People are people, and when someone, like Sandpoint Police Chief Corey Coon and City Administrator Jennifer Stapleton, step up to ensure that is the case, they deserve to be recognized, said Mark Leeper, executive director of Disability Action Center NW.
In recognition of the Sandpoint Police Department’s efforts to help disabled veteran William “Bill” Yeager get a guide dog, Leeper presented the department with the 2016 Tom McTevia Memorial Award on July 29th at the ADA Celebration Picnic.
“The award is just simply aimed at someone who removes barriers because our whole philosophy is folks are folks and communities are communities,” Leeper said. “We all live here so when there’s a barrier that doesn’t have to be there for a person with a disability to equally participate then it ought to be removed. When somebody jumps to it like they did, then wow.”
Leeper said the group had heard about the issue and figured it would be a tough issue to resolve.
“But boy when it was brought up to the police department, they were, ‘No that shouldn’t be happening, not here. That can’t happen, we have laws against that.”
Instead of fighting to get the city involved, Leeper said the city lead the charge, working to put an end to unleashed dogs in Yeager’s neighborhood, going door to door to talk to neighbors to educate them on the problem and launching an animal control enforcement program.
“They just stepped up and there was no sense of coercion or anything like that,” Leeper said. “It was just that’s the way it should be. We care about that stuff. It was just neat to see.
Leeper said he hates to use the word surprised in connection with the city’s immediate and proactive response to address the situation. “It’s what we would have hoped for but the speed and the friendliness and the infinite concern with which they responded was a little bit, I hate to use the word surprised, but it certainly was not totally expected,” he added.
The center is about community and the purpose of the award is to remind people that the issue is important and the right thing is worth recognizing, Leeper said. As a result of the city’s actions, Yeager recently was advised by Leader Dogs for the Blind in Rochester Hills, Mich., that he will receive a guide dog in August or September.