What in the World Is the PfaDFC?

The “PfaDFC” is not alphabet soup! It’s the acronym for the “Partnership for a Disability Friendly Community,” an initiative launched almost two years ago in response to a recommendation by a group of community leaders.

The PfaDFC – also known as the Partnership – began as a way for Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network to honor its past while providing a gift to the community that would have a positive, lasting effect on the quality of life in this region – not only for people with disabilities, but for everyone.  
The Partnership includes more than 75 individuals, representatives of local human service and other provider organizations, government officials, caregivers and community leaders. It is a self- governed collaborative, and members are committed to making this region more accessible, inclusive and welcoming to people with disabilities. This is the right thing to do, and Good Shepherd believes it will position the Lehigh Valley for smart growth.

In an effort to identify the unmet needs of people with disabilities in the Lehigh Valley, the Partnership launched a research project in 2009. Good Shepherd underwrote the cost of the study, which was conducted by the Lehigh Valley Research Consortium (LVRC), Findings from this fascinating research were shared with the community in December 2009.  

Some of the more interesting findings – some expected and some not - were:

  • Income is a significant barrier to accessibility and inclusion for people with disabilities.
  • As the severity of a person’s disability increases, she/he reported greater problems in multiple areas of daily living.
  • Individuals with physical/mobility disabilities reported greater inclusiveness and more positive feelings regarding community involvement and connectedness than individuals with other types of disabilities.
  • Individuals with mental disabilities reported higher levels of community disaffectedness and disengagement than persons with other kinds of disabilities.
  • Age is an important factor in understanding the emotional well-being of people with disabilities.
  • People with disabilities are generally satisfied with access to and the quality of the health care they receive.
  • Although organizations and agencies that serve persons with disabilities reported that transportation is a major problem in the Lehigh Valley, individuals with disabilities themselves did not report the same.
  • A large majority of persons with disabilities reported that their current housing needs were met. Those whose housing needs were not met reported that they did not know where to look for information about housing.
  • Older persons with disabilities perceived community attitudes more positively than younger persons with disabilities or persons with mental disabilities.
  • Persons with speech, cognitive or learning disabilities more often reported that they believe others do not regard them as intelligent.
  • For the most part, individuals with disabilities reported that Lehigh Valley schools are doing a good job in providing accommodations and social opportunities for students with disabilities.
  • The health and well-being of persons with disabilities is integrally connected to the health and well-being of their care givers and their families.
  • Persons with disabilities were generally more positive in their perceptions of issues of accessibility and inclusiveness in the Lehigh Valley than were survey respondents from the agencies and organizations that serve them. However, these agencies and organizations recognize that people with disabilities are their own best advocates for their unmet needs.

View a complete copy of the research report. The report also includes best practices used to address and resolve similar unmet needs of persons with disabilities in other communities.

It is clear from these findings that individuals with disabilities in the Lehigh Valley and the agencies that serve them want to contribute to the social, cultural, political and economic vibrancy of our community. These individuals are already contributing greatly to the richness of our communities, but the Lehigh Valley can do more to recognize and appreciate their achievements through greater community awareness and education.

Through the Partnership for a Disability Friendly Community, organizations, agencies and leaders who work with people with disabilities are collaborating around common concerns and working together to make the Lehigh Valley more accessible, more inclusive and more welcoming for all individuals.

If you want to learn more about or are interested in becoming a member of the Partnership, please contact me by email at clambert@gsrh.org or by calling (610) 776-3286. EVERYONE is welcome!

Cindy Lambert, M.Ed., is Good Shepherd's Vice President, Government and Community Relations.

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