City launches committee for citizens with disabilities

The newly-formed Committee for Citizens with Disabilities in La Crosse will hold its first meeting on Wednesday.

The genesis for the committee came out of the struggle of La Crosse couple Jeff and Jeannie Nylander. Jeff has mobility issues, and Jeannie is blind. When they attempted to have parts of their new house designed to meet their particular needs in 2018, they faced issues with city codes, including for their garage and driveway, and ended up going to court, where they successfully had a ruling by the city’s board of zoning appeals reversed. 

Jeff got in touch with Mayor Tim Kabat, who listened and agreed to form a committee that would work to prevent a similar situation reoccurring and to generally seek to ensure that city facilities and resources are accessible to all. 

The new Committee for Citizens with Disabilities has nine members, one of whom is Jeff. The members were appointed by the mayor and approved by the city council.

Another member of the committee is Cat Cornelius, who is a therapeutic recreation specialist and works as a fundraising coordinator for GRACE (Global Resource for Advancing Cancer Education) and is a designated coordinator at ABLE, Inc., in La Crescent. Cornelius has also been a coach for the Special Olympics in La Crosse for the last seven years.

Cat Cornelius.

“I think a big part of this will be giving people within the disability community the platform to express what they want and need,” Cornelius said of the new committee. “Sometimes individuals cannot express this and that is where advocates with hands-on experience like myself and my other committee members can bridge the gap.”

The committee will host listening sessions and partner with local nonprofits and institutions as part of its mission to “create a community that values and respects people of all abilities.”

“Having open discussions is a huge step and an excellent way for the community members without disabilities to hear/see/understand the needs of their neighbors,” Cornelius said. “Hopefully it will create more awareness and opportunities for people with disabilities to flourish within our communities.”

Cornelius added that in general people need to “stop, look, and listen” when it comes to understanding the barriers people with disabilities face in La Crosse. 

“I think a way of highlighting and learning about people with disabilities is employing them, befriending them, and giving them equal opportunities to have an enriched quality of life,” Cornelius said. “Equality is given, not earned.”

The first meeting of the Committee for Citizens with Disabilities is at 8 a.m. on Wednesday, August 26. The committee will use the meeting to discuss its purpose and goals. The meeting will be live-streamed. To access the stream, click “agenda” at this link.

In addition to Nylander and Cornelius, the other members of the committee are Chelsey Myhre-Foster, Sue Gilbert, Jason Mickelson, Mary Bakalars, Rhonda Staats, Richard Chrz and city council member Larry Sleznikow,.

By Eric Timmons. Email questions to lacrosseindependent@gmail.com.

Can you help us reach our goal? We’re trying to get 100 paying patrons to help The La Crosse Independent grow. Track our progress and join us today for just $5.75 a month here.

La Crosse Community Theatre