NORTH COUNTRY, N.Y. (WWTI) – All around New York there are people with disabilities; some of them are visible and others are invisible. However, you likely know someone who has a disability whether they are a member of your family, a friend, a coworker or even your favorite cashier; it’s important that as a community we come together to spread some understanding.

Starting off with a definition of disability, The CDC defines it as any condition of the body or mind that makes it more difficult for the person with the condition to do certain activities and interact with the world around them.

The World Health Organization estimates that 1.3 billion people — 16% of the global population — currently have significant disabilities. According to the US Census Bureau, for Jefferson County 10.4% of the population under 65 years of age had a disability between 2017 to 2021, 10.2% in Lewis County and jumping to 11.6% in St. Lawrence County. New York however is 7.7% overall in comparison.

A full list of NY Counties’ disability percentages for those under 65 years of age between 2017 to 2021:

NY Counties  Disability %
Albany County8.0
Allegany County11.9
Bronx County11.8
Broome County12.1
Cattaraugus County12.0
Cayuga County10.1
Chautauqua County13.1
Chemung County11.5
Chenango County14.6
Clinton County11.8
Columbia County9.9
Cortland County9.6
Delaware County12.4
Dutchess County8.0
Erie County9.7
Essex County11.1
Franklin County12.1
Fulton County13.4
Genesee County11.2
Greene County9.9
Hamilton County17.2
Herkimer County11.8
Jefferson County10.4
Kings County (Brooklyn)5.8
Lewis County10.2
Livingston County8.8
Madison County9.2
Monroe County10.8
Montgomery County11.7
Nassau County4.9
New York County (Manhattan)6.3
Niagara County10.9
Oneida County10.9
Onondaga County9.5
Ontario County9.9
Orange County8.9
Orleans County7.8
Oswego County11.0
Otsego County9.1
Putnam County6.2
Queens County5.6
Rensselaer County10.5
Richmond County (Staten Island)6.4
Rockland County5.2
Saint Lawrence County11.6
Saratoga County7.4
Schenectady County9.3
Schoharie County11.9
Schuyler County11.4
Seneca County12.1
Steuben County11.3
Suffolk County6.1
Sullivan County11.4
Tioga County11.5
Tompkins County7.6
Ulster County9.9
Warren County11.2
Washington County11.0
Wayne County10.7
Westchester County5.9
Wyoming County8.7
Yates County8.0

These people are not just statistics though, they live full and active lives in our communities. They work hard and play hard just like those who are unaffected do. They are our neighbors, friends, family and coworkers; whittling them down to just a statistic is not going to solve the problem but it’s a good place to start when trying to understand the scope of those affected and who we are talking about.

What People with Disabilities want you to Know:

It’s always best to get to know people before we judge them, there’s a reason why so many after-school specials used the phrase:

“Don’t judge a book by its cover.”

Sometimes with a busy life and hectic schedule, snap judgments are made. It takes effort to break stereotypes and bring down walls of miscommunication and assumptions. A task so simple for most of us like reading can be revolutionized when a disability like blindness affects us. Timothy Monaghan, a blind advocate, sat down with us at Watertown’s Wednesday Farmers Market to give a demonstration on how to read Braille:

The Braille Alphabet

Disabilities associated with Mental Health disorders come with their own set of challenges as well. We sat down with some members and volunteers from the Mental Health Association, here’s what they had to say:

Services for those affected by Disabilities:

Having a disability can create a list of problems for the individual affected by said disability, The North Country has a host of services and people behind them that step up to help.

Those working in this field are dedicated to the people they serve, ABC 50 interviewed a few of these hard-working individuals. You can watch them speak down below about what they do and the people they serve.

Timothy Ruetten, Jefferson County Community Services Director:

Michelle Quinell-Gayle, Director of Community Relations for The Arc Jefferson — St. Lawrence:

Ashley Wilson, Mental Health Association Program Director:

The services that care for the North Country’s most vulnerable citizens and the people behind them are here to help. Just as there is a variety of disabilities there are a variety of services that offer assistance, from physical to mental disabilities and everything in between. Below is a list of some of the services offered in Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence Counties — if ever you find yourself in need.

Jefferson County:

210 Court St. #107
Watertown, NY 13601
Watertown Behavioral Counseling & Rehab Services
95 Public Square
Watertown, NY 13601
DPAO Corporate Office
617 Davidson Street
Watertown, New York 13601
The Arc: Jefferson – St. Lawrence
380 Gaffney Drive
Watertown, New York 13601
Cerebral Palsy Association of the North Country: Jefferson County
146L Arsenal Street Suite 8
Watertown, NY 13601
Mental Health Association in Jefferson County, Inc.
425 Washington St
Watertown, NY 13601
Jefferson County Department of Social Services
250 Arsenal Street
Watertown, NY 13601
Transitional Living Services of Northern New York
482 Black River Pkwy
Watertown, NY 13601
Credo Community Center Treatment of Addictions/ Mental Health Clinic
595 West Main Street
Watertown, NY 13601
Citizen Advocates Watertown Behavioral Health Campus
650 State St
Watertown, NY 13601
PIVOT -Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services
167 Polk Street Suite 320
Watertown, NY 13601
Carthage Area Hospital Behavioral Health
1001 West Street
Carthage, NY 13619
Child and Adolescent Wellness Clinic  20104 NYS Rt. 3
Watertown NY 13601  
Children’s Home of Jefferson County SPOA/SPOE
1740 State Street
Watertown, NY 13601
Community Clinic of Jefferson County
167 Polk Street Suite 300
Watertown, NY 13601
Fort Drum Behavioral Health Department
Building P36
Fort Drum, NY 13601
River Hospital Behavioral Health
3 James Street
Alexandria Bay, NY 13607

Lewis County:

Arc Oneida-Lewis Chapter
5349 Summit Ave
Lowville, NY 13367
Northern Regional Center for Independent Living
5520 Jackson St
Lowville, NY 13367
Disabled Persons Action
5205 Ebbly Rd
Lowville, NY 13367
Community Services & Mental Health
5274 Outer Stowe St
Lowville, NY 13367
Traumatic Loss Team: 315-376-9735
Transitional Living of Northern New York
7550 South State St
Lowville, NY 13367
Suicide Prevention Coalition
5274 Outer Stowe St
Lowville, NY 13367
Credo Community Center
7714 Number Three Rd
Lowville, NY 13367
Mountain View Prevention Services
7714 Number Three Rd
Lowville, NY 13367
Lewis County Opportunities, Inc.
8265 State Route 812
Lowville, NY 13367

St. Lawrence County:               

SLC Human Service Center
80 St. Hwy 310 Suite 1
Canton, New York 13617
Social Services
6 Judson Street
Canton, New York 13617
Cerebral Palsy Association of the North: St. Lawrence County
4 Commerce Lane
Canton, NY 13617
The Arc: Jefferson – St. Lawrence
6 Commerce Lane
Canton, NY 13617
St Lawrence County YAP
3 Remington Ave
Canton, NY 13617
MILC Independent Living Center
156 Center St
Massena, NY 13662
United Helpers
10 Spruce St
Ogdensburg, NY 13669              
St Lawrence Nysarc Inc
415 Deviller St,
Ogdensburg, NY 13669

What can you do?

In the videos above you heard for yourself, things like kindness, respect and a little understanding can truly make a difference.

“One of the easiest ways the community can connect with people we support is to simply say hi or strike up a conversation. Taking the time to chat with someone builds the connections that truly integrate all people. Sometimes, well-meaning community members make an assumption that someone may need assistance, when the best thing to do is to ask the person what they need. Your thoughtfulness will be appreciated.”

Michelle Quinell-Gayle, Director of Community Relations for The Arc Jefferson–St. Lawrence

With more than 10% of individuals in the Tri-County area affected by a disability, it’s very likely you personally know or at least interact with someone on a regular basis, you might even be personally affected. Do we, as a society really want to treat those in our community with anything less than kindness… that is a question only you can answer. However, a quote from Doctor Who seems fitting here:

“Human progress isn’t measured by industry. It’s measured by the value you place on a life. An unimportant life. A life without privilege. The boy who died on the river, that boy’s value is your value … that’s what defines a species.”

The Doctor, portrayed by Peter Capaldi

The North Country community may not be big and flashy but there’s a lot of heart here and at the end of the day… isn’t that what’s most important?