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Murray Residents Developing Arts Opportunities for Adults with Disabilities

Murray residents gathered this week at Playhouse in the Park to design arts opportunities for adults with disabilities, who often “age out” of programs.

The Penguin Project is an Illinois-based effort providing children with disabilities roles in theatrical productions. Murray’s Playhouse is involved in the program, which has  a cut-off age of 21. Amy Elliott is the mother of a 20-year-old with down syndrome. She says the project has a ‘huge impact’ in her son’s social life and doesn’t want his involvement to come to an end.

“I just hope something new can be formed to take the place of Penguin because he’s going to be really really sad about aging out of it and not really understand why he can’t do it anymore,” says Elliot.  

Panelists suggested introducing movie nights, community mosaics, and other social events for adults with disabilities. The Kentucky Arts Council awarded an ‘Arts Access Grant’ to the Murray Calloway Endowment for Healthcare in June. Grant artistic director Constance Alexander says she wants people in the community to be more inclusive in providing activities for adults with disabilities. She says the grant will fund activities such as poetry workshops and book discussions.

Carissa Johnson, Lead Independent Living Specialist at the Center for Accessible Living says their Transitions which helps individuals with disabilities transition from school to the community. She says panel discussions like these are a great way to get others involved and recalls a time when her consumers were heartbroken due to being too old to participate in a best buddies program.

“They were very upset. They tried to advocate for themselves. One of them that’s not even very verbal tried to write a letter explaining what this meant to him. Another consumer cried,” says Johnson.

Laura Miller, West Regional Director for the Special Olympics says they offer things such as the Olympics which begins at age 8 and doesn’t have a maximum age limit. Miller says some participants travel several hours to practices and hopes other communities become more inclusive for those who are unable to commute.

Ebony Clark is a student at Murray State University majoring in computer science. She was born in Brownsville, Tennessee. Ebony has served as a reporter for 4-H congress in Nashville, TN where she spoke with several state leaders and congressmen. Ebony enjoys writing poetry and spoken word and competed in Tennessee's Poetry Out Loud competition hosted by the arts council in Nashville,TN.
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