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Let's Celebrate!

Events and Proclamations

  • White Cane Day - October 1, 2023

    On October 15th of each year, the National Federation of the Blind celebrates White Cane Awareness Day.  The white canes used by blind people are an essential tool that allows freedom of movement to travel from place to place such as work, school, and around communities.

    The National Federation of the Blind is continuously working toward securing full integration, equality, independence, acceptance, and respect for all blind Americans.  This advocacy work centers on issues related to education, employment, transportation, voting, and civil rights.  The National Federal of the Blind is the oldest and largest nationwide organization of blind Americans, providing expert advice to blind people, their families, agencies for the blind, corporations, and the government.

    Please keep in mind that when you see a person using a white cane, it is essentially an extension of their arms and hands to assess environmental situations and barriers.  The white cane helps blind persons avoid obstacles, find steps and curbs, locate and step over cracks or uneven sidewalks, find doorways, as well as getting into cars and others forms of transportation.  When you see a blind person using a white cane, please remember the cane is a tool.  These is no reason to shout out warnings or try to physically steer persons who are blind.  Please use the following link to learn more about rules of courtesy when working with persons who are blind.

    Links:  Courtesy Rules of Blindness | National Federation of the Blind (nfb.org)

    The City of Lakeland invites you to learn more about White Cane Awareness Day.  Please visit the website for the National Federation of the Blind at nfb@nfb.org or call them by dialing 410-659-9314.

    Please join the City of Lakeland in making a commitment to use appropriate safety measures when driving near an individual using a white cane or guide dog.

    Florida Statutes, Section 316.1301 - Whenever a pedestrian is crossing, or attempting to cross, a public street or highway, guided by a guide dog or carrying, in a raised or extended position, a cane or walking stick which is white in color, or white tipped with red, the driver of every vehicle approaching the intersection or place where the pedestrian is attempting to cross, shall bring his or her vehicle to a full stop before arriving at such intersection or place of crossing and, before proceeding, shall take such precautions as may be necessary to avoid injuring such pedestrian.”

  • 50th Anniversary of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 - September 26, 2023

    Section 504 at 50!

    The 50th Anniversary of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, is recognized and celebrated on September 26, 2023.  History shows that before the Americans with Disability Act (ADA), there was Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.  This act was signed into law to require access to programs and activities which are funded by federal agencies and to federal employment.  It is also important to note that over the years there have been many amendments to the Rehabilitation Act that strengthened the requirements for accessibility.  Particularly, Section 508 requires access to information and communication technology and its revised standards as updated on January 18, 2017, addresses technologies such as computers, websites, software, digital documents, and electronic kiosks.  These updated requirements ensure access to information and communication technology is compatible with the assistive technology used by people with disabilities.

    Office of Disability Employment Policy – Rehabilitation Act at 50


  • Deaf Awareness Month - September 2023

    Deaf Awareness Month 2023 and 11 Ways You Can Celebrate It:  Deaf Awareness Month 2023 (11 Ways You Can Celebrate It) - All Deaf

    September 25th – 29th, 2023 – International Week of Deaf People (last week of September) International Week of Deaf People 2023 - WFD (wfdeaf.org)

    September 23, 2023 – International Day of Sign Languages:  International Week of Deaf People 2023 - WFD (wfdeaf.org)

    American Sign Language Dictionary:  American Sign Language ASL Dictionary (signasl.org)

    Signing Savvy:  Signing Savvy | ASL Sign Language Video Dictionary

  • The ADA Anniversary - July 26, 2023

    July 26, 2023 marks the 33rd Anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The City of Lakeland recognizes this historical event by issuing an annual proclamation commemorating the date as “Americans with Disabilities Act Day.”

    On July 17th Mayor Mutz presented the proclamation to the Lakeland Alliance for Accessibility.  The Alliance is made up of individuals who experience disabilities and representatives from agencies that provide services for individuals with disabilities.  The Alliance was formed to aid in the City’s goal to become as Accessible as possible, for as many people as possible, regardless of ability.   

    The ADA is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all facilities that are open to the public. The purpose of the law is to make sure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else.

    It is estimated that 1 in 4 adults in the U.S. experiences disabilities.  In addition, it is estimated that by 2029, more than 20% of the U.S. population will be over 65 and will need age-friendly environments.  If we add children with disabilities to the statistics, it’s clear that all of us know, or will know, family, friends, neighbors and others who have specific “Access and Functional Needs” (AFN).   

    As we recognize this year’s anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act, it is rewarding to see the ongoing work the City is doing to improve Accessibility for all.  The long-term goal is “Universal Access.”

    Universal Access is about planning and designing facilities, products and services to be accessible to the greatest number of people possible, regardless of ability. To assist the City in this goal, we are privileged to have on our Alliance members who have spent their lives, personally and professionally, advocating for individuals with disabilities.  We are grateful to have their guidance as we strive for equal access for all.

    If you would like to learn more about the Lakeland Alliance for Accessibility and the work the City is doing to improve Accessibility, contact the City’s ADA Specialist at (863) 834-8444.

    ADA Anniversary Proclamation Meeting Attendees



  • Deaf History Month - April 2023

    City Recognizes Deaf History Month 2023

    On April 17, 2023 students of Polk County’s Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing Program based at Lakeland High School attended the City Commissioner’s meeting.  Over twenty students, along with their teacher Kathy Sterwerf-Jackson and other LHS staff, were on hand to accept the City’s first Deaf History Month proclamation.  Student Kellie Swanson was chosen to accept the proclamation.

    Kellie is the president of the Lakeland High School SignNaughts student club (formerly called the Deaf Culture Club).  Her first language is American Sign Language (ASL).  Kellie is an honor student participating in the National Honor Society and she is a member of the LHS Marching Band Color Guard Team.  Kellie was recently offered academic scholarships to two world-class universities, Gallaudet University in Washington DC and Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, New York.  She is a great example of the students enrolled in the Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing Program, and of the commitment of their teacher Kathy Sterwerf-Jackson.

    The day after the event, Kathy Sterwerf-Jackson shared with the City that students of the Deaf cluster programs at Oscar J Pope Elementary and Southwest Middle School were streaming the program live in their classrooms.  She said that, “the younger kids cheered when Kellie finished her speech!”

    Below is an excerpt from Kellie Swanson’s speech:

    Good Morning Mayor Mutz, City Manager Shawn Sherrouse, ADA Specialist Jenny Sykes, Lakeland Alliance for Accessibility, and City Commissioners! Thank you for inviting us to the very first Deaf proclamation for our community! We are honored to be here to represent our school and the Deaf youth. We are proud to be Deaf and recognize the great importance of honoring the month of April as Deaf History Month.

    This proclamation allows us to bring awareness to others about our beautiful language, American Sign Language, and our Deaf culture. We are not different. We are the same as others, except for our hearing loss. Deaf people often struggle with access to communication, education, fair employment and equal rights. Deaf History Month allows our community to shine a light on our uniqueness, our contributions to community, and our needs.

    Sharing a bit of Deaf History during this time also affords us the opportunity to teach others about the many events that have impacted us throughout time such as; 1988’s appointment of the first Deaf President of Gallaudet University, the 1880 Milan Conference where a committee of educators banned the use of sign language, which caused decades of language deprivation for Deaf people, and even the most recent events impacting the war-torn Deaf community in the Ukraine.

    These monumental events in our history, while burdensome, have empowered us and others in establishing better opportunities and have allowed us to define our Civil Rights and establish better access through laws such as the Rehabilitation Act: Section 508, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and the Federal Communications Act. These laws have been powerful in leveling equity for the Deaf Community.  We can now add the City of Lakeland and this newly established proclamation for the Deaf Community as a chance to further advance our community, and to further educate people on the importance of education, accessibility, and the contributions that Deaf people can make within the community in which we live.   

    Thank you once again to everyone involved for recognizing us. It is our hope that we continue to collaborate, learn, and live in unity!  And in closing, as George Veditz said in 1913, “As long as we have Deaf people on Earth, we will have signs.”   


    If you would like to watch the clip of the Deaf History Month proclamation being accepted, use this link: https://vimeo.com/818719319/ef81790d40


    If you would like to watch the students and staff reactions to the proclamation, use this link https://vimeo.com/818869139/0c24c2f470


    If you would like to learn more about Polk County’s Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing Program, visit: Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing Program - Polk County Public Schools (polkschoolsfl.com)


  • Fifth Annual Gulf Coast Safe Streets Summit - November 3, 2022

    ADA/Accessibility Information Booth Big Success at Fifth Annual Gulf Coast Safe Streets Summit

    On November 3, 2022 close to two hundred people participated in the Gulf Coast Safe Streets Summit at RP Funding Center.  The event brought together national speakers, public officials, and technical staff in the transportation field.  It also included city planners and other professionals involved in designing Public Rights-of-Way and transportation infrastructure throughout Florida.  The goal of the event was to raise awareness about the need to implement safe and equitable transportation facilities and routes for all users. 

    The ADA/Accessibility information booth got a lot of attention.  The City’s ADA Specialist Jenny Sykes, Mickie Brown of the Lakeland Alliance for Accessibility and co-founder of Noah’s Landing were joined by Eddie Hall, founder of Expedite Life.  Throughout the event participants stopped by the booth to ask questions about Accessibility requirements, obtain reference material and to hear accounts about individuals with disabilities who face obstacles in navigating their communities.

    The feedback from participants including comments such as, “I never knew there were so many state and federal Accessibility requirements,” and, “From now on, we will put more emphasis on Accessibility when planning new projects.” 

    If you would like to learn more about transportation planning and Accessibility, please go to the ADA page of the City’s website and use the “Planning for Accessibility” links:  https://www.lakelandgov.net/departments/public-works/ada-accessibility/ 

    If you would like to share your feedback about Accessibility in Lakeland, call or email the City’s ADA Specialist: Phone (863) 834-8444 Email ADASpecialist@lakelandgov.net

    Eddie Hall, Mickie Brown and Jenny Sykes