The Putnam Examiner

Dutchess County Executive Urges Putnam to ThinkDIFFERENTLY

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Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro recalled the day he attempted to comfort his daughter, Abigail.

It was the day that changed not only his daughter, who is now 14, but the lives of many New York State residents with special needs.

Molinaro’s daughter was crying because she said she could not tie her shoes, something her friends could. Molinaro tied her daughter’s shoes, but was chastised by his wife, Corinne, who told him, “You can’t do that.”

Molinaro said he realized he should have not tied her daughter’s shoes. Though he did so “out of love” he understood he should have not done so.

As the result of that experience, Molinaro was inspired to launch in 2015 the ThinkDIFFERENTLY initiative that seeks to change the way individuals, businesses, organizations and communities relate to people with special needs.

During a Community Forum held on Friday at the Putnam County Bureau of Emergency Services building in Carmel, Molinaro spoke about the program. Assemblyman Kevin Byrne and Putnam County Legislator Barbara Scuccimarra, in partnership with Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell, hosted Molinaro, who is a Republican running for governor.

“How do we make the system easier” for those with special needs and their families, Molinaro asked.

There are many agencies that provide services for people with special needs but they do not communicate enough with one another, Molinaro said. Not only does he want governments in the state of adopt ThinkDIFFERENTLY, he wants businesses and non-profits to do so as well, Molinaro said.

Businesses should provide training for individuals with special needs and make their facilities accessible to them, Molinaro said. The federal Americans with Disabilities Act only provides minimal accessibility, he said.

There are many things local governments can do to assist those with special needs including making parks accessible to all without segregating those with special needs from the rest of the community, Molinaro said. Municipalities should also work to not fight against the approval of homes proposed for people with special needs, which is particularly important because an increasing number of those with special needs are living independent lives, he said.

Local governments can also change their 911 emergency call systems to allow emergency responders to come to the home of persons with special needs without them having a resident answer several questions that could delay the process of dispatching assistance, Molinaro said.

Municipalities should also make an effort to encourage and make accommodations for those with special needs for such events as community days and parades, Molinaro said, adding a day is devoted to those with special needs is provided at the annual Dutchess County Fair.

“We’re breaking down barriers,” Molinaro said.

Putnam County Legislator Barbara Scuccimarra said she supported the initiative. “We have to find more ways to support” those with special needs, she said.

Scuccimarra said 100 municipalities in New York State have approved resolutions to support ThinkDIFFERENTLY. She described the effort as “a wonderful call for action.”

Though ThinkDIFFERENTLY is intended to help those with special needs, it also seeks to change the attitudes people regrading those with special needs, Molinaro said. “It’s not about my daughter. It’s about me,” he said.

The ThinkDIFFERENTLY Web site is

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