Community spotlight: Disability Resource Center provides free help to people across southeastern NC

One in five people in the US identify as living with a disability
Published: Jul. 8, 2021 at 5:52 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - One in five people in the US identify as living with a disability, meaning there’s a good chance you or someone you care for will need special accommodations at some point in life.

Allowing people with disabilities to live a full, independent life is the mission of the Disability Resource Center.

“The core service is advocacy, making sure people with disabilities have their rights protected, they know what their rights are and they can advocate for themselves,” said executive director Gloria Garton.

Their services range from making sure people with diverse abilities have accommodations at work and school, adding tools like wheelchair ramps around the community and advocating for affordable, accessible housing.

“I think the issue has really come to light between Hurricane Florence and now the pandemic — some of the challenges that exist with sheltering people during this time,” said Garton.

The DRC’s purpose is to help people live independently; that could mean finding jobs, housing and healthcare, but it also translates to hosting social activities, book clubs, and providing peer support.

More than half of the DRC’s team identifies as someone with a disability, and the executive director says the diverse experiences of the staff allow them to understand the problems the disabled community faces. They serve five counties and their services are completely free.

During the pandemic, the group provided $200,000 in CARES Act funds to help people cover necessities like rent, utilities and meals. They have also secured funding from the CDC to ensure the disabled community has access to the vaccine.

Having grown up with a mother that had to use a wheelchair, and living with hearing loss herself, fighting for the rights of people with disabilities is a mission close to Garton’s heart and one she says everyone should care about.

“There’s so many areas of our life that we really just take for granted until we become sick or our loved one becomes sick and they need accommodations they need home modifications… at some point in everyone’s life you are going to either have a disability or take care of some of the disability, that’s a given, so it should be important to everyone.”

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