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Disability Rights Ohio elects Bauer

Dr. Bill Bauer has been elected president of the board of directors for the nonprofit Disability Rights Ohio.

Kerstin Sjoberg, executive director of Disability Rights Ohio, said the agency is a statewide advocacy nonprofit. She said the group’s mission is to advocate for the human, civil and legal rights of people with disabilities in the state.

“We are governed by a board of directors, we have 15 members, and the majority of our board are people with disabilities, like our board president, Bill Bauer,” said Sjoberg.

Bauer said he was born with Bilateral Sensorineutal Hearing Loss. Bilateral SNHL affects both ears and can range from mild hearing loss to complete hearing loss.

“Because of this hearing loss, I wanted to be able to give back to the disability community in some way, even as a young person,” said Bauer.

Bauer was born and raised in Marietta. He has been a school teacher, principal and interim superintendent. Bauer has an undergrad degree in special education from Ohio University. He said his degree focuses on several cognate areas and certifications or licensures including emotional disturbance; mild to severe intellectual disabilities; learning disabilities; autism; and physical, orthopedic and other health impairments. He went on to earn a degree in school administration.

He later became interested in the psycho-social aspect of disability, such as mental health and mental illnesses.

He also earned a master’s degree in counseling and a Ph.D. in rehabilitation services from Ohio State University.

Bauer said he attributes his work with mental illnesses to his son, Grant Bauer, who died Sept. 5, 2014, from suicide. Bauer said he has “accurate empathy” with people who have mental illnesses.

“My passion for helping others with mental illnesses, suicide prevention, is stronger because of my lived experience with my son,” said Bauer.

He now works part-time at Safe Harbor Mental Health.

Bauer is a nationally certified rehabilitation counselor as well as a licensed professional counselor in West Virginia and Ohio.

“I’ve been an advocate for people with disabilities for as long as I can remember,” he said.

Bauer has served on the Disability Rights Ohio board, where he was a founding member, been chair of the Ohio Rehabilitation Services Commission (now Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities), and is a past chair of the Ohio State Advisory Panel for Exceptional Children and the State Council for Exceptional Children.

Bauer said in his spare time he has written a 12-book series for children titled “It’s Okay!” The series is about children with different disabilities such as autism, cerebral palsy, diabetes, depression, and hearing loss, among others. He said he uses these books to speak on behalf of children with disabilities, to remove the stigma from their disabilities.

“With those books, I try to promote inclusion, so if there’s a person with a disability who is included into a regular classroom, instead of having kids staring at them or instead of having kids wonder what is going on, it opens up the avenue by which a child with disability may talk more about themselves,” said Bauer.

Sjoberg said Bauer has been a lifelong advocate for disability rights, and brings creativity, passion, and an amazing amount of knowledge to the Disability Rights Ohio board.

“We’re excited to have him as our president, and leader for the next year on our board,” said Sjoberg.

She said he helped the nonprofit launch its first fundraiser in the Marietta area last year. The organization partnered with the Marietta High School crew team to host a duck derby.

“I’m humbled to be working with a team of people that have Ohioan Citizens with disabilities on the board,” said Bauer.

He said the board members all have great empathy for people with disabilities, and that their hearts and minds are in the right place.

“As a chair of the Disability Rights of Ohio, we’re responsible for the protection and advocacy for Ohio’s 1.6 million people with disabilities,” said Bauer.

He said the nonprofit agency receives federal funding, and uses that funding to make sure people with disabilities are treated as equals to their non-disabled peers.

“It’s ingrained in my persona to fight for people with disabilities — all of them,” said Bauer. “If I see somebody that’s being discriminated against, I feel for them.”

James Dobbs can be reached at jdobbs@newsandsentinel.com.

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