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Wisconsin siblings devoted to helping people with disabilities

A brother and sister from Wisconsin who are familiar with the struggles associated with disability are working to help disabled individuals feel healthier and more welcome in the community. For many people with mental or physical disabilities, the disability itself leads to other physical problems such as diabetes, heart disease or obesity. And to combat those problems, the brother is raising money to create The Ability Center.

Having survived two childhood cancer diagnoses in both of his legs, the brother, who lives in Wauwatosa, is familiar with the struggles faced by many disabled people. He points out that fitness centers and gyms generally don't go out of their way to make people with disabilities feel comfortable or welcome. The Americans with Disabilities Act requires gyms to be accessible to people with disabilities, but ADA accessibility is not the same thing "welcoming" or "friendly."

Often, for people in wheelchairs, the push-buttons to open doors are badly placed, making it difficult for a person in a wheelchair to actually get through the door. Or the machines at a fitness center aren't designed for people with mental or physical disabilities, and there are no fitness classes for those same people.

The brother wants to build The Ability Center to offer those exercise opportunities to people with disabilities. He seeks to raise $53 million to build four centers equipped with basketball courts, volley ball courts, a track and a climbing wall, all of which would be designed to be disability friendly.

For her part, the sister started Good Friends, Inc. Both of her teenage children have autism, and the non-profit works "to create autism awareness, teach acceptance of differences, and foster empathy among typically-developing peers." Good Friends makes videos for kids to learn how to be understanding of their autistic classmates.

These issues undoubtedly strike a chord with many Wisconsin residents. If you would like to learn more about other benefits available to people with disabilities, please visit our Wisconsin Social Security disability site.

Source: Brookfield Patch, "Brookfield Brother-Sister Duo Combat Disabilities," Sarah Worthman, Feb. 4, 2013

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