ILA Receives Much-needed Donation of N-95 Masks

Independent Living Association has recently received a much-needed donation of N-95 masks which will be distributed to the staff of its group homes.

Thanks to the diligent work of Francis Delucia, the son of ILA’s Deputy Executive Director/Chief Financial Officer, Frank Delucia, the masks will be helpful in protecting the staff during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Arthur Palevsky, the Executive Director of ILA and the entire staff and administration, in addition to thanking Francis, would like to thank the following firms and companies for the donation of the masks.

* EASTEND GROUP * RESCUING FAMILIES, INC * QUICK-CAST MEDIA * JMS TECHNOLOGY * LAKESIDE MASON SUPPLIES * A LOT MAINTENANCE *

If you’re reading this message, please think of any company you know that has Personal Protective Equipment (masks, gloves and gowns). ILA is in sore need of these items to keep people with developmental disabilities healthy as well as the staff who are risking their own health to care for these Individuals. Call Arthur Palevsky with any donations, connections or ideas you have 917.613.5622.

What is Disability Culture?

While no two people with disabilities are the same, a shared understanding exists between those with disabilities. Simply put by disability scholar Steven K. Brown, “People with disabilities recognize that they share a similar, but unique, history based on common perceptions about disability.”

It should be noted that disability culture is not the same as the way a culture treats those with disabilities. Rather, it is something that comes from within the community.

So, what exactly is disability culture? Essentially, it’s any discussions, ideas, advocacies, and artistic expressions that cover topics and themes of disability. Notably, disability culture is created, cultivated, and shared by people with disabilities for people with disabilities. It is a thriving community, especially online, where the internet allows for increased accessibility, availability, and awareness.

Accessibility, Visibility, and Disability Culture Online

Often, traditional forums like meetups may fall short on accessibility. Lack of ramps and no accessible transportation are only the tip of the iceberg. Conversely, the internet is generally accessible to all and provides alternatives where they may not have previously existed.

One of the best examples of online disability culture is the Disability Visibility Project, “an online community dedicated to creating, sharing, and amplifying disability media and culture.” Here, disabled folks freely and proudly share their stories, as well as their intersecting interests, thoughts, critiques, and resources. After all, disability is not a tragic story, but rather a facet of personhood, a single aspect of a full and vibrant life.

Free social media platforms like Twitter, where disabled people can share their thoughts and experiences, are especially important. Disabled Twitter users have birthed hilarious, all-purpose hashtags like #ThingsDisabledPeopleKnow and #HowToPissOffDisabledPeople to voice their irritation with a world that doesn’t always accommodate disability.

Other mediums such as blogs, vlogs, and podcasts are also becoming trendy online, and give voice to those with disabilities of all kinds. You can find unique creators making their mark, to parents of kids with disabilities finding support in their community. Online disability culture is rich with content.

Celebrating the Culture Beyond Disability

Although the online presence of disability culture has opened the discussion up to a wider, non-disabled audience, this was not the intended purpose, but rather a happy side effect. Disability culture is created by and for disabled individuals. Perhaps most importantly, it allows conversations around disabled folks to exist within a framework of their own making.

It’s about turning the table, flipping the script of how we think and speak about disability away from one of dependence and neediness. Far from being “takers,” folks with disabilities are actively contributing to dialogue and invention. They are creating and innovating, with the added advantage of a different perspective, allowing them to think outside of the box.

Disability culture is about celebrating disability. It’s about emphasizing commonality while recognizing differences and strengths. It’s about grappling with the struggles, facing the barriers, and rejoicing in the successes of disability, while also being a part of a wider community. It’s about visibility in a world that so often overlooks disability. It’s about living with humor, wisdom, joy, grief, determination, conviction, pride, and perhaps most importantly, connection.

If you would like to learn more about Independent Living Association, our people, and our programs, reach out today.

ILA Recognizes Exceptional Employees

[Photo left to right: Anthony, Tamara and Ola hold their ILA employee recognition awards February 18]

 

As part of our culture of caring, not only for Individuals and families but also for our employees, ILA proudly reintroduced the Employee Recognition Program with the goal of acknowledging and honoring our exemplary team members.

Each month ILA honors two exceptional employees bestowing The Circle of Excellence award.  One award goes to a staff member from Staten Island and Manhattan, and one from Brooklyn and Queens.  A third award goes to an administrator for Outstanding Leadership. The criteria utilized by a newly formed Human Resources Peer Committee is “Credibility, Respect, Fellowship, Work Commitment, and Dedication.” 

On a monthly basis, supervisory personnel presents to the Committee a summary identifying why a certain employee should receive an award. To be eligible, the employee must be active for six months or longer can be part-time or full-time staff and must be in good standing. An employee can receive the award only once per year.  The due date for nominations submitted to the Director of Human Resources is the 27th of each month and the winners are announced the first week of the following month. Awardees are presented with a plaque, a monetary gift, and lunch with the Executive Director and senior-level administrators. 

The first luncheon ceremony of the newly reintroduced program was held on Tuesday, February 18, 2020 at the main offices of ILA in Brooklyn. Frank De Lucia, ILA’s Chief Financial Officer/Deputy Executive Director presented the Circle of Excellence awards to Mrs. Olawunmi “Ola” Oluokun, Direct Support Professional, Fort Hamilton IRA in Brooklyn and Anthony Quattrocchi, Direct Support Professional, Albourne Avenue IRA in Staten Island. The Outstanding Leadership Award was presented to Tamara Rowe, Assistant Residence Supervisor, Mulrooney Manor in Brooklyn

This program of employee recognition not only gives thanks to the accomplishments of these exceptional hard-working staff but also gives the administration the opportunity to discuss the many challenges to the field of working with developmentally and intellectually disabled individuals,” said Arthur Palevsky, ILA’s Executive Director. “It is one way of thanking our staff for their outstanding dedication to what they do.” 

Many thanks to Tanya Dinkins, the Manager of Administrative Services for being the spark of this program, to Tisha Jones, Director of Human Resources and to Amanda Villaces, Human Resources Manager for designing and coordinating the process of nominations and selections. 

ILA is grateful for all our employees, the stars of our team who shine and inspire us every single day.

Independent Living Association Services: You don’t have to feel like it’s you against the world

We tend to take a lot of things for granted in this world. We have everything we need at our fingertips. We have our own lives, and for the most part, we make our own way in the world.

But for individuals with developmental disabilities and their families, it’s not quite as easy as all that. Raising a child isn’t easy at the best of times, but if your child has special needs, you face unique challenges.

They may learn at a different pace than other children. They may not be able to communicate what they are feeling, or there might be social or behavioral problems. No matter what your unique experience might be, all of these things can have consequences to your psychological wellbeing.

Whether you are raising a child or caring for an adult with intellectual or developmental disabilities, you don’t have to feel like it’s you against the world. ILA is here to help.

ILA in Action

ILA was established to support individuals with special needs and their families, creating hope, providing insight, and creating opportunities for growth that may not have been possible otherwise. We work very closely with our individuals, helping them gain independence and self-sufficiency to the best of their abilities.

For the families, we want them to know they are not alone. Seeing that their loved one can thrive and be happy despite their challenges is an incredible thing. However, it doesn’t happen overnight, and it’s never without patience, love, empathy, and significant effort on the part of all involved.

The greatest reward any of us can imagine is when an individual can embrace their individuality through independence.

Ryan’s Story

Ryan has been an ILA resident for several years now. During his time here, he has made friends, developed relationships, and discovered new things that he loves to do, like go bowling and swimming. He takes care of himself, cleans up after himself, and is thriving, largely because of the skills he has learned at ILA and the confidence he’s gained because of it.

To a parent, this is perhaps the greatest gift of all. Ryan is living life, being productive, surrounded by positivity and caring, and taking on new challenges every day. His behavior has changed, he is safe and happy, and he is surrounded by people who are just like him as well as and supporting individuals, volunteers, and ILA staff who genuinely care how he feels.

Your Donations Are Important

ILA is a not-for-profit organization with more than three decades of history in New York City.

We are supported by federal and state funding, but we would not survive without private donors. Every dollar donated goes directly into programs and supports for our residents, ensuring they can continue to live their best life possible.

Without ILA, many of our residents would never have the same opportunities for independence and fulfillment. Our staff really love what they do. They work closely with residents to find out their interests and learn what makes them happy. Just like us, these individuals have hopes and dreams. Your support can help these dreams come true.

Reach out today to learn more about us, and to find out how your donations can help people like Ryan live a happy and fulfilled life.

MEET: Nikiesha Bucknor, ILA Area Coordinator

Independent Living Association (ILA) operates more than 35 group homes across New York City providing safe living environments for about 250 developmentally and intellectually disabled men and women. Nikiesha Bucknor has been with ILA for 12 years and the Brooklyn Area Coordinator for two and one-half years, overseeing a cluster of programs, supervising the managers of these programs and responsible for the smooth running of operations.

Ms. Bucknor—seen here with Ricky, one of ILA’s residents—has responsibility for 6 group homes in Brooklyn, each housing from 1 to 13 residents. The homes are staffed by Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) 24/7 with the residential supervisor of the home directing the staff and reporting to Nikiesha. With her wealth of experience working with the DD population as a residential supervisor in the past, Nikiesha knows the importance of keeping the staff motivated and acting as a team. She will occasionally get involved with directly interfacing with residents and their families when issues may arise which the residential supervisor cannot resolve. A visit to each of the homes at least once a week enables her to “keep an eye on things” and stay closely connected to staff and the residents.

Nikiesha strongly believes that a sense of trust is the key component when a family agrees to have their loved one live in an ILA home. ILA believes that enhancing independence and skill-building of the residents not only boosts their self-esteem but helps to destigmatize these individuals. Nikiesha also believes that the ILA philosophy of integration into the community of the residents and the acceptance of the residential homes in the community have led to the success of the programs. ILA has attended block association meetings, neighbors have been invited into the homes and rarely have there been any objections to the establishment of a home in an area. Along with five other ILA Area Coordinators, Nikiesha and team will meet monthly to ensure compliance with ILA’s policies, “iron out any wrinkles” that may have developed, and make sure that they surpass the standards established by New York State’s Office of People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD).

It is evident to those who work with her that Nikiesha believes in meeting challenges head-on and that the administration of ILA always has an open-door policy for all staff. Her hope is that more Individual Residential Alternatives (IRAs) will be developed by ILA in all of the boroughs to allow their I/DD individuals to live fulfilling lives.

Although constantly in the field either visiting homes, attending meetings or having training sessions, Nikiesha is also a devoted mom, dedicated to raising her thirteen-year-old daughter, Madison.

Click here to learn more about ILA services and how we can help!

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.