Independent Living (Part 3)

Advocate, Community Participation, Disability, Family Challenges, Inclusion, Independent Living, Parents, People with Disabilities No Comments »
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The American Disabilities Act proclaims that all persons with disabilities are entitled to independent living. Just as families have different needs and resources, independent living can be provided in different ways. In previous blogs we have examined state institutions, a private residential institution, and the abundant living situation of a young woman making her home with her mother. Another alternative is the group home, designed to serve children or adults with disabilities. Such homes usually have six or fewer occupants and are staffed 24 hours a day by trained caregivers.

Although most group homes provide long-term care, some residents eventually acquire the necessary skills to move to more independent living situations. The development of group homes occurred in response to the deinstitutionalization movement of the 1960s and 1970s. They were designed to provide care in the least restrictive environment and to integrate individuals with disabilities into the community.

Since the passage of the Community Mental Health Centers Act in 1963, grants have been available to group homes. Although state and federal funds continue to support the majority of group homes,  some homes operate on donations from private citizens or civic and religious organizations. Unfortunately, the number of available group homes has not always matched need.

One of the goals of group home living is to increase the independence of residents. Daily living skills include meal preparation, laundry, housecleaning, home maintenance, money management, and appropriate social interactions. Self-care skills include bathing or showering, dressing, toileting, eating, and taking prescribed medications. Staff also assure that residents receive necessary services from community service providers, including medical care, physical therapy, occupational therapy, vocational training, education, and mental health services.

As with any type of organization, some group homes are better run than others. Factors that contribute to group home success are a small staff-to-resident ratio, well-trained staff, and a home-like atmosphere. Before considering group home placement, extensive planning should be conducted. The individual’s strengths should be incorporated into the plan whenever possible. For example, if a supportive family is an identified strength, the preferred group home should be close in proximity to facilitate family visits.

Sometimes, when a group home or other desirable facility is not available, devoted and energetic parents and volunteers elect to build a suitable home for people with disabilities in their families or community. Our next blog will introduce a parent whose efforts are endless in developing an independent living situation for her son and others.

Anniversary of ADA

Disability, Employment, Independent Living, People with Disabilities No Comments »
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Twenty years ago the Americans with Disabilities Act was enacted by the U.S. Congress. Without the law’s enactment my husband, who had recently become dependent on a wheel chair, would have been unable to go out to lunch, go to church, go shopping or enter a number of buildings. Without the help of ramps, curb cuts and building accessibility he would have been home bound.

Disability is defined by the ADA as “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity.” The four goals for public policy for people with disabilities were defined as equality of opportunity,  full participation, independent living and economic self-sufficiency. As Public Law 94 142 was designed to provide “free and equal public education” to all children, the ADA expands equal rights to people of all ages.

We have grown accustomed to interpreters for those with hearing impairments, braille instructions on elevators and designated parking areas for those with physical disabilities. However, it appears that we are falling short of the stated goals when we look at the poverty rates, unemployment and underemployment figures, and lack of access to cutting edge technologies.

President Obama marked Monday’s 20th anniversary of this landmark anti-discrimination law for people with disabilities by promising to boost government efforts at recruiting, hiring and retaining people with physical and mental limitations. The president’s White House adviser on disability policy said advances in technology make revisiting the law a necessity.

In future blogs we will look at various needs and opportunities in housing, employment, and full participation. We welcome your questions, suggestions, and comments.

Have you, or someone you know, experienced discrimination in the workplace, housing accommodations, or participation in normal activities?

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