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Let's Celebrate!

Events and Proclamations

  • 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: https://polkschoolsfl.com/ese/dhh/

  • 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 jenny.sykes@lakelandgov.net

    Eddie Hall, Mickie Brown and Jenny Sykes

  • The ADA Anniversary - July 26, 2022

    July 26, 2022 marks the 32nd 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 18th 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, Jenny Sykes at (863) 834-8444 or jenny.sykes@lakelandgov.net.

    Proclamation Attendees


  • Lakeland Alliance for Accessibility Hears Explanation of Florida Avenue “Road Diet" - March 24, 2022

    On March 24th 2022 Cindy Glover, Community Engagement Coordinator for Community and Economic Development, met with the city’s Lakeland Alliance for Accessibility to discuss potential changes to Florida Avenue in the downtown area of Lakeland. 

    In attendance were citizens with disabilities and representatives from agencies which provide services for individuals with disabilities.  This included Lighthouse for the Blind and Low Vision, Peace River Center, Senior Connection Center, Noah’s Landing, the Hearing Loss Association, and the Agency for Persons with Disabilities.  Also present was Lisa Miller of the Polk County School Board.  Community members included advocates for individuals with mobility, sensory and developmental disabilities.

    Cindy Glover explained next steps in the process of determining if plans for the Road Diet will move forward.  If the decision to proceed with the plan is made it would involve taking Florida Avenue in the Dixieland area of Lakeland, from Ariana to Lime Street, from five lanes to three.

    Members of the Alliance were asked to share their thoughts on the proposed plan.  One member who is blind talked about feeling unsafe when walking in busy areas.  She showed everyone a scar that she had gotten some years ago, while walking in Tampa with her guide dog.  The extended mirror of a truck struck her in the forehead while she was on the sidewalk.  That experience has stayed with her and is the reason she doesn’t like to walk on Florida Avenue.  As she put it, “the sidewalks are too narrow, so it’s too risky.”  She added that she lives right off Florida Avenue in the Dixieland area, and would love to walk to restaurants and shops, but she doesn’t feel safe. 

    Sheryl Brown, President of Light House for the Blind and Low Vision, shared that since the Road Diet testing period began individuals with visual impairments have felt safer walking that stretch of Florida Avenue.  She added that narrow sidewalks and lack of sidewalks at any location make it difficult for individuals with visual impairments to move about in their communities safely.    

    Another member shared feedback about trying to navigate safely in her wheelchair.  This is particularly difficult in areas where sidewalks are narrow and curb ramps need repairing.    

    All members were asked to continue to share their feedback as discussions about the Road Diet move forward.  In addition, members were informed about an upcoming public meeting in Lakeland, hosted by FDOT: “Rail and Transit Regional Listening Sessions.”  These statewide sessions are about the overall future of rail and transit planning in Florida.  The sessions were created by FDOT to assure that statewide rail and transit planning supports community visions and needs.  This includes the needs of all individuals, regardless of ability.  Information on the sessions can be found at:  https://www.fdot.gov/rail/plans/railplan/listening-sessions    

    If you would like more information about the Lakeland Alliance for Accessibility, please contact the city’s ADA Specialist Jenny Sykes at (863) 834-8444 or jenny.sykes@lakelandgov.net.

  • Deaf Awareness Month - September 2021

    September Celebrates:woman and man using sign language 

    Deaf Awareness Month
    International Week of Deaf People 2021 (last full week of September)
    International Day of Sign Languages - September 23, 2021

    Resources to learn more:


  • White Cane Day - October 3, 2022

    In 1964 a joint resolution of Congress was signed into law, authorizing the President of the United States to proclaim October 15th of each year as "White Cane Safety Day." The White Cane Law was created to enhance safety and to recognize that the right to travel independently should be available to all, and cannot exclude those who use a white cane or guide dog. In 1999, Governor Jeb Bush of Florida officially recognized and proclaimed October 15th as White Cane Safety Day state-wide.

    The white cane, in addition to being a practical mobility tool, serves as a symbol of dignity, freedom, and independence for individuals who are Blind or visually impaired. On White Cane Safety Day, we also celebrate the contributions individuals with visual impairments have made to our country.

    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 Statute:

    “Section 316.1301, F.S. € 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.”

    White Cane Day