ILRC and United Way Partnership Breaks Down Transportation Barriers for Individuals with Disabilities
Story by Melinda Cardone, ILRC Executive Director (November 2019)
Remember when you first got your Driver’s Permit? That feeling of accomplishment? That feeling of independence? Well, for many individuals with disabilities obtaining their permit and getting to feel that accomplishment and independence is but a dream. However, Independent Living Resource Center, Inc. (ILRC) is working to help individuals with disabilities achieve that dream. ILRC provides a variety of programs and services, including the core services provided by centers for independent living throughout the United States. One of those core services is Independent Living Skills, which helps individuals with disabilities to improve skills needed to remain or become independent and active in the community… and this is where obtaining a driver permit comes in.
Independent Living Skills is an incredibly unique program in that it can look different for every individual. Many choose to receive services one-one-one; however, youth do enjoy attending classes. In the summer of 2016 ILRC hosted their first Driver’s Permit Preparation Class in partnership with Vocational Rehabilitation as part of a summer program centers throughout the state participated in. Since then ILRC has held classes in Jefferson City, Stover, Linn and Camdenton often partnering with local high schools or other agencies. Students with disabilities are not always given the opportunity to participate in driver education, leading to additional barriers to obtaining transportation, obtaining employment and going on to continuing education. The staff at ILRC hope to open up new avenues for participants in the classes to become more independent members of their communities. Participants work to prepare to take the Driver Permit Test, study together, and take practice tests. Those that need additional assistance after the classes conclude can continue working with an ILRC staff one-on-one if they choose. Since starting the classes many participants have gone on to successfully pass their permit tests, driving tests and become drivers. Getting that license is a rite of passage many of these students would not have otherwise achieved!
In spring 2019 ILRC received a Community Support Grant from United Way of Central Missouri to purchase a Driving Simulator. Having a Driving Simulator became a goal to enhance the Driver Permit Classes as well as to give interested students a way to continue their studies in a new and fun way. Recently ILRC held their first class with the use of the simulator for a small group of youth in Jefferson City. Jenny Cowart, Youth Services Specialist said, “The driver simulator has been such a great addition to our driver's permit class. It gives the students an opportunity to demonstrate what they learned while in the class and apply it in a very real setting. The simulator lets students get needed experience without the risk. It gives them the ability to practice potentially risky scenarios in a safe environment.”
Going into 2020 ILRC plans to expand Driver Permit Classes to adults as well as youth. Feedback from the community is that there is still a barrier for many adults with disabilities in obtaining employment due to transportation. By providing the Driver Permit Class with the new Driving Simulator, ILRC hopes to take some of those barriers down!
In addition to Independent Living Skills, ILRC’s core services consist of Information & Referral which is exactly what it sounds like. ILRC works to become familiar with programs and services provided by agencies and organizations throughout the service area so that referrals can be made when necessary. Second is advocacy, where staff support persons with disabilities to enact change in their community which enables them to obtain support services. Peer Support allows individuals with disabilities to obtain support from those that are like them and who have been through similar experiences in one-on-one and group interaction. Transition services focus on diverting individuals from institutions, transitioning individuals out of institutions and assisting youth in transitioning from school into young adulthood.
ILRC doesn’t stop there though…all centers for independent living will offer additional programs and services based upon the needs of their communities. ILRC offers additional youth programs including a Youth Group and partners with other area organizations to offer educational opportunities for families of children and youth with disabilities. The Consumer Directed Services Program can assist individuals, who are Medicaid active, with attendant care in their home and the TAP for Telephone Program can provide assistive equipment to make telephones, landline and cellular service, more accessible for individuals with disabilities. ILRC’s Care Closet provides personal care and cleaning supplies to eligible individuals throughout the year with the support of donations.
The mission of encouraging greater independence and empowerment for persons with disabilities through advocacy and resources shines through all programs and services of ILRC. Individuals with disabilities have the same goals and dreams as anyone else. They want to grow up in their families, go to school, work, participate in their communities, and have families of their own. ILRC helps to provide the support needed to make this happen while focusing on consumer control. When you work with a staff member at ILRC you are often working with an individual with a disability who has been in your shoes, bringing a unique perspective to the services provided. Located in Jefferson City, ILRC serves individuals in Southern Callaway, Camden, Cole, Miller, Morgan, Moniteau and Osage Counties. Staff will often travel to provide one-on-one services or group events in outlying counties. Yes, the staff come to you, you set your own goals and you decide when those goals are met. As Dr. Adolf Ratzka said about independent living and persons with disabilities, “We are profoundly ordinary people sharing the same need to feel included, recognized and loved.” ILRC works to ensure our communities are making room for those with disabilities both on and off the road.
For more information or to request services contact ILRC at 877-627-0400 or go online at www.ilrcjcmo.org.