What is the New Disability Narrative?

Corporate Growth and the New Disability Narrative

As a new decade dawns and companies everywhere consider their corporate strategy, inclusion and diversity rise to the fore as a critical growth factor throughout the organization. Strategies like the New Disability Narrative are proving to be a vital component in guiding the way forward.

Though it’s less of a framework and more of a story (it is a narrative, after all), the new disability narrative takes its cue from the daily experiences of disabled individuals.

The old narrative, while not terrible, focused mostly on providing jobs for disabled people, period. The new approach recognizes that there’s more to it than job creation. To ensure success from every standpoint, we need to go deeper, to truly understand the challenges faced by disabled persons before we assimilate and adapt these lessons into the corporate culture.

A New Take on Business Intelligence

Today’s companies have their hands full. Meeting technological challenges and other initiatives of a tactical nature get a lot of screen time, but culture is a primary concern as well.

The job market is highly competitive, so providing a desirable workplace is doubly important. Today, this means much more than a decent salary and benefits. Employers need to consider the needs of their workforce on the same level as those of the organization.

From both standpoints, diversity and inclusion are essential. A diverse team might include individuals from different racial and ethnic backgrounds, different genders, sexual orientations, religions, and individuals with disabilities, each contributing a unique perspective that supports company growth and brand approval.

In fact, there are numerous studies to support the idea that diverse teams that include disabled persons tend to innovate more, have a higher net worth, and appeal to a broader audience segment.

Global strategists at Accenture found that companies they consider to be Disability Inclusion Champions perform better financially. Such companies have, according to their report, 28 percent higher revenues and 30 percent higher profit margins than other companies – a significant finding no matter how you look at it.

When you consider that almost one in five Americans currently live with a disability, putting the new narrative into action is a unique opportunity to connect with a consumer market that is ready to embrace companies that support their goals, ideals, and dreams.

How ILA Supports the New Disability Narrative

Independent Living Association’s person-centered services are dedicated to fostering increased independence and community integration while guiding and supporting families along a challenging path. We play an essential role in preparing Individuals for employment, supporting them with the tools and confidence they need to be productive at work and fulfilled in their daily lives.

Critical diversity and inclusion strategies like the New Disability Narrative are a vital component of corporate as well as personal growth, but taking an inclusive approach is just the beginning. With the new narrative as a catalyst, companies stand to gain much across multiple areas of an organization. Not the least of these is the ability to offer a life of dignity and meaning to disabled individuals in their employ.

If you would like to learn more about ILA and how you can support our Individuals preparing for future employment, visit us today!

Making Each Day Meaningful

New Flagship ILA Day Habilitation Hub Now Open!

The Independent Living Association (ILA) is proud to announce the opening of their flagship Day Hab “hub” at 1435 Union Street, Brooklyn, New York.
To celebrate this auspicious occasion, a festive Open House event was held on Nov.15 and attended by Day Hab participants, family members and ILA staff. The hub itself occupies an entire floor of an elegant mansion that was an elementary school in the past and has been refurbished by ILA.

Nicole Sawyers, the Day Program Coordinator, says this venue and the unique programs offered celebrates how far ILA has come in its non traditional and effective structure of activities. “This is not the average Day Hab”, she proudly says. “We not only want to increase the participation at this hub, but also to bring these ideas to our Staten Island facility…and then, who knows where else”. Currently, there are about 22 women and men in the program. All have aged out of the high school system of support for the developmentally and intellectually disabled and are living either in ILA group homes or privately in the community. Transportation is provided and the facility is opened Monday to Friday.

Participants in this community based program arrive at about 9:30 AM. There is yoga and stretching exercises and then each individual goes out into the community to participate in various activities. There are those who volunteer at a local soup kitchen or work with City Meals to deliver meals to the needy. There is work at a local flower shop and some are in a cleaning crew helping out at a local elementary school. All then return to the hub for lunch and to participate in their chosen activities. Activities could include bingo, knitting, painting, music, computer training as well as other therapeutic crafts. There is a dance troupe and a dominos team being formed. ILA’s vision is to embrace the concept of individual choice for each person.

The Direct Support Professionals who work here are dedicated to make each day meaningful and enjoyable always with the aim of integration into the community. The creative staff organizes monthly talent shows and is planning a fun filled, “black and white” dressy New Year’s Eve event. At least one special event is planned for each month.

The families of participants have also embraced the ILA Day Hab. They see their loved ones in a safe, trusting environment, not there just to pass the time of day, but to be active, productive, and happy.

To learn more about the new day habilitation hub and ILA, please contact Nicole Sawyers at (718) 852-2000

Supporting Persons with Developmental Disabilities During the Holiday Season

The holiday season is magical in many ways. However, it can also be very stressful, especially for individuals with developmental disabilities. 

There is so much stimulation, so many new things to look at and often, there are deviations in daily routines that can become a significant source of anxiety. Visits from unfamiliar extended family members, schedule changes, and unexpected events can bring about changes in behavior and attitude. 

Even so, there are many things you can do to help to make the holidays a safe, fun, and positive experience for everybody involved, and this is an area in which you can really make a difference.

How to Talk to Extended Family

Extended family members are often the most challenging. Some may not fully understand the extent of your loved one’s disability. As a result, they might overcompensate or overcomplicate situations.

Ultimately, it is your job to educate them, and it’s usually best to do that before you arrive, just so everybody knows what to expect, what’s okay, what’s not okay, and so on. 

You might also send out a message before seeing your clan to let them know things about the individual. Details can include what movies they enjoy, what they like to talk about, the things they like most about the holidays, and what situations might prove challenging for them. You can also talk about gifts that they might like as well as gifts that they should avoid giving.

Making the Season Bright for Everybody

Here are some tips for making the holidays safe and fun for everyone:

  1. Gift-giving can be confusing for people with developmental disabilities, as many family members might feel that they should only be on the receiving end of things. Allow them to choose and give gifts of their own. Giving feels good! Take them to a store they like so they can select inexpensive gifts to give. A trip to the local dollar store is always fun. 
  2. Making holiday crafts, cards, or decorations is an excellent way for your loved one to enjoy the magic of the season without becoming overwhelmed by all the activity around them. 
  3. Make a list of everything that needs to be done and in what order. Some individuals will derive great joy from checking things off the list as they are accomplished.
  4. Set a happy, celebratory tone for the holidays by playing holiday music and singing along. Music always brings smiles, and singing together can be a joyous occasion!
  5. Try to stick to your routine as much as possible. Routines bring a sense of normalcy and help to alleviate any anxiety that might arise as a result of holiday disruptions. 
  6. Avoid large crowds and always have an exit strategy. If that means bringing two vehicles, then so be it. Never put yourself in a situation where it’s not possible to leave when you need to go. 

Above all, stay calm, and be the refuge they need among all the activity. With a little preparation and forethought, the holidays can indeed be a magical time for everyone. 

ILA’s Residential Program… Making a House a Home

For Brian, Jared, Daniel, and Tiano home for the past few years has been in a quiet neighborhood in Cambria Heights, Queens, New York. These young men live in a group home (Individual Residential Alternative or IRA) owned and operated by the Independent Living Association, Inc. a not for profit organization which opened its doors in 1986 as a residential haven for people with developmental and intellectual disabilities.

ILA operates over 35 group homes across New York City providing safe living environments for 250 men and women. Four of their homes are equipped for non-ambulatory residents and many of the homes are coed.
At the Cambria Heights home, every individual has their private room, decorated to their own style and taste. The immaculately clean kitchen, dining room and recreational areas are all designed with a personal touch and with safety in mind. There are televisions in every room and those who wish can have access to the internet. Family members visit often and are always welcomed by the individuals and staff.

Janet Woolward, the supervisor of this home has been with ILA for 26 years. She is responsible for the welfare of the residents and along with her staff provides 24/7 coverage of the home. There are always three Direct Support Professionals present, each of whom have undergone intensive training and competency reviews. The longevity of service of many of the Cambria Heights staff is a testament of their commitment to the residents of the homes.

A typical day for the men starts off with an early morning breakfast and soon they are off to their respective Day Habilitation programs. ILA’s Day Habilitation program, “Day takes a non-traditional approach giving participants options to develop life skills. Day Hab programs are generally 5 hours each day and activities may include movies, bowling, museums and trips to malls and amusement parks. Each of these locations presents learning opportunities such as decorum within the community, necessary vocational skills and healthy eating and living. Back at the home, the men and women can pursue their own interests. Jared, for instance, uses his computer to create animated movies and also has a stationery bike for exercise.

Thanks to the financial support of the New York State Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) as well as individual and corporate donations, ILA provides a viable living situation for the Cambria Heights individuals who have aged out of the residential public school system.
The families of the residents know that their loved ones are well cared for and safe and know that the high standards that Janet Woolward and all of her co-workers continually set ensure this.

2019 Golf Event Scores a “Hole In One”

This year’s Independent Living Association’s Golf and Games fundraiser event proved to be a smashing success. The weather at Harbor Links Golf Course was perfect for the 120 golfers, many who have been participating for many years. There was also a record attendance for the Mah Jongg games and lessons. In addition 40 dinner guests were in attendance.

Many of the participants came away with great giveaways including golf outerwear, cigars, lighters, wine and baseball caps. A highlight of the evening was when Danny Askari’s matching donation up to $2500 was achieved. Happily, record breaking funds were raised at this year’s event.

The biggest winners in the event, however, were not the generous donors but the men and women whose lives have been enriched through the work of ILA. All proceeds will go to support a new ILA’s Day Habilitation program, designed to promote community involvement, independent living and socialization for program participants.

Arthur Palevsky, the Executive Director of ILA, could not have been more pleased knowing that so many people continually donate their time and money to this unique program.

Philanthropy…A Gift of Hope

Independent Living Association (ILAonline.org) has been offering its services to individuals since its inception in 1985. Due to ILA’s unique programs, hundreds of developmentally disabled men and women who may have spent their entire lives in large institutions have been able to live flourishing and fulfilling lives in their communities. As with many similar not for profit organizations, funds to support their many programs come from various sources including federal and state grants and, most importantly, private donations.

Danny Askari, owner and founder of Tower Drugs in Floral Park, New York has been a supporter of ILA for over 15 years and he is the Honoree at this year’s Annual Golf Tournament.  Danny, a pharmacist, had been working with long term health care facilities when he saw a need to streamline the way medications were ordered by these facilities and distributed by the staff to the residents. He saw inefficiencies and mistakes in the process and started to develop ways to improve it. Danny contacted ILA, presented his ideas and thus started the relationship between them.

Over the years, Danny and his team have developed tools for nurses and staff at ILA’s many group homes to track individual medication usage, send refill reminders, allow online access for refills, and generally ensure a safer process for each individual. In addition to these tools developed and donated to ILA, Danny has given fax machines, scanners, medication cups and other supplies to ILA.  All ILA has to pay for are the medications not covered by insurance. The money saved has gone towards funding current programs and initiating new ones.

When asked why he supports ILA, Danny says that he sees the difference that ILA has made in other people’s lives and he wants to do his part in the process. He sees how the parents and families of the residents appreciate knowing that medications administered to their loved ones are carefully monitored. He knows that ILA is an amazing, caring organization that looks at each individual as a unique person with talents that can be contributed back to the community. Danny states that while other facilities are interested in cutting costs, ILA is about spending what is necessary and best for its residents.

At this year’s golf outing Danny pledged to match all cash donations up to $2,500.  The auctioneer, in dramatic fashion, raised the money from the golfers. Danny matched the donations.  Because of Danny, the Agency has $5,000 more money for services.    

“Maybe ILA is the best thing that has happened to me,” Danny says, “and I hope to be able to continue to support this special place.”

ILA appreciates any contributions made to help support efforts to improve the lives of hundreds of developmentally disabled individuals.

To make a contribution please click here.

Golfing for Good: ILA’s Tournament to Support Day Habilitation Services

Most golfers in Port Washington enjoy a round or two for fun or business. But for those who participated in Independent Living Association, Inc’s Golf and Games Tournament, the stakes went well beyond basic bragging rights.

Making a Difference in the Community

On Friday, September 13, golf enthusiasts and do-gooders alike took over the Harbor Links Golf Course for a good cause. Proceeds went to support a new Day Habilitation program recently launched by ILA designed to promote community involvement, independent living, and socialization for program participants.

For more than 30 years, ILA has been providing a number of services to adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities. One such service is ILA’s unique day habilitation program “Day Hab Without Walls”, supervised by Nicole Sawyers, who has been with ILA for 26 years. The non-traditional, non-cookie cutter approach that Nicole and her co-workers have developed give participants options to develop the life skills that matter to them.
Through the program, a number of the individuals are gainfully employed and others volunteer their services. Individuals work in soup kitchens, flower shops, and pet stores, and volunteer with Meals on Wheels. They learn valuable computer and business skills, and also enjoy outings to amusement parks and museums.

Why Fundraising is Essential to ILA’s Efforts

Day Habilitation is just one of many services ILA provides to strengthen the community by teaching and encouraging independence to the participants so they can give back to the community.

Nicole says that ILA is a family-based culture. The entire staff is vested in keeping the program successful, and it’s making a noticeable difference. For example Jared didn’t fit into other day habs, but when given the opportunity to make a movie and create characters, he’s thrived here. Xavier has a passion for 3D computer art and Michael loves taking photos and visiting museums.
All of this takes money. Fundraising efforts such as the Golf Tournament are essential to continue this program as well as the others. Funds are needed for vehicles, drivers, supplies, and a myriad of other ongoing needs. ILA has plans to expand this one-of-a-kind program.
“Our approach is based on the individual and how we help them reach their goals,” says Nicole, citing the individualized approach as one of their biggest contributors to the success of the program.

How to Get Involved

The golf tournament was the 13th annual outing. Funds collected from this event will help to support the Day Habilitation program, which is funded predominantly from money donated by dedicated supporters.

You can support ILA by donating to the fund that will allow ILA to continue making a difference in the community.

Click here to donate now!