As the newest member of Solutions for Independence I am being exposed to new methods of advocacy. My background has various components just like yours in many ways. Living with a disability has given me an opportunity to learn the importance of advocating for myself and eventually for others. Working across all disabilities leaves no one out and makes advocacy more important. The consumers I have worked with have been receptive to self-advocacy and have taught me how to be a better advocate for them and myself.

Researching community based resources such as “free, in-kind labor” from faith based organizations, identifying affordable assistive technology, re-using donated durable medical equipment, and linking people with disabilities to daytime activities to increase socialization is very important. We all have an “ability” to reach out for ourselves, ask for assistance and to expect to be heard. A short conversation with a person with a disability can reveal “what that person’s goals are” and identify what the person really wants out of life. Consumer choice is key to living independently and places that person in control of living as an “equal” in his/her community. Hearing a person describe their dreams and helping them make them a reality is priceless. A good listener hears but also sees the enthusiasm as a consumer comes to understand that goals are attainable given time.

My mission is to be that listener and offer assistance based on the needs of the consumer. Everyone has “needs” and “wants.” Solutions for Independence considers what the actual “needs” are that can assist a consumer in staying where they are or to assist a person in a facility to move into independent living based on their “abilities.” Staying in our community and being a member of the community is a basic right.

Let’s look at Sharon’s* story. Sharon was referred to Solutions for Independence by a local DSS worker. She needed assistance in repairing an aging bathroom with many issues. Sharon’s goal was to,“stay in the home I have lived in for many years and feel safe in my bathroom.” A needs assessment was conducted and a Diversion Plan put in place to meet those needs and enable Sharon to stay in her home. Community partner resources were identified to make repairs to deteriorated floors and fixtures. In-kind labor and some materials were donated by a local church, Solutions for Independence provided other materials and the project began. The Diversion Plan included flooring and commode replacement, wall repairs, minor plumbing upgrade, adding a grab bar and a shower chair for Sharon’s safety. She was very happy with these home improvements. The collaboration of materials and labor offered the solution to allow her to remain           independent in her home. Projects that enhance mobility, access and independent living are the forefront of Solutions for Independence’s mission.

For me it is very rewarding to see a “need” addressed that enables and empowers a consumer using all of their abilities to the fullest and have control over their community based living.

Have a great Fall everyone!!

A smart person once said:

“It costs a candle nothing to light another candle”.

By: Tim Blake, ILS