Kansas Youth Empowerment Academy Newsletter
Can you believe that it's May already??? The past few months have flown by, and we are approaching summer! A lot has been happening in our office, and we are sure that a lot is going on in your life, especially if you are preparing for graduation. We hope that you'll take just a minute to read through our newsletter in the midst of your busy schedule!
This month's issue is completely focused on independence. What a great topic huh? We think so! Independence is SOOO important for everyone... especially youth with disabilities. You CAN be independent. If you take nothing else from this newsletter, we hope that you see enough examples to know that you too can be independent. Figure out what it means for you and go for it! Also know that, if you need help with your independence, KYEA is here for you. Just contact us, and we'll provide you support and resources.
Also going on in our KYEA world... we have started our second class of Faces of Change!! What an awesome group! We have also selected our delegates for the 2017 KSYLF. Check out this and more as you read on...
Have an awesome, exciting summer, friends!
- Carrie Greenwood, Program Coordinator
Through Julia's Eyes
by Julia Connellis, Executive Director Get ready for my top 5 awesome things about independence and my top 5 not so awesome things about independence. Drum roll please...
"I Can. I Will!"
Awesome: By being independent, I get to live the life that I choose. Independence is about making choices for yourself. Notice I did not say BY yourself. Making my own choices about what to wear, what to eat, and what music I feel in the mood for is so gratifying! Who else, other than me, could make, or should make, these choices for me??? No one! They are my choices to make and mine only.
Not So Awesome: I have to make choices. Yep, you read that correctly. Sometimes the thing that is a positive can also be a pain. Some days, I wish I was 12 again so other people could make choices for me. Making choices is stressful! While I get all the credit for making good choices, I also have to take responsibility for my bad choices.
Awesome: People tend to take you more seriously if you are independent. They see you as mature and responsible.
Not So Awesome: Being independent means you need help. I have always said, and will continue to say, that a big part of independence is accepting help from others. There is no way under the blue sky that I could be independent without the daily help of others. We all know that giving help makes us feel good, but sometimes it is so darn hard to ask for help!
EMS Workshop in Hays RESCHEDULED... Check it out!
How can I be successful in a job?
Can I work as a youth with a disability?
Join us for a day full of learning and fun as we answer these questions and give you the tools to be successful in employment!
Saturday, June 3
10:00 am - 4:30 pm
We are joining forces with LINK, Inc. to bring you this fun, informative workshop! If you thought you missed the workshop, you're in luck! We have rescheduled it to June 3.
Do you need to know how to find and keep a job? Spend a day with us learning all about employment in an interactive group setting. Hear from speakers, participate in group discussions, meet other youth with disabilities, enjoy hands on activities, food, prizes, and more! This workshop is open to youth with disabilities, ages 15-25, who live in Hays or surrounding areas.
Support KYEA! Get FREE Wendy's Jr. Frosty's for a year!
That's right! You can have a free Jr. Frosty every time you go to Wendy's. For a donation of only $2.00, you get a key tab, which entitles you to one free Jr. Frosty every time you go to Wendy's. You don't even have to order a meal, just purchase one item. You can even buy a key tab for your family, friends, or co-workers! All proceeds go to KYEA. To purchase a key tab, contact KYEA at 785-215-6655 or stop by our office.
Seeking Feedback from Youth
Answer questions related to transition to be entered into a prize drawing!
KYEA has recently been
involved with an exciting new group called the Transformers Coalition. The first two weeks of March were busy for this Coalition. This group, comprised of different state and local organizations, put together town hall meetings in seven locations across Kansas asking youth, families, and professionals their opinions about transition. Results of the meetings will be posted on the KYEA website, but information is still being gathered.
If you are a youth between the ages of 14 and 22 and would like to have your name entered into a drawing for a prize, answer the following questions related to transitioning and employment:
- What do you see yourself doing as an adult?
- What experiences or services, past or present, are helping you transition?
- What services, supports, or resources are you aware of and how did you find this information?
- What else do you need to transition successfully?
- What is your biggest challenge and do you have any solutions to offer?
Your answers can be short, but please make sure you answer all questions. To participate or to get more information, e-mail your answers to Julia Connellis at email@example.com. You must submit your answers no later than June 30, 2017.
Congratulations to all of our alumni, volunteers, friends, and supporters who are graduating this month! The future is ahead... create the life that you want to live! But first, celebrate!
Starting from the beginning... What is the Independent Living Philosophy?
Did you know that there is a philosophy that guides everything that KYEA does throughout the year? This philosophy directly relates to independence and people with disabilities- it is the independent living (IL) philosophy! This philosophy, or way of thinking, was developed many years ago when people with disabilities were starting to find their voice. You are probably living the IL philosophy right now and didn't even know it!
So, what is this philosophy? Well, it is all about empowerment. It is a way of thinking when people believe that individuals with disabilities of all ages should be in charge of their own lives, making choices, and selecting how and where they would like to live. Because we believe in the IL philosophy, KYEA believes that youth with disabilities SHOULD:
- Be allowed to decide what they want their life and future to look like.
- Make choices each day.
- Feel that they can use their voice and express who they are as a person.
- Have the same opportunities as their non-disabled peers.
- Live life to the fullest, including experiencing successes AND failures.
Do you believe in the independent living philosophy? We hope so! It is the guiding force that has gotten the disability community to where it is at today. It is the vision that allows YOU to be independent. It is our starting point for this newsletter...
Youth With Disabilities and Independence
Independence can mean so many different things to different people. Below, we spotlight six young people with disabilities in our state who are living their own version of independence. Think you can't do something? Read their stories and think again!
Chelsea wanted to experience life on her own, and so, she went for it! Although Chelsea has lived away from her parents for quite a few years, she has not lived without a roommate before. Chelsea, who has autism and mental health disabilities, recently moved into her own apartment in Newton. She did this in order to try and become more independent and see how things would go. So far, she has succeeded and enjoys being on her own! She does say that, sometimes, it can get lonely being by herself, but the good part is that she has her own space and can get a breather when she is anxious. She says, "I can go to my apartment and do what I need to do to calm myself down without being looked at funny or judged. But sometimes, I need my mom to help. Who doesn't need their mom every now and then!?"
Ben Berlin, Lawrence
Ben knows how to get around when he needs to be somewhere! Ben, who has Asperger's, does not currently have transportation of his own. BUT, that does not stop him from being independent! Ben currently lives in Lawrence and uses the Independence, Inc. transportation to get to and from his job at Optimal Living in Baldwin City. He also uses his own bicycle to get around places in Lawrence. Transportation can be a barrier for some, but Ben has found a way to make it work!
Makayla Pierce, Salina
Makayla expressed her independence as a senior in high school by choosing to spend time with her friends and getting involved in activities at her school! Makayla, who has a learning disability and anxiety, lives in Salina and just recently graduated. During her time in high school, though, she was very social and loves having lots of friends. She states, "The best thing about having lots of friends is that you have people to laugh, smile, be silly, and be you with and make memories." Makayla enjoys taking pictures of herself and her friends, as well as listening to music with them and dancing. She was also very active in school and was involved with Relay for Life, FCCLA, volleyball, track, and dance.
Seth Wagner, Manhattan
Seth lives independently, but is definitely not alone! He has chosen to live in a group house, located in Manhattan, called Buttonwood. Seth has a developmental disability and lives with five other people who have disabilities too. He says that he enjoys this atmosphere. Seth feels that he can be very independent at his group house. He states, "I love where I live. It's awesome."
Jake Gibson, Scott City
Jake expresses independence by choosing to work! Jake, who has autism, a physical disability, and a learning disability, loves working and loves helping. He currently works part time at Heartland Foods in Scott City. He carries people's groceries and is a stocker. He also helps people to find things in the store. Jake has been at this job for 10 months. Jake says that he loves his job, but that it is hard work. He does get accommodations though! He is allowed to work part time and also can sit down when he needs to rest. "I know almost everyone in town, so I am good at helping them. I have a lot of really good friends at work." Jake said.
Magda has only lived in the United States for a few years, but she has already mastered the concept of living independently! Magda, and her husband Miguel, are both wheelchair mobile, but that does not stop them from being independent. They currently live in an accessible first floor apartment in Overland Park. It took some time to figure out exactly which of them would do certain household chores, but all of the chores get done one way or another. They even get their groceries delivered to their door! While they do not have regular personal care attendants that help them, Magda's parents-in-law are very helpful when something is needed. Magda and Miguel use the Jo Special Edition, which is the para transit service, and sometimes they even use the fixed route buses and accessible taxis. Magda says that the hardest part of being independent is remembering that "being independent doesn't mean to be alone." The best part is that it "helps to build your self-concept and self-image... how others see you. Being independent breaks the rules of what we are taught that a person with a disability is supposed to be."
Tip # 1: Know How to Communicate
Communication is such an important aspect of being independent. Think about it... you have to use your "voice" in order to be able to tell people what you want. Remember that a voice can come from your mouth, sign language, a communication device, etc. No matter how you "speak," it is important to learn how to communicate with all types of people and express what you want and need.
Sometimes, when we are making choices and living independently, we might have to be assertive when we speak. Being assertive just means stating clearly what you need with strength and fairness. Have you ever had trouble clearly expressing what you want or need? We all have! But, guess what? We've got a technique to help you out!
If you've ever been through a KYEA program, it's likely that you have been taught the W.I.N. technique. Now, we are going to provide it to all of our newsletter readers!
If you are having an issue with someone and want to clearly express it to them, talk with them and state the following:
W- When you...
(describe the situation)
I- I feel...
(describe the feeling)
N- I Need... (state what you honestly need)
Here is an example:
When you are on your cell phone when I'm talking to you,
I feel frustrated.
I need for you to put your phone down during our conversations and listen to what I'm saying.
This is just one example. Try it in your own life! It really does work in a variety of situations!
Tip # 2: Learn to Make Decisions
by Danielle Willcott, KSYLF Alumna 2007
Making good decisions is key to living a good, solid life. It looks different in various situations. Some examples- selecting a college that has your major or finding an apartment that is in your budget or finding a solid job that allows you to pay monthly bills or having a significant other that is supportive of your ultimate dream goal(s). All of these examples are very important roles in living a healthy lifestyle.
My advice to making these good decisions is forming a list of pros and cons of each situation, then making your final decision based on your lists. Sometimes people will question your decisions in life, but you will have to decide what is best for you and not everyone else. Sometimes, along the way, you will make poor decisions that will be life lessons that you can learn and grow from.
I will personally say I have not always made perfect decisions, but, as I have gotten older and more mature, I have learned what is best for me and my family. I have many accomplishments based on good decisions like, I obtained a bachelor's degree and a master's degree, I am married with two daughters, have had solid jobs, we bought our home, own multiple cars, and etc. Some of my decisions were not easy to obtain, but, with hard work, determination, and support from family/friends, I was able to achieve my goals.
Overall, we make decisions everyday of our lives, but it is the outcome that will decide our future.
Tip # 3: Use Your Resources
There are so many resources available to people with disabilities in our state! They are there to help YOU! Check out the many resources below that can assist you with being more independent...
Centers for Independent Living
-- resource centers all across the state that have a sole purpose of helping people with disabilities become independent. They can assist with reaching your goals, finding personal care attendants, learning to manage your money, helping find accessible housing, and so much more! We highlight a different Kansas CIL in each of our newsletters. To find your closest CIL, visit
KCDC Service Maps
and click on centers for independent living.
Assistive Technology for Kansans (ATK)
a company that works to provide assistive technology to Kansans with all types of disabilities. Need a communication device, a helpful iPad app, a vibrating alarm clock, a screen reader, or any other piece of helpful technology? Contact ATK! They even have a program called Kansas Equipment Exchange that provides durable medical equipment to people for free! Check out the ATK website for more information.
-- need a loan for some type of purchase related to your disability? K-Loan provides low interest loans to help people with disabilities obtain assistive technology. Sometimes it's hard to afford the things that will help us be independent. But, K-Loan can help! Learn all about them at the
Vocational Rehabilitation (VR)
-- To really be independent and live your own life, you must begin with employment! VR works to help people with disabilities become employed. They will help you explore career options, figure out your abilities and interests, and even help pay for things that will make you more employable, such as assistive technology, school or training, transportation, etc. They have even recently created more programs for youth across the state that will help you become more successful in employment. Learn more on the
Self-Advocate Coalition of Kansas (SACK)
-- Sometimes, in order to become more independent, we must learn to speak up and advocate for ourselves. While KYEA can help you do this, another great organization that can help too is SACK. SACK has peer groups all across the state of people with disabilities learning to advocate. Get involved in a group, attend their upcoming conference, or just call SACK and they will help you advocate for what YOU want! Learn more on the
News and Events
Opportunities in Kansas
- The SACK Conference is here again! Join self-advocates across Kansas as attendees gather for a few days full of fun and learning. This year's
Self-Advocate Coalition of Kansas Conference
will be held on June 23-25 at the Ramada Inn in Topeka. This year's theme is "Let's Do This!" Attendees will learn all about various aspects of advocacy. Register by June 15!
- The Topeka Independent Living Resource Center is now searching for applicants for their summer internship program! The
George Wolf Youth Internship Program
is for young people with disabilities between the ages of 14 and 19. It is a unique opportunity to get paid this summer while helping improve your community. The best parts? You get to meet other people your age AND learn all about disability pride and rights! Applications are due by May 26. For more information, contact Kim Dietrich at 785-233-4572 or
- The Disability Rights Center has just released a new app called
. The app was developed to ask simple questions of students so that you can provide more detailed input regarding your IEP transition plan. To try it out, search for iTransition on your Apple or Android phones and tablets. You can also access it through the
PUT ON YOUR CALENDAR!
Interhab Push Day ~ May 16, State Capital
Join other Kansans with disabilities and their families, as well as disability advocates, as they advocate for the legislature to create new laws and policies to help people with developmental disabilities live independently in their communities. Push Day will be on May 16, starting at 9:30 am, at the State Capital south steps. All are welcome!
- The Kansas City International Airport wants to help youth with disabilities become more comfortable with flying! They will be hosting a
"Wings for All"
event on June 10. This event allows families of youth with disabilities (including autism) to experience all the steps of air travel - baggage check, security, waiting room, boarding, taxiing. Everything but actual take off! The best part is, it's free!
- If you are looking for a summer camp for kids with disabilities, you might check out
Champions Special Ministries Summer Day Camp
. City Center Church in Lenexa will be holding their day camp July 10-14. This camp is for youth with cognitive, intellectual, or physical disabilities ages 6 and up. It is a week full of games, crafts, sports instruction, dance classes, worship, prayer, Bible studies, family cookouts and themed dances.
- Are you a person with a disability who is Catholic? Would you like to enjoy a church service where you get to increase your faith AND meet other people with disabilities?
iCare of Northeast KS
is hosting upcoming Catholic masses that are geared toward people with disabilities. The Overland Park mass will be on May 20 at 6:00 pm at Queen of the Holy Rosary. Topeka will have upcoming masses too! Everyone is welcome and masses are followed by a social. Our very own KSYLF alumni, Jacob Johnson, helps to coordinate the Topeka event! To view upcoming masses, visit the
iCare of NE KS facebook page
Calling all artists!
Students in Kansas are invited to participate in a contest to design art for the 28th Annual Kansas State Department of Education Annual Conference which will be held in October. This contest encourages students to use their creativity by entering artwork that reflects the conference theme of Kansans CAN: Imagine! Students from K-12 are eligible to participate and winners will be chosen in three grade categories. Entries are due by May 19.
- Are you a person with mental health disabilities? Would you like to share your story with people across Kansas? NAMI Kansas is currently searching for people to attend their
"In Your Own Voice Presenter Training."
This training, held in June, will open the door to you becoming an official presenter of this unique program.
Apply to attend the presenter training
- Families Together is hosting another
Family Employment Awareness Training
on June 2 and 17 in Lansing. This training is a two-part workshop that focuses on employment of people with disabilities. It is open to parents/families, youth, and professionals.
Opportunities on a National Level
Would you like to spend the summer working in Washington, DC on youth transition programs? The HSC Foundation and NCIL are now searching for applicants for their
2017 Youth Transitions Fellowship
. This paid internship is open to college graduates 26-or-younger who self-identify as individuals with any type of disability. This fellowship is ideal for a person with a disability who has an interest in youth career transitions and employment solutions. Apply by May 22 by emailing
- AAPD is proud offer eight
NBCUniversal Tony Coelho Media Scholarships
in 2017 and applications are now available! This scholarship is available to undergraduate and graduate students with disabilities who are pursuing an interest in the media, entertainment, or communications fields. Each recipient will receive $5,625 to help cover the cost of education. The deadline is June 19.
Do you have a story to share that connects to a broader disability rights perspective?
Rooted in Rights
is seeking article pitches between 400-600 words that are focused on disability rights topics. Compensation per published piece is $150.
Submit your pitch
- WEBINAR! Working with Adult Allies
Register to attend this informative webinar that will give you strategies for how to collaborate with adults as a youth leader. This webinar will be on May 16 and is only open to youth.
Sharing all things new in our KYEA world...
Faces of Change Building Young Adult Leaders Across Our State!
In April, the Faces of Change class of 2017 met for the first time! There are 10 team members this year:
Chelsea Loper, Newton
Fabien Siffrin, Olathe
Margaret Sitz, Dodge City
Marissa Robinson, Oxford
Patrick Dahlman, Topeka
Sean Averill, Olathe
Taylor Nguyen, Shawnee
Whitney Downing, Topeka
For the next few months, through November, the team of leaders above will be meeting monthly to enhance their existing leadership skills, while working on a Community Change Project. The topic of their Community Change Project for this year will be to develop a social/support/friendship group in their individual communities.
Delegates Selected for 2017 Kansas Youth Leadership Forum
The Kansas Youth Leadership Forum for Students with Disabilities (KSYLF) is gearing up for its seventeenth annual program. Twenty-four motivated young leaders have been selected to attend the 2017 forum. This year's KSYLF will be held July 11 - 15 at Washburn University in Topeka.
The selected delegates will enjoy a week full of learning, fun, friends, and, most of all, a new sense of empowerment! The delegates will participate in large and small group sessions, a barbecue with adapted recreation, a Day at the Capital, Mentor Luncheon, resource fairs, talent show, and a dance.
A diverse group of delegates were selected to attend the 2017 KSYLF, including students from a variety of cities in Kansas with a wide range of disabilities. Read the full press release for a list of selected delegates.
KYEA Seeking Award Nominations
Nominate an accomplished youth, mentor, or champion for youth!
Nominations DUE by JUNE 9!
JUSTIN COSCO AWARD
The Justin Cosco Award is given out every year to a KS Youth Leadership Forum alumni who has demonstrated progress toward their goals and growth as a leader. The award began in 2004, but was renamed in 2007 after the death of an alumni of the first KSYLF, Justin Cosco. In order to receive the award, nominees must be an alumni from the KSYLF years of 2001-2015 and must have demonstrated achievements since their time as a delegate. If you know an alumni who has grown since their time as a delegate, then consider nominating them!
Alumni can either nominate themselves or be nominated by someone else.
MENTORING MATTERS AWARD
Mentors really DO matter! Mentors can make a huge difference in someone's life. This is especially true when it comes to youth with disabilities. A good mentor can expose a young person to new opportunities, motivate them to follow through on their goals, encourage them to focus on their abilities, make them feel like they are not alone, and more. KYEA wants to recognize those individuals in our state who have made a difference serving as a mentor to a youth with a disability. Who do you know that fits this description?
Nominees must have past or present experience with mentoring youth with disabilities in a short or long term relationship. This could include one-on-one mentoring, job shadowing, group mentoring, or e-mentoring.
SPIRIT OF HOPE AWARD
Do you know someone who has a true belief in the potential and abilities of youth with disabilities? There are people all over this state who are champions for young people with disabilities... they promote the contributions of youth and have a passion for empowering our next generation. This award celebrates people from all walks of life that recognize the potential and worth of youth with disabilities in our state.
Nominees must have demonstrated a consistent belief in youth with disabilities (ages 5-25) for at least one year. Examples could include being a volunteer at KYEA, involvement in another youth program, actively sharing a message, etc.
This award was created in honor of KYEA friend, John Peterson.
From Dallas' Perspective
"My Independence Journey"
You've read all kinds of articles in this newsletter written BY Dallas about other people. This issue, we get to hear from Dallas himself! Read on for his first hand perspective of life as an independent young adult with a disability!
by Dallas Hathaway, Faces of Change Alumni
As a young child, I remember wondering what life would be like as an adult. At the time, I wasn't worried about how I would get around or how I would feed myself. During my teenage years, I realized becoming an independent adult would not happen overnight.
My independence journey began when I was a freshman in high school. Like many classmates, my goal was to become involved with extra-curricular activities. In my opinion, one of the major factors which led me to becoming independent was getting involved. If a person is unsure of their interests, asking colleagues about their previous experiences can help shed light on future possibilities.
Another thing to consider while becoming independent is finding a source of transportation. For individuals with disabilities, there are many options for transportation. I was fortunate enough to find a vehicle that allowed me to transport my power wheelchair, and even drive. The process of learning how to operate a vehicle was the toughest part of gaining independence. From the time I began training, up until I took the driving test, there were many hours spent learning how to be safe.
After high school, my goal was to figure out where I belonged in life. In other words, I wanted to learn what I was passionate about. I also wanted to be able to have the freedom to live on my own. I was grateful when I learned I would have the opportunity to live in grandmother's home to complete my college career. One of the most challenging activities was how I was learning to feed myself every night after class. Unfortunately, snapping my fingers and making food appear out of thin air was not an option. Making a list of meals was helpful because I was organized through the difficult years of college. The student union is also a place where college students can go if they are looking for a bite to eat.
Other challenges of gaining independence include managing an appropriate schedule and keeping a balance between your personal and social life. With the increased amount of free time, I was in control of how my time was spent. It is essential for a person to fill their time with things they find interesting. Additionally, with coworkers, acquaintances and friends, it can be tough managing your personal affairs while maintaining multiple relationships. I found it helpful when I scheduled events with people at different times throughout the week. If you are unable to spend time with them, it may be helpful to reach out through a phone call or text message.
All in all, I was extremely happy when I realized that I found my independent life. It allows me the opportunity to be employed, own a home, and has given me the opportunity to be married in less than a year. Wherever your life takes you, remember to always ask the tough questions and share your story along the way. Your journey may spark a major change in someone's life.
The Many Sides of Independence
What does it look like to you?
by Johnna Godinez, Program Assistant
Independence. Sometimes it's hard to understand, other times terrifying and not for the faint of heart. But, independence can be really rewarding and just what you need. I've fought hard and made many sacrifices of comfort for my independence. I've also made many mistakes. But the good news is that they've been my best teachers. Here are some cross-disability examples of independence:
Accessing transportation - Whether it's learning how to use the routed transit route, using para-transit, or utilizing medical transportation for medical appointments, all get an independent person where they need to go for work, shopping, fun, etc. You might also learn to drive, if possible. Driving really opens up the world, and it's much easier to get to your job.
Using appropriate physical boundaries - It's important to know when, where, and how to touch people because it's not always appropriate to do any of it. For example, ask first before giving a hug.
Healthy mental boundaries - Keeping out of other people's business, not spreading rumors, taking responsibility for one's own behaviors, not having self-blame, and, for those of us who have experienced mental traumas, going to therapy and healing so you can develop adult behaviors.
Going to the doctor - For people with disabilities, health is primary to our independence. If we're not healthy, it's challenging to experience a well-balanced life of work, service, and fun.
Moving out and living on your own - There is a time when adult children need to leave their parental home and learn to live independently on their own. This can look differently for every person. It can be scary and very uncomfortable, but if you don't challenge yourself, you'll never learn those lessons for true independence.
Making good choices - It's not only critical that you make your own choices, but that you learn from them. Sometimes, the outcome of a choice is not what you desired or even predicted; therefore, we suggest that you problem-solve the situation. If you do this, your future choices will be better.
Taking a self-defense class - It doesn't matter what your gender is... we all can be at risk.
Asking for and using accommodations - Accommodations are there for us so that people with disabilities have an equal start. Use them to get ahead!
Communicating and advocating for your needs - Whether it's at work, in public, or in private, independent people explain, ask, or assertively request what they need.
Committed romantic relationships - An independent adult should eventually be able to love someone romantically and have a committed, healthy and happy long-term relationship if that is what you choose.
Question of the Month
What does independence mean to you?
Making my own decisions about my life and not having to rely on my family and friends all the time.
- Morgan Strnad, KSYLF Alumna '10
Making my own money and paying my own bills without help from family or friends. Yes, it is a little hard right now, but I am doing my best.
- Monica Long, KSYLF Alumna '11
Independence means, when life is hard, you can overcome obstacles with God by your side.
- Kelly Abrahamian
always wanted to be independent, so I can live all by myself.
- Meg Sitz, KSYLF Alumna '15
Independence Through the Years... A Timeline in Photos
You know that independent living philosophy that we mentioned before? It did not exist back in the early days. People with disabilities did not have choices and were not independent. Check out these pictures that demonstrate just how far our community has come...
The Early Days...
Back in the early days, people with disabilities had absolutely NO independence. They were typically put in institutions, which was kind of like being locked away, as shown in the photo above. They had no choice on where or how they wanted to live.
While in the institutions, a person with a disability was just considered another body taking up space. They were often crammed into spaces, stripped of their identities, abused, sterilized, and told what to do every minute of the day.
Speaking of no choices, the photo above perfectly shows how choices were made for people with disabilities, even to the point of having bathing rules. In institutions, people with disabilities had rules for everything. They couldn't even decide for themselves how and when to get clean... and, oftentimes, they probably weren't allowed to get clean. Yet, no one spoke up because they were too afraid.
A Change Begins...
In the 70's and 80's, a change started happening and people with disabilities decided that they deserved to be independent too! People started using their voices and demanding the opportunity to make choices for their lives. This is when the independent living movement really began, and it was started by Ed Roberts. Ed, Judy Heumann, and others started the first center for independent living to help people with disabilities become more independent.
A huge step forward in inclusion and independence came in 1990 when the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed. This law put people with disabilities on an equal playing field as those without by ensuring access to employment, public accommodations, telecommunications, transportation, and more. It opened the door for people with disabilities to make choices.
In the 1990's and early 2000's, many resources became available for people with disabilities. While many of these resources had been around for awhile, in more recent years, we have seen an increase in technology and transportation options. People with disabilities have many transportation options, including accessible vans like the one above.
People with disabilities have so many options today AND have access to accommodations! Students are allowed accommodations in school and can plan their future knowing that there are tools to assist them with any goal. Some of these tools are assistive technology like the iPhone shown above.
People with disabilities now have a voice! We are speaking up and making choices in our everyday lives. Even young people with disabilities are finding their voices and telling their stories. They are becoming involved in leadership programs and realizing that their voice counts!
Youth with disabilities are also coming together to support each other! Independence does not mean being alone. Today's youth are banding together to empower each other in reaching their goals.
Not only are youth with disabilities finding their voice, but they are proudly exclaiming their value and making their mark on a local AND national level. There is a national youth movement, like the youth gathered at the APRIL Conference last year, where young people are making their presence known. While our nation is far from perfect when it comes to independence for all people, youth and people with disabilities now have a voice, and THAT shows how truly far we have come!
Highlighting centers for independent living throughout the state
Resource Center for Independent Living (RCIL)
Johnna Godinez gives the scoop on this CIL that serves many cities in the state and has exciting youth programming on the horizon!
The Resource Center for Independent Living (RCIL) is just one more CIL in our state, and they offer many services! With the main office in Osage City (1137 Laing St.), RCIL was founded in 1984. They have satellite offices in Topeka, Emporia, El Dorado, and Iola. Check out their website for hours of operation for each.
RCIL offers the following programs: Assistive Technology for Kansans, Braille translation services, an on-staff Orientation and Mobility teacher, Build-a-Ramp program, goal setting services, and much more! Check out their website as the different programs have varying service areas. RCIL employs over 40 people.
What's up next for RCIL? Heads up - there will be more youth programming in 2018. We'll keep you updated here in the KYEA newsletter! FYI - RCIL will be having a youth safety event in Emporia on May 24 where two bikes will be given away. Call RCIL for more details.
Dezarae Marcotte (KYEA ICON alumna) has used RCIL services and states that they have been essential to her success.
"I wouldn't [have been] able to go to college without RCIL. They provided me assistive technology that I couldn't afford on my own. They helped me with learning how to use my cane. They made it easier with the sudden onset of my disability. VR pays for the technology, but [RCIL] came over and set it up and taught me how to use it all," Dezarae said.
Thanks, Dezarae, for the quote, and one giant disability power fist-pump for RCIL and all CILs who day-in-and-out make a difference in the lives of youth with disabilities!!
For questions or more information, contact RCIL at (800) 580-7245.
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Kansas Youth Empowerment Academy