30th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

The Shimon and Sara Birnbaum Jewish Community Center (JCC) is honored to recognize more than 30 years of the nation’s Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which became law in 1990.  The ADA is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public. The purpose of the law is to make sure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else.

Ellie Willoughby has been the JCC’s Director of Special Services since 2016.  According to Ellie, “I have always believed that all children and adults with disabilities deserve to be seen as a person first and respected enough to be given a chance to do anything they want. By encouraging individual potential, we create life-long learners who contribute to society and feel a sense of purpose.  We are extremely proud of the wide range of programming we offer at the JCC, and how we enhance the lives of individuals with disabilities and their families.”

Programming for individuals with intellectual and physical disabilities include: The J-Cares Adult Intern Program; J-Zone Respite Program for Children; J-Connect Social and Enrichment Programs for Children and Adults; Camp Chaverim, the JCC’s Summer Day Camp for Children and Adults; Rising Tide Special Olympics Swim Team; and Adaptive Swim Lessons. Our indoor pool has a zero-entry lane, making pool access more attainable for those with physical disabilities.

In July 2020 the JCC opened its ADA-compliant Splash Pad, that has more than 20 water elements. The Amy & Seth Geldzahler Splash Pad provides for a fun water experience for all to enjoy, regardless of intellectual or physical disabilities.  The JCC’s Splash Pad is the only one of its type in the local community.

 

In 2021, the JCC is thrilled to be opening an Outdoor Classroom Sensory Garden. This project represents the next step in inclusivity for the community, with intellectual and physical disabilities in mind and built for everyone’s enjoyment. This space will be dedicated to increasing the quantity, quality, and benefit of outdoor experiences as learning environments for children, adults, teachers, and their families. We will offer an outdoor space for music, art, composting, gardening, creative play, gross motor activities, and even a space designed to host entire classes. The design includes a teaching and gathering space, a gross motor area, an exploration station, an instrument garden, a growing garden, a sensory space, art easels, a water play and conservation station, and an accessible pathway flowing through the entire area. A canopy covering over certain areas, allows for the outdoor space to be used throughout the year. This outdoor space will enable engagement for many segments of our community, including our programs for children and adults with intellectual and physical disabilities.

This initiative was funded in part by an Inclusive Healthy Communities Grant from the Division of Disability Services, New Jersey Department of Human Services. We thank the many individuals, families and community businesses who contributed to this project.

According to Ellie, “We are all pieces of a puzzle, and when you put it all together, you make something beautiful and extraordinary.  We love working with all these amazing children and adults.  We hope that all who experience what the JCC offers see a positive impact in their lives, as we do in ours.”