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Disability Awareness Day 2021

Every year, the Commission on Disability Issues, in partnership with the Anne Arundel County Department of Aging and Disabilities, holds Disability Awareness Day to celebrate inclusion for individuals with disabilities. Disability Awareness Day is an opportunity for the Commission on Disability Issues to recognize businesses and organizations within Anne Arundel County that provide employment opportunities or other opportunities for individuals with disabilities in the categories of accessibility, accommodation, employment, and public service. Each year the Commission on Disability Issues recognizes an honoree.

Disability Awareness Day 2021 Video

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Disability Awareness Day 2021 Honoree

Katie Collins-Ihrke

Katie Collins-Ihrke

This year, we are pleased to recognize Katie Collins-Ihrke as the recipient of the 2021 Disability Awareness Day Honoree Award. Katie Collins-Ihrke is the Executive Director of Accessible Resources for Independence, a non-profit located in Severn, Maryland. Accessible Resources for Independence or ARI has been instrumental in providing new and innovative ways to reach people with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Katie Collins-Ihrke created the “Give Me Five” monthly newsletter, which provides updates on county resources, changes, and opportunities to a diverse population of various disability groups. With her team at ARI, Katie has worked tirelessly to ensure that Anne Arundel County residents with disabilities have easy access to COVID-19 testing and vaccinations. Katie and the staff at ARI often ensured that transportation and services were available for those who needed assistance getting to vaccination sites.

Katie has worked for many years providing direct support to people with disabilities, marketing, and fundraising within systems advocacy of local, state, and federal governments. Katie is a passionate advocate of disability issues and has used her expertise to raise awareness on self-determination, self-advocacy, and the full inclusion of people with disabilities in all aspects of community life. Her advocacy has been critical during a time when people with disabilities are more invisible than ever before.

Katie serves on several commissions within our County and truly lives the idea of “Nothing about Us without Us.” Katie believes that people with disabilities should be involved at all levels of community decisions and county government to ensure their voice is heard.

Disability Awareness Day 2021 Award Winners

Category: Accessibility

The Accessibility award goes to businesses, service providers, and other organizations that have removed barriers or obstacles for people with disabilities to improve accessibility to community resources and services.

Maryland Live! Casino (nominated by Jennifer Jackson, ADA Coordinator, Anne Arundel County Department of Aging and Disabilities): During the pandemic, the Maryland Live! Casino partnered with the Anne Arundel County Department of Health to assist in distributing the COVID-19 vaccine. The Maryland Live! Casino operated as a vaccination site and took the time to ensure that the vaccination clinics were accessible to people with disabilities by providing additional staffing and removing physical barriers.

ARC Central Chesapeake (nominated by Jennifer Jackson): The Arc Central Chesapeake Region was an early advocate in speaking with officials to make sure that people with disabilities were included as soon as possible in the vaccine process. Early in the process, The Arc worked with the Anne Arundel County Department of Health to offer vaccine clinics specifically for people with disabilities in the community. The Arc provided assistance and support by meeting with service coordinators and providing registration links daily to open appointments with providers such as CVS, Walgreens, and Anne Arundel County Health Department vaccine clinics. Working with the Anne Arundel Public School system, The Arc hosted vaccine clinics to provide the COVID-19 vaccine to students with disabilities.

To ensure that information about the COVID-19 vaccine was accessible for people with disabilities, The Arc distributed vaccine info in plain English on all social media channels. The Arc facilitated discussions with Dr. Karyn Harvey where individuals in their Living Options and Services program could voice their concerns and ask questions about the vaccine to learn more about the COVID-19 virus and how it affects them.

Category: Employment

The Employment award recognizes businesses that value employment for individuals with disabilities with the Employment award. These businesses are committed to a robust and competitive workforce. With them, we can celebrate the contributions of workers with disabilities, and we can educate about the value of a workforce inclusive of the skills and talents of people of all abilities.

Big Bean Coffee Shop (Nominated by Aimee Bullen, Providence Center): The Big Bean is currently providing an internship for Allison, a client with Providence Center. Christie, co-owner of the Big Bean, has understood the value of hiring someone supported by Providence Center right from the start, and our team worked with her to develop a customized, supportive role at the coffee shop. Allison has thrived in her position, created a support system with her co-workers to reduce support needed from Providence Center, and has recently increased her hours. Christie wants to provide another internship opportunity and has been patient and flexible in providing the training time needed for a prospective intern to join her team.

St. Johns College (nominated by Aimee Bullen, Providence Center): St. John’s has been a long-time employer, hiring numerous employees supported by Providence Center over the years. Currently, three people are working in the college’s kitchen during the school year. The Staff at St. John’s have been very supportive, worked hard to build a natural support system of co-workers, and built a great rapport with their employees and Providence Center staff. At St. John’s, every employee is treated as a family member.

Kingdom Kare, Inc. (Nominated by Jennifer Jackson): Kingdom Kare, Inc. is a non-profit organization focused on community engagement and support. In September, they recently opened the Kingdom Kare Family Support Center in Odenton, Maryland. The Family Support Center provides services and supports to children and families, including those with disabilities. The focus of Kingdom Kare, Inc. is on youth with disabilities. Working with Humanim, The Family Support Center is providing an internship for two young people with disabilities in their Child Care and Operations departments.

Kingdom Kare, Inc. also offers a mentorship program providing job coaching and support for individuals with disabilities. Working with community agencies such as Arundel Workforce Development, Kingdom Kare, Inc. provides mock interviews, resume-building, career exploration, and job placement testing. In addition, Kingdom Kare, Inc. provides in-house training on child care certification. People interested in owning a business can work on their food truck, Big Riches Smoke Shack, and gain hands-on experience learning how to start, operate, and manage a business.

Category: Public Service

The Public Service award goes to individuals and organizations that develop, operate, and sustain services and resources that enrich the lives of individuals with disabilities.

Anne Arundel County Ombudsman Program (nominated by Katie Collins-Ihrke, ARI): While the pandemic has been difficult for us all, it has been particularly difficult for those in nursing facilities. ARI’s peer outreach and support program, operating within nursing facilities to arm people with the tools and information should they want to return to the community, has had difficulty reaching those in facilities. The Anne Arundel County Ombudsman Team was amazing at connecting with those in the facilities to ensure their health and safety and for being the eyes and eyes on the ground making referrals to ARI’s program.

Justin Bieler, Anne Arundel County Department of Social Services (Nominated by Kelly Krispin, ARI): As the Homeless Coordinator for Anne Arundel County, Justin oversees the Homeless Street Outreach team - a service to unsheltered homeless individuals and families residing in AA County that provides an assessment and referral to services including mental health, shelter, and housing. Justin also organizes the annual Homeless Resource Day in Anne Arundel County - a "one-day, one-stop" event that provides individuals and families experiencing homelessness to access services they need including medical care, benefits, substance abuse resources, counseling, and other social services - in the hopes of getting connected to housing and ultimately becoming self-sufficient. Justin also holds a seat on the Annapolis Coalition to End Homelessness, Anne Arundel County's Homeless Continuum of Care Planning Group.

Laurie Elinoff, Speech-Language Pathologist, DORS (Nominated by Katie Collins-Ihrke, ARI): Laurie Elinoff has been a lifelong advocate on behalf of people with disabilities. As a speech-language pathologist and DORS employee, Laurie was able to provide support to people looking to work. In her later years, Laurie became disabled and harnessed her skills from her work life to advocate for people with disabilities on a systems-level as a member of the Maryland Statewide Independent Living Council. While she is serving her last term on the Council, she vows to stay committed to the cause and will be volunteering to see that vow through.

Accessible Resources for Independence (nominated by Jennifer Jackson, Department of Aging and Disabilities): Under the leadership of Katie Collins-Ihrke, ARI partnered with the Department of Aging and Disabilities during the pandemic to provide emergency food resources to individuals with disabilities. With the loss of public transportation, obtaining groceries was difficult for those with disabilities who had no alternative means of transportation. ARI provided staffing to accept referrals from the Anne Arundel County Food and COVID Care Warm Line. ARI funded the delivery of groceries and other necessities to individuals with disabilities. Case managers helped to connect these individuals with permanent food resources to prevent food insecurity.

With the development of the COVID-19 vaccine, ARI was one of the community agencies that helped improve accessibility by distributing information in a format that was accessible to everyone. To help combat social isolation for individuals with disabilities, ARI purchased Chromebooks for 10 individuals with disabilities to help them stay connected with family and friends. ARI has also worked to help 3 individuals move from a skilled nursing facility to a home in the community where they can live independently in the least restrictive environment.

Arundel Community Development Services, Inc. (nominated by Jennifer Jackson, Department of Aging and Disabilities): Arundel Community Development Services, Inc. was instrumental in the Fresh Food Friday initiative during the early part of the COVID-19 pandemic. Their support of the Anne Arundel County Food Bank’s partnership with the Anne Arundel County Department of Aging and Disabilities allowed over 40,000 boxes of fresh produce to be distributed to older adults and individuals with disabilities. In addition, ACDS’ Accessibility Modifications Program for Renters program provides financial assistance to homeowners and renters who need to make modifications to make their home more accessible.


To learn more about Disability Awareness Day 2021 or RSVP, please get in touch with us at (410) 222-4383 or by email at [email protected].

Anyone needing special accommodations must contact Vickie Martin at (410) 222-4382 or email at [email protected] at least seven (7) days before the event. TTY users, please call via Maryland Relay 711. All materials are available in an alternative format upon request.

This is a photo of the Anne Arundel County Department of Aging and Disabilities logo. It is an oval shape with a black border. The letters in the border are white and read “Anne Arundel County Department of Aging and Disabilities.” There is a coat of arms in the middle of the oval on a white background. There is a red crown with three layers of red, yellow, and white. The red layer contains four white circles. The yellow layer has five black diamonds; the white layer has five black dots. Underneath the crown is a shield with four squares of alternating designs of black and yellow, zig-zag shapes, and a red and white cross.

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