Paraquad’s Marketing and Public Relations department is available to answer questions from the media or to schedule interviews with Paraquad staff and participants. Some commonly requested information is below. We can also provide file video and high-resolution images upon request. Additionally, we can direct media to other resources and community partners that might be able to provide relevant information for stories and reports.
Paraquad Facts and Figures
- Mission: To empower people with disabilities to increase their independence through choice and opportunity.
- Vision: Paraquad will be the leader in advancing the independent living philosophy. We envision an integrated community in which people with disabilities are valued and participate in all aspects of society.
- Founded in 1970 by Max Starkloff.
- One of the first 10 Centers for Independent Living in the United States. A Center for Independent Living (CIL) provides the core services of information and referral, peer support, independent living skills training, transition and public policy and advocacy for people with all types of disabilities.
- With Paraquad’s guidance, the first curb cuts were completed in St. Louis in 1972. Five years later, St. Louis became the first city in the U.S. to have lift-equipped public transit buses.
- More than 50 percent of our board of directors and staff are people with disabilities, reflecting the independent living philosophy of choice and empowerment.
- Primary service area includes St. Louis and St. Louis County.
- Launched AccessibleSTL in 2015 as a partnership between the organization and St. Louis businesses, organizations and government entities to create a more inclusive, accessible city.
- Announced in January 2016 construction of a new 22,000-square-foot Accessible Health and Wellness Center with a total project cost of $3.3 million.
- Paraquad serves nearly 2,600 people annually through programs and services that address all types of disabilities:
- Personal care assistance to support independent living
- Assistance transitioning from homelessness or an institution to independent living
- Modifications to make a home more accessible
- Policy advocacy at local, state and federal level
- Independent living skills training
- Health and wellness services, including an accessible fitness facility
- Employment program
- Continuing and supported education services
- Repair and reutilization services of wheelchairs and other assistive devices
- Deaf Way Interpreting Services
- Advocacy for children with disabilities
- Operating budget: $20.8 million in Fiscal Year 2016.
About Aimee Wehmeier
Aimee Wehmeier is just the third executive director and CEO in Paraquad’s 46-year history. She continues the agency’s excellent tradition of passionate leadership to promote opportunity and independence for people with disabilities.
At Paraquad, Wehmeier directs eight main program areas and more than 100 employees. The agency, which is one of the first non-residential Centers for Independent Living (CIL) in the country, annually serves nearly 2,600 people with all types of disabilities. She is responsible for the strategic vision of the agency, as well as for increasing its profile and visibility.
Wehmeier joined Paraquad after serving in the same role at Services for Independent Living (SIL) — the Columbia, Mo., equivalent of Paraquad — for seven years. There, she helped to lead a major turnaround of an agency that was struggling with organizational challenges, funding and low visibility. Prior to that, Wehmeier advanced through several positions at State Farm Insurance in Columbia, Mo. She received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Missouri and her Master of Business Administration from William Woods University.
Wehmeier, who has muscular dystrophy, uses a power wheelchair and has never walked. Her left hand has minimal function, and her right hand can lift items no heavier than six ounces. She believes passionately and personally in the value of the services that Paraquad provides, as they have been instrumental in her own independence.
Wehmeier’s leadership skills have been recognized across the state. She recently completed her second term as president of the Missouri Centers for Independent Living (MOCIL). In 2010, Wehmeier was a recipient of the Governor’s Council on Disability’s Inclusion Award. She was also appointed by Gov. Jay Nixon to serve on the Missouri State Rehabilitation Council.
Words with Dignity
When you use Words with Dignity, you encourage equality for everyone. If you’re in doubt, use people first language (e.g., “a person with a disability”; not “a disabled person”).
Preferred terms to use when discussing disabilities
- Blind (no visual capability)
- Legally blind, low vision (some visual capability)
- Hearing loss, Hard of Hearing (some hearing capability)
- Hemiplegia (paralysis of one side of the body)
- Paraplegia (loss of function in the lower body only)
- Quadriplegia (paralysis of both arms and legs)
- Residual limb (post-amputation of a limp)
- Make reference to the person first, then the disability. Say “a person with a disability” rather than “a disabled person.”
- Avoid the word “handicapped” in any use. The word comes from the image of a person standing on the corner with a cap in hand begging for money. People with disabilities do not want to be the recipients of charity or pity. They want to participate equally with the rest of the community. A disability is a functional limitation that interferes with a person’s ability to walk, hear, talk, learn, etc.
- If the disability isn’t relevant to the story or conversation, don’t mention it.
- Remember: A person who has a disability isn’t necessarily chronically sick or unhealthy. He or she is often just disabled.
- A person is not a condition, so avoid describing a person as such. Don’t present someone as “an epileptic” or “a post polio.” Instead, say “a person with epilepsy” or “a person who has had polio.”
- Don’t feel obligated to act as a caregiver to people with disabilities. Offer assistance, but wait until your offer is accepted before you help. Listen to any instructions the person may have.
- Leaning on a person’s wheelchair is similar to leaning or hanging on a person. it is considered annoying and rude. The chair is part of one’s personal body space. Don’t hang on it.
- Share the same social courtesies with people with disabilities that you would share with someone else. If you shake hands with people you meet, offer your hand to everyone you meet, regardless of disability. If the person is unable to shake your hand, he or she will tell you.
- When offering assistance to a person with a visual impairment, allow that person to take your arm. This will enable you to guide, rather than propel or lead the person. Use specific directions, such as “left in 100 feet” or “right in two yards” when directing a person with a visual impairment.
- When planning events that involve persons with disabilities, consider their needs before choosing a location. Even if people with disabilities will not attend, select an accessible spot. You wouldn’t think of holding an event where other minorities could not attend, so don’t exclude people with disabilities.
- When speaking about people with disabilities, emphasize achievements, abilities and individual qualities. Portray them as they are in real life: parents, employees, business owners, etc.
- When talking to a person who has a physical disability or a developmental disability, speak directly to that person. Don’t speak to that person through a companion or refer to him or her in the third person while in his or her presence. For people who communicate through sign language, speak to them, not to the interpreter.
- Relax. Don’t be embarrassed if you use common expressions such as “see you later” or “gotta run.”
- To get the attention of a person who has a hearing loss, tap them on the shoulder or wave. Look directly at the person and speak clearly, slowly and expressively to establish if they read lips. Not all people with hearing loss can read lips. Those who do rely on facial expressions and body language for understanding. Stay in the light and keep food, hands and other objects away from your mouth. Shouting won’t help; written notes will. Use an interpreter if possible.
- When talking to a person in a wheelchair for more than a few minutes, place yourself at eye level with that person. This will spare both of you a sore neck.
- When greeting a person with a severe loss of vision, always identify yourself and others. For example, say, “On my right is John Smith.” Remember to identify persons to whom you are speaking. Speak in a normal tone of voice and indicate when the conversation is over. Let them know when you move from one place to another.
If you are not a member of the media, contact Paraquad’s Information and Referral Department.