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Santa Clara County will soon have an Office of Disability Affairs that will act as a centralized hub for special services, training and resources.
The Board of Supervisors approved the idea — proposed by Supervisor Cindy Chavez — at their Tuesday meeting.
Chavez said she felt compelled to launch the office after noticing a major gap during the pandemic in county services for those with disabilities.
She said the disabled community faced restrictions with vaccination sites, public transportation, outdoor dining and distance learning among many other areas.
If the office was there, it could help mitigate those barriers, she said.
Chavez also noted that a central part of creating this office is listening to those in the disabled community to determine what exactly is needed.
“A big theme with the disabled community is ‘nothing about us without us’ and we will honor that,” the supervisor said.
Some advocates believe the new office could efficiently remove barriers and increase opportunities for disenfranchised communities, such as autistic students whose parents cannot afford private assessment testing.
“They want to be on equal footing with what the county is doing for race, gender, education, and healthcare equity,” reads a statement from Chavez’s office.
Veronica Guzman, who works with Spanish-speaking parents with disabled children, said issues of race, ethnicity and disabilities are intersectional and compounded.
“The language barrier, the immigration status, the lack of trust in our school districts often denies the inclusion to our Latinx students with disabilities,” said Guzman. “We need to do better for these children, for our community.”
A more robust plan for the office, including funding, office layout, oversight and accountability components and outreach plans will come to the board of supervisors on Sept. 28.