Monday, March 31, 2014

Ukrainians visit Oakland, Macomb to learn to better lives of disabled

Doctors, educators and disability advocates from the Ukraine will spend a day at the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center during a two-week trip to the Macomb County area to learn the most advanced techniques in helping those with disabilities live normal lives.

The nine-member Ukraine delegation will arrive April 9 and stay until April 23 and visit Oakland County schools to learn about “mainstreaming” or having children with disabilities attend neighborhood schools. The Ukrainians also will visit MORC’s office in Clinton Township on April 15.
“We plan to take members of the group to see one or two homes where people with disabilities live with around-the-clock caregivers,” said Jerry Provencal, the executive director of MORC, which also has offices in Auburn Hills besides the main campus in Clinton Township.
“These visitors will get a real feel to what is possible when they see people with disabilities living in regular homes and neighborhoods,” he said.
Since MORC was founded in the early 1970s, it helped close all 12 state institutions and transition some 13,000 people with disabilities and mental illness to their own homes or apartments with 24/7 care. Finding homes and jobs in the community for those with disabilities continues to this day.

International Visitors Council of Detroit, a nonprofit organization that works with the U.S. Department of State and U.S. embassies aboard, will act as a liaison for the Ukrainians and their Detroit-area counterparts in the fields of disability advocacy, said Marian Reich, Executive Director of IVC Detroit.
The Ukrainians will learn about modern rehabilitation methods and technologies developed for children with disabilities, best practices and progressive approaches to integrate them in communities, provide equal access to education and jobs, as well as raise awareness of their challenges, needs and expectations, Reich said Monday.

“We are hoping to improve the lives of those with disabilities and their families in Ukraine by letting these experts see what we do in organizations such as MORC,” Reich said.
The Ukrainians also will visit schools in Oakland County to show them the “best practices in inclusion education,” she said. “We also are showing them some of the latest technologies that help people with disabilities better adapt to their challenges.”

It is believed the results of the visit to Oakland schools and MORC will “contribute to improving quality of life of Ukrainian children with disabilities through increased coordination, advanced effectiveness, developing leadership, and enhanced information management of the Ukrainian rehabilitation system,” Reich said.

Jerry Wolffe is the writer-in-residence and advocate-at-large at the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center. He can be reached at 586 263-8950.