Disability Awareness Task Force Looks to Eliminate Stigma
ST. CLOUD -- Making it known that people with disabilities can and often do accomplish just as much as you and I, is the mission of the Disability Awareness Task Force.
The task force is made up of several different organizations.
Cara Ruff is the Executive Director of Independent Lifestyles and the Chair of the Disability Awareness Task Force. She says the task force is here to change the stigmas around people with disabilities.
"[We're] trying to change perceptions and stereotypes that are so archaic and limiting to people with disabilities. We're highlighting that people with disabilities are athletes, employers, employees and making important contributions to our community."
Ruff says a lot of progress has been made over the years, yet there's still discrimination and problems disabled people face around jobs and housing. She says the biggest stigma is still the social one, especially around unseen disabilities.
"The one that seems so prevalent is the social stigmas especially around people with mental illness and other, unseen disabilities. So I think every time we're able to present people with disabilities from a perspective of true ability, we're able to break down those barriers and old stereotypes."
Part of breaking down those barriers is their "Celebration of Abilities" held every year in October. This year's event is Tuesday night at the River's Edge Convention Center. Ruff says they highlight people like Olympian Mike Schultz to show everyone what those with disabilities can do.
One of the main organizations behind the Disability Awareness Task Force is Independent Lifestyles. They're dedicated to helping people with disabilities get the same opportunities that people without disabilities get.