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      Local conference promotes atmosphere of acceptance for disabled

      National Disability Employment Awareness month started with a bang at the 5th annual Disability Awareness Conference in Kirksville.

      Over 300 students and community members gathered to learn about issues that regularly affect the disabled.

      Participants discussed topics ranging from the transition to employment, to universal housing, and parenting a disabled child.

      "I think this year's conference is bringing information that allows people to be able to be more independent, to recognize their abilities and be able to be in their community, to have employment within their community, and be more a part of their community,â?? said Chuck Comstock, a conference organizer and Advisor for People First Advocacy.

      Eustacia Cutler, mother of the well-known self-advocate Temple Grandin, spoke at the conference and was able to provide some special inspiration for independent living.

      Many local organizations were also present to provide information about further resources for independent living.

      All this was done with one goal in mind: "Just to recognize that you're no different than anybody else, rather than, you might have a disability,â?? said Chuck Comstock. â??You know I always say that I've never been to a place that I felt like I didn't belong there and that's the way we should all feel."

      Organizers hope the event will create an atmosphere of acceptance in the community that truly allows the disabled to lead independent lives.