The work you do makes a difference, Dean Michael Patchner tells those at conference on youth with disabilities

Advocates serve a critical role for people with disabilities, Indiana University School of Social Work Dean Michael Patchner told those attending the 9th Annual Conference on Health, Disability and the Law held June 17th at the Indiana University School of Law, Indianapolis.

Dean Patchner speaking at conference on youth with disabilitiesOne of the things I want to stress is to say how important it is for people with disabilities to have professionals, family members be there,” no matter what the system is, be it educational, juvenile justice or law enforcement, Patchner said in his welcoming remarks at the conference on “Youth with Disabilities in the Juvenile Justice System.”

 Heather McCabe, an Assistant Professor of Social Work and a lawyer, and Dr. Steven M. Koch, School Psychologist and Associate Professor of Clinical Pediatrics, Riley Child Development Center, are co-founders of the conference, which brought in national speakers as well as local experts and families to discuss how to reduce the number of children with disabilities ending up in the juvenile justice system.

“Let me tell you that when we promote the agenda of those who are less fortunate, we promote it for everyone,” the dean said. For example, he pointed out that automatic doors came about to ensure greater independence and access for people with disabilities. “They were designed for people with disabilities. But look at the people who use them the most. It is not people with disabilities but it is each and every one of us: people caring packages, mothers with small children, people who are too lazy to open the doors themselves. But we all benefit.”

A recent experience with his son, who was suffering medical problems, reinforced the idea of how important it is for those with disabilities to have someone to advocate for them, the dean said. “As sure as I am standing here now, my son would not be alive if my wife and I had not been by his side,” he explained. “It impressed on me more than ever that vulnerable populations need people there to assist them.”

Those who came to the conference are focusing on an important issue, Patchner noted. “The work you do makes a difference.”

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Rob Schneider
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