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Comprehensive accessibility efforts underway

A new Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) begins in September with an outreach focusing on Johnson County’s Deaf community.

Offered by the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment (JCDHE), the program is unusual in two ways: Not only will the classes, spanning one year and starting after Labor Day, be taught in American Sign Language (ASL), but the instructor, Kelly Selznick, is deaf. Robin Olson, co-facilitator, who is hearing, also is fluent in ASL.

It is believed the class is a first in the Kansas City metropolitan region, state of Kansas and perhaps the nation to solely use ASL to teach DPP to local deaf and hard-of-hearing residents.

“Johnson County’s deaf population has higher obesity rates and worse cardiovascular health outcomes than the hearing population. Being overweight and having high blood pressure increases an individual’s risk for developing type 2 diabetes. DPP helps participants make positive lifestyle changes which improve health,” Megan Foreman, program manager for the department, said.

The main challenge is to bridge the language gap in trying to provide health-related services and information to the Deaf community since a deaf resident’s primary language is ASL and few healthcare providers are fluent in sign language.

“Communication is the primary barrier to providing healthcare outreach to the Deaf community. Cultural competency is also a barrier,” Selznick noted in an email regarding her involvement in the upcoming program. “There is some mistrust between the Deaf and medical communities for several reasons that have to do with a lack of cultural competency within the medical community. Taking the steps to provide an accessible health program will help build that trust.”

DPP classes in ASL and for the general public begin in September. To learn more or sign up, email DPP@jocogov.org.

More than 30 million Americans have diabetes. One in three Americans have prediabetes. Are you among them? A two minute quiz to find out if you are at risk is accessible at preventdiabeteskc.com.

Inclusion efforts across the county 
Inclusion of the Deaf community and residents with special needs goes further than access to public services and new programs. It also requires making sure residents of all ages and all physical abilities have equal access to Johnson County’s public buildings, parks and other physical accommodations.

Another inclusive playground in Shawnee Mission Park opened at the start of July, a month that also celebrates the 29th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) signed into law by President George H.W. Bush on July 26, 1990. A similar playground was added to the Stilwell Community Park last year. Both projects enable all children to play together without physical or social barriers.

An inclusive theater camp took place in mid-June at the Johnson County Arts & Heritage Center, giving children of all abilities the chance to live out their dreams of being in show business.

The new Johnson County Courthouse being constructed in downtown Olathe will also enhance accessibility to public services and facilities. The courthouse will be fully ADA compliant when it’s completed and operational in early 2021.

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