” he said.

Darrell Purdy, assistant director for Employee Accommodation and Campus Accessibility at Ohio University, said he was in favor of increasing the number of voting members to 11. He said there is a group of people who are excited to work to make Athens a more inclusive community and he was happy to see a commitment by the city toward that goal.

Council is slated to vote on the ordinance on July 21.