Close your eyes for a moment and picture a person with a disability. Did you envision a family member in a wheelchair, a classmate with an intellectual/developmental disability or perhaps your neighbor with a chronic disease? More than likely you envisioned somebody that you personally know, as individuals living with a disability represent the single largest minority group in the United States and number more than 1 billion worldwide.

As part of their anti-stigma campaign, Gogebic Community Mental Health Authority sponsors a highway billboard, located on US 2 just west of Bessemer. You may have seen some of the previous messages such as “It’s Ok To Ask For Help”, “Stomp Out Stigma”, “Healthy Minds + Healthy Bodies Equals A Healthy Community”. The new message, to be displayed the week of February 9th, is entitled “Focus On Ability Not Disability” and features individuals with abilities despite disabilities they may have. All the individuals are pictured with million dollar smiles as they are working.  In looking at the billboard, we hope you too see individuals being a valuable part of the community.

CMH established and continually supports the GPS (Gathering, Participating, Supporting) support group. This group focuses on increasing awareness of disabilities as well as providing opportunities such as recreation, socialization, and educational events. This group meets the second Tuesday of each month at 6pm at the Community Mental Health building located in Wakefield and all are welcome to attend.

CMH’s Supported Employment Program assists people with disabilities to gain employment or volunteer opportunities in the community. The process of finding the right position for a person with a disability is no different than that of a person without a disability. Identifying the abilities of a person and matching those abilities to a position is the same for all of us.

Individuals who have a disability simply do not let their disability affect their daily living in a negative way, they concentrate on living their lives to the best of their abilities. There is no shame in having a disability whether it is intellectual/developmental, a mental illness, or physical; nobody should allow their disability to define them.

Once again, close your eyes and picture a person with a disability. Hopefully, your vision of your family member in a wheelchair, the classmate with an intellectual/developmental disability, or your neighbor with a chronic disease has changed in a positive way.  Focus on abilities not disabilities.

Focus on Ability Not Disability