GREENSBURG – Special awards were recently presented to Westport residents Trent and Brian Jones in honor of their parents, pioneers of accessibility and understanding of people living with disabilities in Decatur County.
Joy and Harold Jones worked tirelessly through their lives to champion the rights of the disabled, creating a better life for their own son, Trent, who was born with intellectual disabilities.
Having a Down Syndrome child in the 1950s meant there was very little assistance for the child’s parents. Harold and Joy Jones learned early on that if Trent was going to reach his maximum potential he was going to need resources that weren’t yet available.
A teacher by trade, Joy took it upon herself to find ways to ensure Trent received a good education despite his perceived handicap.
Trent began attending classes half a day, three times a week at a private school in Shelbyville. Joy drove her son twice each week, while Trent rode with his grandfather for the third class. It was here that Trent learned some of the basics of his education such as colors and the alphabet.
In time, the Jones family partnered with other Decatur County residents to set up a school located in what is now Arbor Grove Village.
The small school consisted of eight special needs students and helped pioneer the way for special education programs throughout the community.
Other programs followed until Trent found his way into special education studies at Sandcreek.
Trent began attending South Decatur Elementary School at the age of about 16. After his time at SDES ended nearly two years later, Harold and Joy decided that junior high wasn’t the place for their son, so Trent’s school studies ended there. In all, he’d attended five different schools in 10 years.
In the 1970s, Harold and Joy helped form a workshop for individuals with disabilities that was located at the Decatur County 4-H Fairgrounds. The group affiliated itself with local businesses at the time and allowed individuals with a variety of impairments to hold jobs, similarl to how Developmental Services, Inc. (DSI) functions today.
Harold and Joy both also served in various capacities with the ARC of Decatur County, another local organization dedicated to bringing out the best in those with special needs.
Joy didn’t like hearing professionals tell her that there was nothing they could do for her child, that she should just take him home and make him comfortable, according to Special Olympics Coordinator Jenny Maddux.
“So, she and Harold started creating opportunities for individuals with disabilities that they’d never had in Decatur County,” Maddux said. “And as a teacher herself, she looked first at the education piece of the puzzle and then she helped develop what is now the sheltered workshop at Developmental Services (DSI).”
That first workshop was in the Community Building at the fairgrounds.
“Trent was the first client there. Eventually, DSI was able to add more and more clients, until they moved into their own building on Michigan Avenue,” Maddux explained. “We regard Joy and Harold as the ones responsible for all the amazing opportunities that individuals with disabilities have in Decatur County. It was all started by them. They were also instrumental in growing what is now the ARC of Indiana. Were it not for Joy and Harold’s foresight back in the ‘60s and their undying love and devotion to the disabled in our communities, they might not have a chance to live the enriched lives they enjoy today.”