Word is getting out about the Fair Lawn ADA Committee.
Until recently, the group, which advocates for community members with disabilities, had seen its membership dwindle and its meetings grow more and more infrequent.
But in the last couple years, a few dedicated members have taken the reins and revived the committee, which has since tripled in size.
“It’s in the last year or two years it’s really taken a different direction,” committee chairman David Jordan said. “A lot more people have gotten involved. We’ve done a lot of advertising to get the word out that there is such a committee that is out there to help people with disabilities and special needs.”
Olga Podolsky, the group’s co-chair, said its long-term mission is to educate the community so that residents with disabilities are accepted, respected and wholly integrated into the community.
To ring in the New Year on Friday, some 115 guests from all over the area sang and danced the night away at the group’s third and most well-attended dance to date.
The Arc of Bergen and Passaic Counties, an organization dedicated to assisting individuals with developmental disabilities, sponsors the dances, and thanks to support from the Sunrise Rotary and St. Anne's Knights of Columbus, Friday’s dance had a professional DJ.
Podolsky said the dances provide a much-needed social and recreational activity for adults with disabilities, because while such social events exist for children with special needs, they are often sorely lacking for adults.
As the Arc’s director of family support services, Podolsky was familiar with the dances her organization had coordinated for decades across North Jersey, but which had never found a permanent home.
“As I joined the [ADA] committee,” Podolsky said, “I was thinking that the Arc has this wonderful product and we have this beautiful facility which residents of Fair Lawn with special needs can’t even use. They don’t benefit from it.”
From there, ADA dances at the Community Center were born.
In addition to providing the monthly dances, the ADA committee has also been hard at work making sure all areas of Fair Lawn are handicap accessible.
With help from the borough council, the committee obtained a grant to pay for a concrete ramp with handrails that provides handicap accessibility to Memorial Pool, automatic power doors for the municipal building, a handicap swing at Berdan Grove Park donated by the Sunrise Rotary and curb cuts for wheelchairs at certain intersections in town.
Jordan and Podolsky both said the committee owes the former mayor and council – specifically council liaison Steve Weinstein -- a great deal of thanks for its ability to make positive changes in town.
Weinstein, who did not seek re-election to council, was honored by the ADA Committee with a plaque at his final council meeting in December.
"[Deputy Mayor Weinstein] is passionate about helping individuals with disabilities," Podolsky said at the December meeting. "It is obvious that he truly wants to make a difference in their lives. He embraces our concerns, challenges and efforts wholeheartedly and has helped bring the committee to a new level."
Since leaving council, Weinstein has become a full-fledged member of the ADA Committee and attended Friday’s dance (see video).
Jordan and Podolsky welcome any community members who have suggestions for improving the lives of residents with disabilities and would like to learn more about the committee to attend a monthly meeting. If afterward you’d like to join the committee, you need only fill out an application form.
“Most of the people [who join] either have children or relatives or someone in town here that has some type of correlation to all what we’re doing,” Jordan said. “And that’s what they bring to the table. They see something and they feel like it could beneficial to others.”