No Boundaries participants learned what a “ward” is (there are nine wards in Evanston, IL). Each ward has its own representative. We used a color-coded map to identify the wards that some participants live in, and Brown show us the list of our representatives. “I learned that I live in the 2nd ward and who my alderman is,” said John, a No Boundaries participant and Search, Inc. employment services client. “We learned that Evanston has a city manager kind of government. This means that the city is run by the city manager and the Evanston City Council. They make decisions about taxes, how to fix roads and trains and how to pay for it.” The City Council also creates local rules or laws and they are called ordinances. Another participant was surprised that the city manager has more power than the mayor in his community. “I also learned that I could be a better citizen by knowing what’s going on in my hometown,” said Matt.
Brown helped No Boundaries participants brainstorm ideas about how to help communities build their disability awareness:
- Volunteer for a local campaign
- Help make phone calls for a candidate that you like
- Attend a forum or a council meeting.
- Volunteer at a local YMCA, food pantry, soup kitchen or retirement home.
- Follow local ordinances, such as recycling your empty containers.
“I think that when people ride bikes on the sidewalk they should be fined,” said Matt. “I will email my alderman about the need for more bike lanes.”
The more involved people with disabilities become in all parts of civic engagement, the more disability aware our communities will become.