Rutgers summit tackles disparities for Black New Jerseyans with disabilities


NEW BRUNSWICK — Black children with disabilities are less likely to be put into general classrooms than white children. They are also more likely to drop out of high school and face more suspensions and school-related arrests than kids of other races, according to Rutgers’ Joseph C. Cornwall Center for Metropolitan Studies.

Such disparities drew Black cultural leaders and disability advocates to Rutgers last week to focus on the barriers they need to work together to overcome.

“We’re here not just to talk but to create a road map for real change. It’s about dismantling the barriers that prevent Black New Jerseyans with disabilities from accessing the opportunities they deserve,” organizer LeDerick Horne, who co-hosts a podcast called “Black and Dyslexic,” said at Thursday’s daylong event.

LeDerrick Horne shares his vision for a more inclusive future at a Rutgers summit focusing on the experience of Black people with disabilities.LeDerrick Horne shares his vision for a more inclusive future at a Rutgers summit focusing on the experience of Black people with disabilities.

LeDerrick Horne shares his vision for a more inclusive future at a Rutgers summit focusing on the experience of Black people with disabilities.

“We are making history today,” added Bill Davis, who along with Horne won funding for the forum from the New Jersey Council on Developmental Disability.

About 75 people gathered at the invite-only event, dubbed the Black Impact Summit. Discussions focused on the inequities Black people with disabilities face in education, employment, social services, law enforcement and legal services, family and self-advocacy and health care.

“Our intention is to make sure we come up with some recommendations, that hopefully the council, the state Legislature and different agencies will be able to implement so that the lives of Black people with disabilities will get better,” said Davis, a consultant with the Boggs Center on Development Disabilities at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School..

Among the obstacles cited by researchers with Rutgers’ Cornwall Center, which studies urban communities: African Americans with disabilities experience higher poverty levels and greater reliance on public benefits like Medicaid yet also have a harder time accessing health care. They often face discrimination in medical settings, have inadequate health insurance, and higher rates of chronic health conditions that are poorly managed, the audience was told.

“The summit was born out of a necessity,” said event coordinator Atonia Worley.

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Professor Tawara Goode, the event’s keynote speaker from Georgetown University, kicked the day off with a presentation on cultural competence − the need for organizations to understand and respect cultural backgrounds.

The summit drew representatives from a variety of advocacy groups and government agencies, including ARC of New Jersey, the Black Consortium, the state Division of Developmental Disabilities, the Advocacy Action Center, NJ STEPS, Disability Rights NJ, Salvation and Social Justice, the Center for Independent Living and Autism New Jersey. Educators and law enforcement officials attended as well, as did Paul Aronsohn, the state’s disability ombudsman.

Keynote speaker, Tawara Goode, tackles cultural awareness about being black and disabled at the Black Impact Summit in New Brunswick.Keynote speaker, Tawara Goode, tackles cultural awareness about being black and disabled at the Black Impact Summit in New Brunswick.

Keynote speaker, Tawara Goode, tackles cultural awareness about being black and disabled at the Black Impact Summit in New Brunswick.

Suggestions from the day were collected and will be given back to the New Jersey Council on Developmental Disabilities. Among them: better mental health screening and resources for people touched by the criminal justice system.

“I thought it was a great conversation and it was particularly a well-represented group, people with diverse experiences, both from organizations and families and schools,” said Michael Steinbruck, a senior training and consultation specialist at the Boggs Center.

Gene Myers covers disability and mental health for NorthJersey.com and the USA TODAY Network. For unlimited access to the most important news from your local community, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.

Email: myers@northjersey.comTwitter: @myersgene

This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: Rutgers summit for Black people with disabilities tackles inequities





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