ALPHARETTA, Ga. — “Hey Lindsey!” “What’s up Maddy? You ready to go?”
Lindsey Turner is picking up his employee Maddy. While the casual observer might just see two people leaving a house and getting into a car, this is actually what a life left turn looks like.
Lindsey Turner would have told you his life was going in a perfectly great direction as a happily married man earning a great living in the software industry. But then he was invited to a little league game for special needs kids.
“I was with a little guy named Brent and we just hung out and played and he loved my car keys and we just had a great time together.”
And that was it. Eight years ago at that special needs baseball game, something clicked inside Turner. He saw the way the world reacted to special needs kids and their families..he decided he needed to change that.
“People don’t know how to respond. We get so caught up in this uncomfortableness or you get that knot in your stomach.”
He founded his own company called Special Needs Communities. In a series of videos, some with real life scenarios, Turner educates people and companies how to treat those with special needs. After passing a quiz, companies are special needs certified and get listed on the website, along with other companies that are recommended by families.
Turner says, “Right now there are over a hundred businesses that are certified on our website. The mission of this is to provide more places for families to go to, with special needs and disabilities. (In) the state of Georgia, we’re up to 7 different cities – Milton, Alpharetta, Johns creek, Hiram, Woodstock, Decatur.
TURNER’S EIGHT THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT INTERACTING WITH THOSE WITH SPECIAL NEEDS:
1)Use “People First Language”, this means you put the person before the disability.
a.You would say “An individual with special needs.” not “A special needs individual.”
2)When you see an individual with a special need or disability please interact with them. It is 100% acceptable to smile and say hello to someone with a special need or disability.
3)If you see someone using a wheelchair or someone pushing someone in a wheelchair and they are approaching a door, please offer to open the door for them.
4)If you offer someone with a special need or disability assistance and they let you know they do not need any, please do not continue to ask them.
5)If you meet someone who uses a wheelchair, be aware of your proximity to them. You do not need to stand closer to someone using a wheelchair than you would if you were talking to someone who was not using a wheel chair.
6)Do not predetermine an individual’s intelligence based on whether or not they have a special need or disability.
7)If you encounter someone who is accompanied by a service animal, please understand this animal is working and you should not pet, feed or make noises at the animal.
8)Never use the terms retarded, slow or short bus! Whether you are speaking directly to someone with a special need or disability or you are talking about someone with a special need or disability or you are just having casual conversations with your friends, these terms are harmful and hateful and should never be used.
Turner’s paid intern for the summer is Maddy, a 19 year old college bound freshman who has cerebral palsy. Together, they make the rounds, visiting their clients at the city of Milton, at the George Center for Music Therapy, at The Peach and the Porkchop Restaurant, where owner Chuck Staley says they’re, “Super excited about it. We have several regular customers who have special needs kids. (It) really opens your eyes to just how many people it affects.”
Special Needs Communities is a for profit business, and some people have questioned Turner because it’s not a non profit.
“I had someone tell me it was a profit enterprise and my response was ‘I’ve cleaned out a 401k, half my savings, and I have’t taken a paycheck for over a year. As a profit enterprise, I’ve done the wrong thing.”
But there was that baseball game 8 years ago. Turner’s goals are big — he wants to live in a world where Special Needs Certified isn’t needed.
“If you really think about it, it’s pretty ridiculous that we need a business called Special Needs Certified to teach people how to treat others with a disability. The end goal is to put myself out of business.”
By Jaye Watson
Special Needs Communities is a social enterprise focused on uniting communities and creating environments where everyone, regardless of their abilities, is treated with love and acceptance.
For additional information on the Special Needs Communities, please visit www.specialneedscommunities.com.
Media Representatives: To learn more about Special Needs Communities, email firstname.lastname@example.org