March 29, 2009
I was raised in Starkville, attended Starkville Public Schools and also taught Art at Starkville High School during the 2003-2004 school year until budget cuts forced faculty reductions in the art program.
Since then I have worked part-time teaching an inclusive after school art class at the T.K. Martin Center for Technology and Disability at Mississippi State University, and have been a full-time mother since May, 2007. I also serve as the chairperson of the city of Starkville''s Commission on Disability. I have used a manual wheelchair since 1998 when I was paralyzed from the chest down in a car accident.
As a person with a disability living in Starkville, I have had to face many issues concerning accessibility. The most common problems are a lack of accessible parking, blocked or absent access ramps, and the inability to use the restroom facilities. Over the years, I have attempted to address these concerns by writing letters to businesses and contacting various city officials, past and present. My attempts to draw City Hall''s attention towards improving accessibility in Starkville were met with silence.
I felt like an outsider; as if I were the only one affected by inaccessible facilities. In the Summer of 2005 I attended an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) conference and as a result, became more knowledgeable about my basic civil rights. I contacted my alderman, Matt Cox, about inaccessibility of city buildings and services along with general inaccessibility of businesses open to the public. I conveyed to him my frustration about the uncooperative attitude I had encountered in my previous attempts to engage city administrators.
Since our initial meeting, Alderman Cox has gone above and beyond to help make Starkville accessible to all citizens. He has an innate ability to bring out leadership potential in others and his encouragement gave me the confidence to have an impact on our community.
Matt Cox is an excellent candidate for mayor. He is the first city employee to not only take my concerns about accessibility seriously, but push for change and progress. I believe that as mayor he will continue to take all community concerns seriously and his endeavors will help make Starkville a progressive city in many ways, including accessibility.
Whitney Hilton, Starkville