Non-profit agency spotlights disability

Ability 1st will be holding its second annual Walk, Run, Roll-A-Thon on Saturday to educate the Tallahassee community about the active but sometimes challenging lifestyles of people who live and work with a disability, said Judith Barrett, executive director of Ability 1st.

“This event is a great opportunity for people in our area to come out and have a good time,” Barrett said. “There are plenty of things to do in Tallahassee during the spring, and this event lets you enjoy the outdoors, have some fun and support a worthwhile cause.”

Ability 1st is a non-profit, community-based organization that provides a range of support, advocacy and accessibility services to people of all ages with all types of disabilities. It services six counties: Leon, Jefferson, Madison, Taylor, Gadsden and Wakulla. Its mission is to empower citizens with disabilities to live independently and actively participate in their community.

The Walk, Run, Roll-A-Thon is a 5k run/walk race and an awareness-building “Accessibility Adventure.” The Accessibility Adventure challenges four-person teams to maneuver a teammate in a wheelchair on a two-mile fixed course.

Heidi Otway, a member on the board of directors at Ability 1st, said the accessibility adventure will be a first-hand look at the challenges of being in a wheelchair.

“Participants will get a deeper appreciation for people in wheelchairs,” she said.

The event will be held at Myers Park with registration beginning at 1 p.m. and activities starting at 2 p.m. Pre-registration is $15 per person, which includes a shirt. Once the race has concluded, Ability 1st has planned a picnic that will include food, entertainment and prizes.

This event will also serve as a fundraising event that supports the programs and services of Ability 1st, who provides wheelchair ramp construction, public transportation training, community education, programs for young people with disabilities, deaf services and mental health outreach.

Otway, said the event will be an eye-opener.

“Disabled people aren’t hopeless or helpless,” Otway said. “They are able and this is a way to see their capability. People aren’t familiar with the struggles that people with disabilities have.”

Otway said it is important for young people to become more knowledgeable about disabilities. With 2 million Floridians living with disabilities, it is important for students to think about the people not as mobile as they are, she said.

Donna Shell, assistant director at the Learning and Development Evaluation Center at Florida A&M University, said there are about 200 students on campus with disabilities.

“We have a responsibility to build awareness and get rid of the stigmas and myths that are associated with people that have disabilities,” Shell said.

Otway said Ability 1st welcomes students because they bring their youth and energy.

“We love student support,” she said. “When students get involved with an activity they bring passion. We thrive off of their energy.”