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Forum to Give People with Disabilities a Voice

Oct. 3, 2006 – People with disabilities will have the opportunity to voice their concerns about issues that affect them at the 2006 Voices That Count conference. The conference will consist of forums, which are designed to foster discussion among people with disabilities, support services and government officials. The Virgin Islands University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (VIUCEDD) of the University of the Virgin Islands is the main sponsor of the event. Other sponsors include the V.I. Association for Independent Living, V.I. Advocacy, Lutheran Social Services, Work Able, V.I. FIND and Harvest.
The St. Thomas forums will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., on Oct. 23 and 24, at the Holiday Inn Windward Passage Hotel.
"We're helping people with disabilities to advocate for themselves," Wilbert Francis, a VIUCEDD assistant director, said of the forums. People with disabilities and their parents and family members, advocates, health care providers and the general public are invited to the free forums.
Attorney Eva Britt, founder of the Washington, D.C. based Britt Firm, will be the keynote speaker on the first day of the conference. She is a nationally respected disabilities advocate and champion. The Britt Firm emphasizes the protection of the civil, human and legal rights of people with disabilities and has represented clients in discrimination cases involving age, race, disability and employment. This year she was awarded the "Distinguished Alumni Award" by the National Association for Equal Opportunity for Blacks in Higher Education and the "Dedication to Service Award" by the District of Columbia Center for Independent Living.
The first day of the conference will include a summary of progress over the past years. The focus point areas include transportation, education, housing, health/mental health, employment and other issues. Following the summary, participants will form focus groups and prepare questions to ask political candidates. Delegate to Congress, gubernatorial and senatorial candidates have been invited to participate.
The second day will include a panel discussion with political candidates. A "report card" compiled by members of the disabled community, which rates the government's services, will be distributed. The report card will also note progress the community has made to become compliant with the American with Disabilities Act. Additionally, representatives from the V.I. Election System will conduct on-site voting demonstrations.
To register or for more information about the St. Thomas forums, call Wilbert Francis at 693-1189.

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