For people with disabilities, “accessibility” is a word that comes up a lot. For people without disabilities, activities like running to the grocery store, getting to work, or meeting friends at the movies tend to be second-nature. For those with a disability, the logistics around these everyday events often require a heavily coordinated effort. For those who use wheelchairs, that effort is multiplied even further: does the location have a ramp and accessible bathrooms? Even so, getting there is often the biggest hurdle.
At Frazer, our Community Access Program for adults with disabilities allows for our participants to make decisions about the activities they would like to participate in each day, and our staff provides the needed support to make those activities happen. That support always includes transportation in one or more of our accessible vans, and it often includes guidance on appropriate etiquette, money transactions, or instruction on how to complete a particular task.
For many of our participants, having a job is their number one goal, but they’re not always sure what kind of work they would be interested in. Through our Community Access Program, our staff works to provide access to a variety of experiences, observes the participants for levels of interest and aptitude, and helps each individual determine if she or he would like to pursue a particular activity further.
Megan Kennerly is one such staff person. As a Direct Support Professional/Community Access Specialist at Frazer, Megan spends a lot of time researching the Atlanta area to find fun, interesting, and enriching opportunities for our participants. Sometimes that’s a trip to a local museum, gallery, or park. Sometimes it’s an opportunity for our participants to serve as volunteers with another organization. Sometimes it’s classes with Atlanta Ballet, one of Frazer’s new partners. Megan and her fellow Community Access Specialists are responsible for making group outings happen every Monday through Friday.
Community connections with business owners and organizations are crucial to the success of the program. Sometimes that just takes persistence and consistency. Nicole, one of our adult participants who enjoys daily outings, communicates more physically than verbally. “She LOVES music,” says Megan, who lights up when she talks about Nicole. “Every time she hears it, she jumps up and swings her hair and starts humming. Every time we pass a music store, she points and goes in.” Megan says that at one particular store, a staff member was so accustomed to seeing Nicole respond in this way that he eventually asked her what she might like to do if she worked there. She pointed to the register, and he brought her behind the counter to show her around. This simple interaction may or may not lead to a job for Nicole, but it’s connections like these that spark ideas in Megan to create more opportunities for Nicole and other participants who want to find meaningful employment and volunteer opportunities.
Frazer’s Community Access Program has been expanding over the past few years, and there’s still room for growth. Megan says that a lot of the participants want to go to events like a concert or Braves game, but those tend to happen outside of Frazer’s current operating hours. Others want to go with their friends to White Water or Six Flags, but outings like that can prove to be cost-prohibitive for many. And although Frazer recently acquired a new accessible van thanks to a grant from The Home Depot Foundation and the Georgia Center for Nonprofits, the need for more accessible vehicles is still growing.
Frazer’s staff is passionate about providing the guidance and support that allows each participant to maximize their potential to become productive, contributing members of the community. For our Adult Program participants, “community access” means living a life the way everyone else does, with meaningful relationships, employment, and opportunities.
If you have business connections or ideas about opportunities for community engagement with Frazer’s Adult Program participants, please contact Adult Program Director Bill Payne at firstname.lastname@example.org.