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Westfield City Council rejects advisory council on disabilities, says more development needed

Council says ordinance needs more time to develop for approval
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Posted at 7:14 PM, Mar 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-17 23:50:34-04

WESTFIELD — A measure pushed by advocates calling for more resources for those with disability in Westfield was shot down Monday.

The city council voted against a proposed advisory council on disabilities, saying more work needs to be done before they vote "yes".

Those behind the ordinance say they plan to fight until it's passed.  

"Yeah, you know. It should have been an easy yes," said Councilman Scott Willis.

Advocates say that "yes" could have opened many doors of opportunity for those with disabilities in Westfield.  

"The council was really set forth to create a platform where all issues disability-related could have a voice, could have transparency," said Joanne Tedesco, a mother and disability advocate. "I'll be honest, although I have a child with a special need. I had no idea of the challenges they faced every day."  

Willis said when a few residents came to him last September, he knew it was something he needed to get behind. So, he went to work.  

The ordinance states the advisory council on disabilities, "will represent the diverse needs and interests of disabled people within the city", as well as, "ensure the city's compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), work with local employers to employ more people with disabilities and to help create positive social activities to enrich the lives of people with disabilities and their families."  

But it wasn't enough to gain more support from the council.  

"I disagree with them, but I respect where they are coming from. This ordinance was introduced in early January, but it sat for about five weeks before it got presented. At no time from the time, I introduced it to the time our first meeting happened, I didn't get one single call, voice, or concern saying, 'Hey I like the idea, but maybe we could do something different," said Councilman Willis.  

Councilman Joe Edwards voted against the ordinance. He said the plan just needs to be refined, and time to develop and it could still pass in the future.

As promising as that may sound, some council members called it, "another layer of government and unnecessary." That didn't sit right with those who stand behind the plan.  

"I really don't understand that piece of it. Because the ordinance really gives the power back to the people," said Tedesco.  

Although the outcome wasn't favorable, Willis and Tedesco are hopeful that this fast "no" will soon bring a victory.

"It just went to my core. This is just another struggle that we have to deal with in our city. In that sense, it was a great disappointment, but on the other hand, I see great opportunity because the disability community was brought forth and we did create increased awareness," said Tedesco.  

Westfield's proposed ordinance mirrors advisory councils already in place in Fishers and Carmel. Tedesco said she hopes to have more awareness events to invite the council out to so they can get more educated and help push this forward.

The full ordinance is available on the City's website.