The day program my son Jonah attends has been closed for thirteen months. Like many parents and caregivers of adults with disabilities, we’re holding on by our fingernails but the toll of disrupted routines, boredom, and lack of social interaction is borne most heavily by Jonah himself. While schools, restaurants, sporting arenas, gyms, and bars are open, our children are left behind, with no explanation or timeline because the state refuses to issue permission for programs to reopen. My husband and I signed this petition which you can also find here.
Hey, even New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney agrees!
— Steve Sweeney (@NJSenatePres) April 10, 2021
Here is the text of the petition. Below it is a letter from Mark Finkelstein, Superintendent of Schools, Educational Services Commission of New Jersey, Piscataway, who notes the irony that New Jersey, during Autism Awareness Month, is barring people with this disability from participating in essential programs.
Open day programs for us who have developmental disabilities ages 21+ during the Covid-19 pandemic [April 2021]. Every other business, school, indoor or outdoor event being held is allowed to have a specific capacity yet, DDD (Division of Developmental Disability) Adult Day Programs are still at zero capacity. There is continually no explanation of why. There are no other programs that are being required to uphold the status of CALI (COVID-19 Activity Level Index), just strongly encouraged. DD Adults are not asking for special treatment, we want equitable treatment. The state of New Jersey needs to stop discriminating against the developmentally disabled population (21+). There are adults who are 20 years old in the same day programs who are able to currently attend, however, their friends who are 21+ are not allowed to attend. New Jersey DDD should reopen adult day programs immediately. Our population of those with disabilities in New Jersey is one of the highest in our country. We believe that together we can commit to better honor and uphold higher standards for all of those with disabilities.