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State needs push to aid the disabled
Written by Jonathan Jaffe   
Saturday, 20 December 2008 23:04

The NewJersey Council of Developmental Disabilities has launched a year-long project to create stronger dialogue between decisionmakers statewide and people with developmental disabilities.

The goal is to change the way this population is represented in the media and in other public arenas, and to open up new opportunities for their full inclusion in all New Jersey's communities … including its neighborhoods, businesses, schools, recreational facilities, government resources and so forth.

To facilitate this discussion, the NJCDD has retained the services of two public outreach firms … Jaffe Communications Inc. of Westfield and Considine Communication Strategies of Hopewell. Both have worked with people with developmental disabilities for a number of years and have a strong understanding of issues and concerns affecting them.

As part of this project, the communications team will be hosting a series of conversations with leaders in business, education, the
media, faith-based groups and government to openly discuss the issues and develop consensus.

They will be following a "World Cafe Model,'' facilitating comfortable and candid conversation in a town hall format.

NJCDD will be guiding a process that begins by reaching the leaders who are local decisionmakers in communities statewide and who directly influence public policy and thinking. They need to understand the intrinsic benefits of including people with developmental disabilities in the residential, economic, educational and social fabric of our state.

A critical first step in this process is to gather information from people with developmental disabilities, as well as key advocates,
consumers and family members. The poll will gather impressions about how people with developmental disabilities perceive themselves as being represented in mainstream media, advertising and entertainment. The poll results will be a basis for discussions in the World Cafe.

The multifaceted plan also includes a statewide media-watch of coverage that misrepresents people with developmental disabilities,
Web-based resources to address relevant issues and an ongoing e-publication that provides the latest news on media coverage and how
it relates to disability issues. A unique part of the project will be the establishment of a "style guide'' for reporters and others in the
media to assist in reporting on or about people with disabilities.

As part of the project, the NJCDD will be upgrading its communication strategies, including mailing lists and e-communications, to help
ensure that its newsletters, magazines and other outreach is reaching target audiences and effecting change.

At the end of this project, it is our hope that decisionmakers statewide will have a better understanding of people with
developmental disabilities and will look for ways to include them in daily discourse. By excluding this key population, New Jersey is
losing many opportunities to expand local businesses, improve education for all students, gain valuable citizen input and enhance
the diversity of its communities. This outreach effort, we hope, will help to bridge those gaps.

Local officials and community leaders who would like to participate in this project should contact Jaffe Communications at 908-789-0700 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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