[StBernard] Jimmy Besson heightens disability awareness in St. Bernard and beyond: Chalmette Matters

Westley Annis westley at da-parish.com
Tue May 14 08:22:12 EDT 2013

Jimmy Besson heightens disability awareness in St. Bernard and beyond:
Chalmette Matters

Imagine that you are in a rush to make dinner. You drive up to your nearest
super market to get your necessities. The parking lot is packed. The only
spot that is open is the one with the blue and white lines. Tempting. Do you
fall for the "Oh, I'll just be in for a minute" phrase, or do you stop and
think about how much your not wanting to inconvenience your time affects
someone else?

Increasing regulation and awareness of handicap parking spaces is one of the
many battle's Jimmy's Kids founder, Jimmy Besson of Chalmette is fighting
for in St. Bernard. Thanks to his efforts, the St. Bernard Council
proclaimed May as Disability Awareness Month. Besson said that people in
this community are aware of the needs of the disabled, but they need to be
reminded of how diverse the term really is.

"Usually when people think of a disabled person, they think of a wheelchair
user," he said." But there are more invisible disabilities like autism or a
ADHD than we have ever had before."

Besson tackled issues outside the parish walls as well. On May 1, he, along
with the organization, Families Helping Families, attended the Louisiana
Citizens for Action Now Disability Rights Rally in Baton Rouge. At the
rally, people with developmental disabilities, their families and other
supporters, educated policymakers and the public on the issues that affect
them and support home and community-based services.

Besson spoke at the rally about the significant lack of slots for the Waiver

"Nine thousand six hundred Louisiana residents are on the roll, and we were
asking for 200 slots," he said. "The senators gave 225 slots. They have had
people on the waiting list for as long as 10 years to get on the Waiver
Program. It goes beyond just Medicaid and Medicare needs. It can help
individuals stay out of the institutional system by giving them home
services. 12 to 24 hour care or just help with daily tasks like groceries
and doctors appointments."

Besson said that the program is a big help for parents of children with
disabilities. "The program is excellent, it's just a matter of getting on
there," he said.

Going head and heart in to battle is nothing new for Besson. Born and raised
in St. Bernard, Besson was born with cerebral palsy. Despite his disability,
he attended Nunez Community College and graduated from the University of
South Alabama.

For more than 25 years Besson has run a group for mentally and physically
challenged children and adults, Jimmy's Kids. Besson had worked for many
handicapped groups and was disheartened that these groups placed regulations
on the types of disabilities they would care for. In response to this, he
started Jimmy's Kids.

"I saw a need where two different disabilities could come together, the
physically and developmentally challenged," he said. "They should all come
together and be in one group and help share their experiences and to learn
from each other."

Even though low funds have limited the group's activities, Besson said that
"disabilities come in all shapes and sizes. They can be long term, they can
be short term. It's a case by case situation per individual." But, most
importantly, he said, "A disability can be as big or as small as you make

Besson has accomplished every goal he has set, he said, and handicap parking
spots are next on the list. Community members should know that to park in a
handicap spot, you must have a hangtag or license plate with the handicap
emblem. So the next time you think of pulling through those blue and white
lines, remember, as Jimmy said, "It's there for a reason."

Becca Chapman writes about people and events in Chalmette. She can be
reached at 504-481-6516.

More information about the StBernard mailing list