Three Metuchen organizations demonstrate inclusion of disability community

METUCHEN — The Metuchen YMCA, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and Boyt Drugs received “shout out for inclusion” awards in their efforts to join the borough’s Accessibility Committee to advance safety acceptance and full participation of people with disabilities in the community.

Former Councilwoman Sherri-Rose Rubin, who initiated the creation of an accessibility committee, said the committee could not achieve its accomplishments over the. past four years without the support of council liaison Ronald Grayzel, Mayor Jonathan Busch and the Borough Council.

“We advocate for programs, changes/additions to existing programs, modifications and all sorts of inclusive changes to our community,” she said. “This year we have a new initiative we hope will become an annual tradition. Inclusion is not always evidenced by physical changes such as ramps and parking spaces … inclusion is something as simple as a shift in attitude or change in the way products and services are advertised, sold and experienced.”

Rubin said the “shout out for inclusion” or SOFI awards are awarded to area organizations and businesses that have dedicated themselves to welcoming residents and businesses with all types of disabilities.

“According to recent data, one in five people have a disability and one in three families have a member with a disability. … That amounts to more than 60 million people in the United States who identify or know someone who has a disability,” she said. “Despite of such a large group, [the disability community] can be overlooked.”

Rubin said the committee chose a few area businesses who have demonstrated — through their creative problem solving and a general helping attitude — to serve all populations with open arms. The annual SOFI award is intended to honor the extraordinary service that will someday become ordinary.

The SOFI awards were presented to members of the Metuchen YMCA, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and Boyt Drugs at a council meeting on June 18. The members also received a proclamation from the mayor and council and a pineapple, which represents good luck, from the Metuchen Chamber of Commerce.

Rubin said the Metuchen YMCA on High Street is being honored for many reasons.

“First, for the physical modifications made to the building, which include wheelchair access, smooth surfaces and the removal of barriers,” she said.

Additionally, she said the YMCA has numerous inclusive programs for the community, including a Livestrong program for cancer survivors; a diabetes prevention program; a reset, regroup and renew program, which brings balance to those suffering from addiction, a program that partners with the municipal alliance to support families affected by addiction; autism swims, a swim program for children ages five to 15, which offers children with disabilities time to exercise and socialize; and a Knock Out Parkinson’s program to suppress and reverse symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease.

Rubin said the sign in front of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church reads “all are welcome.”

“This is more than just a slogan, it’s been their mission,” she said. “[They have removed] physical barriers from their building such as sidewalk and curb renovations, [and they have] a barrier-free entrance and a full accessible restroom.”

In addition, Rubin said St. Luke’s has worked with the borough to develop and install two ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act] compliant parking spaces on Oak Avenue in front of the church and provide a new sloped walkway that will extend to Oak Avenue.

“There’s an improved sound system and amplified speakers for visitors with hearing impairments and noteworthy programs including an autism-friendly worship service and weekly group support meetings that provide comfort and guidance for more than six different types of mental illness and addiction needs.”

Rubin said not only is the committee honoring Boyt Drugs for being a Metuchen institution on Main Street, the business is being honored for its services.

“There is home delivery of all products and medications, which enable people who are unable to get to [the pharmacy] to receive their lifesaving products,” she said. “Recently Boyt Drugs [also] instituted drive up service for delivery of medication and products, which [has items delivered] directly to the car.”

Rubin said the pharmacy offers in shop medical services such as vaccines, and there have been recent changes to the store such as an improved flooring and wider aisles for customers with wheelchairs and mobility devices.

Contact Kathy Chang at kchang@newspapermediagroup.com.