Being disabled is not a disease. It's not contagious. People come in all shapes and sizes. We often compare ourselves with somebody else's appearance. Have you ever approached someone just because you liked how they looked, without knowing anything about them? Are there other people you did not talk to, or were afraid to talk to because you did not like the way they looked, or because they looked different from you?

What about people with eyes that do not see, ears that don't hear, legs and arms that don't work? What about people who must sit in a wheel chair all day or use crutches and braces to move about? What about people whose bodies jerk out of control or whose hands are twisted? What about people who see letters and numbers backwards? Some people are born with their disability, others become disabled through accident or illness. No one chooses to be disabled and no one can predict if it might happen to them.

People with disabilities have the same human qualities we all have. When we judge people by how they look, we limit ourselves and them. Do you ever wonder how many good friends you passed by because they looked different?

You may feel guilty or uncomfortable when you are around someone with a disability. You may wonder why you are OK and they are not, or what you should say or not say. You might be afraid to talk about things you like to do - run, play ball, listen to music - because they can't do these things, or might have difficulty doing them, or fear that they will be upset, hurt or feel pitied. You may have even seen someone in school make fun of another person because of their disability and felt bad about it, but did not know what to do.

Did you know that people with disabilities can do most of the things that you can? They swim, jog, ski, ride bicycles, bowl, and play basketball. They read, write, use computers, go to movies and go to concerts. They go to college, hold jobs, travel, fly planes, and drive cars. They are parents and they can be best friends too.

Don't let someone's "outside" prevent you from discovering their "inside". Reach out. You may be surprised at what you find.

If you have a disability, remember you are not "your disability". While it may affect your appearance on the outside, who you are on the inside is what really matters. There are agencies that offer services to young people with disabilities. To find out what specific programs or services are available, or to get more information, call:

The following organizations will provide information and/or assistance (click on the agency's name for more information):

Building Blocks Comprehensive Services
(585) 393-0554
Provides Physical, Occupational and Speech Therapy, service coordination, and a range of other services including pre-school programs for children from birth to age 5.

Finger Lakes Parent Network
The Finger Lakes Parent Network provides parent eduction and training, peer-support for parents and advocacy for the children, including children with emotional, behavioral, mental or developmental disablities.

Happiness House Finger Lakes Cerebral Palsy Association
The agency provides a variety of programs for pre-school children, including pre-school, child care, universal pre-kindergarten, developmental evaluations, special education, therapies and a summer recreational program.

Ontario ARC
Ontario ARC provides a wide range of services to the developmentally disabled.

New York State Office of Mental Retardation
The Finger Lakes DDSO coordinates and supervises services to those with mental retardation and some other disabilities in the Finger Lakes area including Ontario County.

Ontario County Public Health Department
Services to children with developmental delays aged from birth to 5; maternal health services including pre- and post-natal; lead prevention education, a car seat program.

Ontario County Children with Special Needs
Early Intervention services for eligible children and a physically handicapped children's program for families with children with chronic medical conditions.

Rochester Regional Transition Coordination Site
(585)377-4660 x2730
The agency provides technical assistance to school districts and BOCES regarding implementation of state and federal transition regulations; enhances student and parent participation in the transition process, and owrks to improve linkage between adult agency providers, post-secondary institutions and schoools.

West Street School, Geneva
The counseling program at West Street School includes a primary mental health project, special friends program and conflict management.

Vocational and Educational Services for Individuals with Disabilities (VESID)
(585) 238-2900
Works with adults with disabilities to help them find jobs and provides retraining support.

Unity House of Cayuga County Inc.
Employment services for disabled adults.

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