Disabled, General or Disability unspecified
Adolescents/Youth (13-19 years)
We have named our program "Access to Independence (ATI)". ATI
addresses a range of circumstances and fulfills critical needs to assist people of any age and with any disability in increasing their independence and quality of life.
Disabled Resource Services (DRS) provides five core services mandated by the U.S. Department of Education's Rehabilitation Act of 1973. It also provides other services specific to Larimer and Jackson counties, our service area.
The five core services:
1) Independent Living Skills Training
2) Advocacy (self-advocacy/systems advocacy)
3) Information & Referral
4) Peer Mentoring and
5) Transitions (from institutions to independent living and from adolescence to adulthood).
Other services include application assistance with Social Security and other government programs. Also with securing subsidized housing. We provide training with assistive technology for people with vision loss or who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing. There is financial help to prevent/end homelessness. We offer a low cost medical equipment rental program. We also provide volunteers for things like yard work, sorting mail/paying bills and transportation to appointments.
DRS provides services that are consumer-controlled. People ("consumers") choose their services and what goals to pursue. The emphasis is on "working with" rather than "doing for". Staff are knowledgeable of social services, government assistance programs and community resources. They have expertise and skills to assist their consumers in addressing barriers to achieving their greatest potential.
Assistance begins with individuals contacting DRS. Staff, together with these consumers, create independent living plans. These plans identify short and long range goals and include a course of action to achieve these goals.
Through services received and guidance from staff, people with disabilities find solutions to manage challenging life circumstances, become self-advocates and live as empowered and contributing members of society. People's abilities, not their limitations, increasingly define them, making it possible to live more independent, productive and satisfying lives.
Our work is driven by a best practice method that uses a personalized approach in providing individualized services and support. It is especially effective since most professional staff are also disabled. (The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 mandates that at least 51% of DRS' staff and members of the board of directors be people with disabilities.) Working with staff who have disabilities fosters positive role modeling and a "if they can do it, I can do it" attitude.
There is no better way to demonstrate success than through the real life stories of the people we have assisted.
1) Beverly, a single parent of two kids with disabilities, was raped, beaten and robbed trying to protect her children. With the resulting brain injury and without a support system, they became homeless. She was then at risk of Child Protective Services (CPS) taking her children away.
DRS aided Beverly in identifying her options. We assisted her in making a plan and worked with the Department of Human Services and other agencies to protect the family's rights. We assisted with food, transportation, clothing, and medications.
After two years of living in a van and many visits to DRS, plans for taking control of her life began to come true. Key was getting Section 8 housing assistance. A safe and warm place to call home became a reality. Other successes followed, including having CPS close its case. The family is now thriving.
2) Linda had multiple orthopedic problems stemming from a terrible car accident that left her permanently disabled and in chronic pain. She came to DRS seeking assistance in learning what resources were available. She evaluated her options and chose goals that would help her regain control of her life and her independence. DRS provided assistance in many forms, including navigating the often confusing process for applying for Social Security Disability Insurance. Now, with a reliable source of money, food stamps and a support network made up of various agencies that would help her reach her goals, she is rebuilding her confidence and independence.
3) John was a senior citizen living in poverty in a dilapidated mobile home in a park in southern Fort Collins. His need for a wheelchair ramp was brought to our attention by his nurse. At the time John could walk a few steps at a time but was becoming increasingly reliant on a wheelchair for his mobility. His respiration was deteriorating and he became dependent on oxygen to help him breath. His nurse said that John would soon lose the ability to walk down his steps, which meant that he'd soon lose his access to the outside world.
Since his health forced him to retire, he did not have the money to have a ramp built.
He was at great risk for falling while trying to climb up or down the stairs to his mobile home because his steps were actually patio tiles loosely stacked into the shape of steps. They are very unstable and literally were an accident waiting to happen. His nurse was very worried about the safety of anyone coming or going from the mobile home, especially John because of his weakened state. A fall could have caused a cascade of complications that could have resulted in very serious consequences.
DRS spearheaded the effort to have a ramp built. DRS provided the funds for materials. Home Depot provided the materials at cost and Volunteers of America provided the labor. In a matter of just days, John had regained his independence and access to the outside world.
Reinforcing those stories are the results of our annual survey of the people we have served. The information gathered is how we measure our impact relative to being independent and developing self-empowerment skills. The feedback, while subjective, is never the less a reliable measurement given the consumer-directed service model used by DRS as a center for independent living. It identifies how people view progress on their journeys toward independence and having more control over their lives as self-advocates.
Our most recent survey results: Of those people completing consumer surveys, 94% said staff helped them become more independent and in control of their lives, 96% said DRS meet their needs and were satisfied with the services they received, and 95% said that they have learned to set their own goals, a principal of independent living centers.