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At a public County Council meeting April 18, Summit County Executive Ilene Shapiro sponsored a resolution that was co-sponsored by County Council as a whole, declaring Summit County an "Inclusive and Autism Friendly Community." The first County Executive in Ohio to lead on this issue, Executive Shapiro urged Summit County residents to join her in supporting all individuals with an Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Passing unanimously at its first reading, the resolution recognized that Autism is the fastest growing developmental disability. As such, the resolution further stated that it is both necessary and in the best interest of Summit County to embrace its residents who live with autism in all aspects of community life.
Executive Shapiro stated, "I am honored to work with the Autism Society of Greater Akron (ASGA) on this resolution. Embracing our differences not only enriches the lives of all who live in Summit County, but it also makes our community a more attractive place for people to live, work, and play. Today is a win for all Summit County residents."
Sara Kline, Chairwoman of the ASGA Board and the Mayor of the city of Stow, spoke at Council in support of the resolution. "Being Autism Friendly means being understanding and flexible in interpersonal conversation, public programs and public settings. It's also reflects a community that treats everyone with respect and dignity and values each person's unique contribution by employing people with autism and other disabilities, structuring recreational activities so all can participate, providing appropriate and inclusive housing opportunities, supporting academic and social success in schools, and empowering people with autism and other disabilities to pursue their dreams."
The Autism Society of Greater Akron launched its "Autism Friendly" initiative as part of its April, National Autism Awareness Month, activities. ASGA is building on its long-standing partnerships with Summit County businesses, organizations and public agencies to take those collaborations to the next level by working together to create an Autism Friendly community. An initial list of committed partners include:
Akron Art Museum
Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad
International Soap Box Derby
Summit Metro Parks
Stow-Munroe Falls Public Library
Laurie Cramer, executive director of ASGA, said "We hope more exposure and understanding of autism will lead to more acceptance and employment for individuals with autism. We thank County Executive Shapiro for her leadership and for helping us to formally become the first County in Ohio to build upon and embrace our differences to be a better community for all."