Venice, Fla. Wins National Organization on Disability's Accessible America Award for Disability-Friendly Community

WASHINGTON, Feb. 13 /U.S. Newswire/ -- The National Organization on Disability (N.O.D.) announced today that Venice, Fla. is the winner of the first annual Accessible America contest. The Gulf Coast town will receive an award of $25,000, which will be presented to Mayor Dean Calamaras and then used to further the inclusion of people with disabilities in community life.

Venice's application, which details community efforts to welcome, include, and be accessible to people with disabilities, surpassed 64 other strong entries from around the nation. The contest was open to all U.S. cities and towns. Each entry was endorsed by the mayor and submitted with a detailed description of community-wide efforts to be "disability-friendly." Applications came from cities with total populations ranging from 500 people to several million. The contest, administered by N.O.D.'s Community Partnership Program, is sponsored by a generous grant from UPS.

Venice's entry detailed outstanding efforts that the community has made to be fully accessible, which have made it a role model for other communities. Efforts include the City of Venice Accessibility Advisory Committee, structural improvements to make community facilities and parks accessible, a collaborative employment initiative, and the introduction of Braille and large-print ballots for local elections. Venice's entry detailed proactive efforts in eight major life areas where N.O.D., through surveys it commissions by the Harris Poll, has identified participation gaps that impact people with disabilities: education, employment, community involvement, transportation, politics and voting, health care, access to religious worship, and technology.

"Venice is a unique community of people who genuinely care about each other-a community that strives to be the best it can be," Mayor Dean Calamaras wrote in the city's application. A higher than average percentage of Venice's residents have disabilities, reflecting the area's large senior population. The city demonstrated in its application that it has made efforts and committed to partner with and respect the rights of these citizens.

"Venice is an inspiration for all communities in America," said N.O.D. President Alan A. Reich. "It is gratifying to see a city where people with and without disabilities are working together to make their community better for everyone. It was also exciting to hear about all the great programs that localities nationwide have implemented. Venice is the winner, but we're also very pleased that there were many strong runners up in this contest."

For information about the Accessible America competition, and how communities can join N.O.D.'s Community Partnership Program, contact Director Nancy Starnes at 202-293-5960. The deadline for next year's competition will be Dec. 31, 2002.

The National Organization on Disability, celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2002, promotes the full and equal participation and contribution of America's 54 million men, women and children with disabilities in all aspects of life. For more information about N.O.D.'s programs, visit

Contact: Brewster Thackeray of the National Organization on Disability, 202-955-6327; E-mail: Thackeray(At)