The Suffolk County Office for People with Disabilities has completed an official name change, phasing out its prior title, the Suffolk County Office of Handicapped Services.
County Legislator Steve Stern of Huntington sponsored the legislation requiring the change.
“I thought it was very important for a number of reasons,” Stern said. “The name change I think was long overdue. The old name really was just no longer appropriate in this day and age where people with disabilities are of course people first, who although they may have challenges and may need assistance in our community, we must always remember that they are our neighbors and they are people first. I thought it was important for our legislature to reflect that too.”
Stern said he got the idea through work he has done with organizations that assist people with disabilities in Suffolk County, and he had been thinking about and speaking about the issue for a long time. “I knew it would have the support of so many caregivers,” he said.
Office Director Frank Krotschinsky said, “I think what you call the office is important because I think very often our terminology affects our attitudes. By naming the office the Office for People with Disabilities you're putting the person first, which is really the most important thing.”
The purpose of the change is “putting the emphasis on the person rather than putting the emphasis on the disability,” Krotschinsky added.
Stern proposed the bill in May. It was passed into law in June and became effective immediately.
The office works to benefit the 283,000 people with disabilities in Suffolk County. Services include advocacy, information and referrals, developing programs for self-sufficiency and ensuring government compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act.
This article was published in the December 2011 issue of Able News.