The first Long Beach Disability Community Resource Guide is available for download online — and it's free.
A Washington, D.C.-based organization called RespectAbility partnered with the Long Beach Community Foundation, with help from a grant provided by the Knight Foundation, to create the free material that's available to download from their website, Respectability.org.
"A big part of the challenge for individuals with disabilities and their families is that they do not know the resources that are available to them,” Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, president of RespectAbility, said. "We hope that this guide will help people achieve higher skills and educational outcomes, as well as get good jobs."
And the guide is a welcomed resource for the disabled community, according to Cristina Sanz, actress and personality on A&E's series, Born This Way.
"I have a job and I get a paycheck; I am happy," Sanz said during the disability guide unveiling at 4th and Olive (743 E. Fourth St.), a restaurant owned by disabled veteran Dan Tapia. "I may look different and I may sound different, but I have dreams like you."
Sanz — a Long Beach native — was born with Down Syndrome. Despite the visible challenges that she said she grew up with, she is the first Hispanic woman with a disability to win an Emmy award. She credits much of her confidence to the people around her, including her parents.
"My parents want for us to be happy," she said. "When I was a little girl, I dreamed of being a ballerina, so I was enrolled in the Long Beach Ballet for 10 years."
Sanz's father, Mariano, added that he and his wife wanted their daughter to pursue her dreams. They encouraged her to participate in as many activities as possible, some of which included ballet, the drill team in high school and applying for a job at a retail store, he said.
"We didn't have the resources available to us back them, so we did our best," Mariano said. "We are very excited to see what we can accomplish in Long Beach (with the disability resource guide)."
The resource guide includes names, locations and phone numbers for different resources in Long Beach for people with a range of disabilities, with contact information for youth services, workforce services and school support programs, to name a few.
Mizrahi said that the organization hopes to reach school districts and city business groups to expand the reach that the resource guide potentially has.
"It's prime time for parents and advocates of people with disabilities to speak to the school district," she said. "We want to help make opportunities more accessible — and with more organizations utilizing the resource guide, we can."
For more information, or to download the guide, go to RespectAbility.org.
Stephanie Stutzman can be reached at email@example.com.