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Group to showcase abilities of disabled
Gainesville resource office serves 13 counties
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Celebrating Abilities

When: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday
Where: Roosevelt Square in downtown Gainesville
Cost: Free
More info: 770-534-6656

The Disability Resource Center staff spends countless hours advocating for individuals with disabilities. But on Saturday, they're turning their attention to "Celebrating Abilities."

The celebration will be held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Roosevelt Square in downtown Gainesville. Among other things, it will feature live entertainment and a free hot dog lunch.

The event is in conjunction with statewide activities planned by the Georgia Advocacy Office in Atlanta. Each year, the advocacy office works with organizations around the state to plan Long Road Home activities, which take place during the week leading up to June 22.

That date is significant to the group because that is the day in 1999 when the U.S. Supreme Court handed down the Olmstead decision, which affirmed the right of individuals with disabilities to live independently in their communities instead of institutions.

"This is the first time that we've participated," said Sara Beth Fede, the Gainesville disability center's advocacy coordinator.

"We wanted to do an event to make everyone more aware of what the law says and what people with disabilities are capable of doing in the community."

Other Long Road Home activities include a rally in Fitzgerald, a lunch and learn in Rome and a movie screening in Augusta. The weeklong activities will culminate with the main celebration at the Capitol in Atlanta on June 22.

Day after day, Fede and her co-workers strive to help eliminate the barriers that impede individuals with disabilities from transitioning from institutions like nursing homes to their own homes.

"Some of the barriers are health care. If they need in-home health care, we have to find companies that are willing to take waivers and to not make the individuals pay out of pocket," Fede said.

"Another barrier is affordable housing."

One of the biggest obstacles to transitioning to independent living is transportation, Fede said.

"Hall County residents are very fortunate because there is a public transportation system, but for people in our more rural communities finding transportation to even the grocery store can be difficult," Fede says.

The Gainesville resource office provides services to residents in a 13-county area, which includes Hall, Lumpkin, Rabun, Union, White and Habersham counties.

To help spotlight the many abilities that disabled people have, the resource center has arranged for a special musical guest for Saturday's festivities.

Music for the event will be provided by The Lefty Williams Band.

The group's lead guitarist, Lefty Williams, is "not just a great one-armed guitar player, he's a great guitar player," claims his biography on the band's website.

Williams, who was born with one arm, began playing the guitar at age 4. Since then, he's played venues around the country and has released two CDs ­- "Big Plans" and "Snake Oil."

"The whole meaning of this event is to advocate for the Olmstead decision. The best way to do that is to show what people with disabilities have been able to achieve and accomplish," Fede said.

"We want to let the community know that people with disabilities have the right to not only live on their own, they have the ability."