Santa Clara County setting up advisory board within disabled community

Lauren Martinez Image
Sunday, November 5, 2023
Santa Clara Co. setting up advisory board within disabled community
Santa Clara County is asking members within the disabled community to serve on a new advisory group focused on disability issues.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Santa Clara County is asking members within the disabled community to serve on a new advisory group focused on disability issues.

College of Adaptive Arts in Saratoga provides a higher education for adults with special needs.

CAA now has 224 students enrolled with some fully remote in 12 states.

Executive director DeAnna Pursai said she's happy to hear Santa Clara County is building a new advisory group comprised of those within the disabled community.

"My goodness, I mean I'm really excited that they're building this advisory board and we have so many people we can refer. Many of our staff members are individuals with disabilities and they are just awesome and amazing," Pursai said.

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Pursai said housing, employment and public transportation are huge issues for her students.

Zachary Krumbine is a student and it takes him an hour to get from Campbell to Saratoga by bus.

"So there's a lot of issues. It's really wonderful and refreshing to hear that they want to hear the voices from individuals with disabilities," Pursai said.

Seven years ago, Sharon Lea started as a volunteer but is now the director of music.

"These students have never been given the chance, often in society to speak their truth and to have people listen. So for me to see that growth and that confidence and that belief in themselves - it gets me emotional," Lea said.

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Lea said the effort to create a community board that will focus on disability issues and include adults with disabilities, is a long time coming.

"I think in society, we're a very visual people. So if someone looks like they have downs, or someone looks like they have turrets - they have anything different - people go like this. And it doesn't mean they're not good people, I think that they're just afraid," Lea said.

The county says individuals who are deaf, blind, physically disabled or intellectually disabled, as well as caregivers, parents and community-based organization workers can sign up to be a part of this new county committee.

The county says those interested in serving the panel can sign up at the Office of Disability Affairs website until Dec. 4.

"I think we as a society need to up our game and take our time to listen because if you take that moment to listen these students, these individuals are going to contribute so much to society," Lea said.

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CAA is located at the West Valley Community College campus.

Pursai said it's a partnership that has been monumental.

West Valley's VP of Academic Affairs Joshua Moon-Johnson said CAA's mission of access and life transformation fully aligns with the college.

On a county level, Moon-Johnson said inclusivity is essential as well.

"Realistically as we think about who has historically had access to hire education, disabled people, or people with disabilities have been excluded from those systems. So West Valley College partnering with the College of Adaptive Arts and larger county agencies and movements is critical really as a society and as a community we advocate for disability justice, and so we're excited to be a part of this conversation," Moon-Johnson said.

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