HOMER GLEN, Ill. - Homer Glen has created something that’s a first for the suburbs. The village has formed a special committee dedicated to residents with disabilities.
"We want to make sure that when we're talking about inclusivity and accessibility, that it's not an afterthought," said Village Trustee Nicole La Ha Zwiercan.
Zweircan was inspired to run for the village board after seeing what a difference she could make as the mother of a child with a disability. Her daughter Ashlynn was born with cerebral palsy.
"The disparities around accessibility, our eyes were just wide open, it's really difficult," she said. "It really inspired me to not just complain about the things that I want to see but to be a part of the solution."
Zwiercan lobbied local grocery stores to purchase special shopping carts that can accommodate and support small children with disabilities. Now, the local Jewel, Meijer and Walmart have them.
After she won a seat on the village board, Homer Glen became one of the only suburbs with an Ability Awareness Committee. They host community events monthly, like a free sign language course.
The community has been very receptive.
"There are other people in the community that have different needs than ourselves, and we also have a responsibility to serve them," said Homer Glen resident Melissa Jelinek.
Many of the committee members have a child with a disability. James Crones has a son with autism.
"I think that the future has never been brighter because there are so many opportunities, there's so much more balance and there's so much more education and information that's ever been there before," he said.
Next on the committee’s agenda, making three local parks more inclusive. Later this year, they will award a Special Education Teacher of the Year.
In June, they are hosting a "Special Needs Carnival Day" at the annual Homer Fest. The committee is already receiving inquiries from nearby communities that are interested in starting their own ability awareness group.
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