For the Community
What is a disability?
Disabilities are long-term physical, mental, intellectual, or sensory impairments, which hinders a person’s ability to participate in society on an equal basis.
Why Adults with Intellectual Disabilities/Autism are awesome employees and volunteers.
Adults with intellectual disabilities and autism have a lot to offer their local communities. Like all people, each one has unique gifts but often they possess great passion, loyalty, and charisma. Many of them bring with them large circles of friends and relatives who are eager to support their endeavors. They also tend to have a large social media impact, belonging to many clubs and societies where they speak openly about their passions. Usually, they love the opportunity to belong more fully in their local communities and are eager for the chance to give back. If they need supports while in the community, those services are readily available to them through providers like Peaceful Living.
All of this makes them ideal employees and volunteers. To quote a headline from the Daily Beast, “Hiring People With Disabilities Isn’t Just the Right Thing to Do—It’s Good for Business.”
What kind of supports are available for potential employers and volunteer opportunities?
There are many supports available for Adults with Intellectual Disabilities/Autism through the State of Pennsylvania Office of Developmental Programming and Office of Vocational Rehabilitation. These include Home and Community Supports, various levels of Job Coaching, and Transportation Services. These supports can help ensure that they have reliable transportation, expert coaching for developing vocational skills, and a skilled helping hand nearby when needed.
Peaceful Living is working alongside the Indian Valley Chamber of Commerce on a Vibrant Community initiative. This unique project includes diverse stakeholders including businesses, education, service providers, parents of children with disabilities, and government officials. The goal is to create opportunities and pool resources to promote a more vibrant community. If you are interested in learning more about this initiative, please reach out to Joe Landis.
Who do I talk to about hosting a Creative Gifts group?
Our Creative Gifts program is all about community interaction and we are always looking for meaningful community activities. If you are interested in having a Creative Gifts group volunteer, please reach out to the Community Partnerships Coordinator at each Creative Gifts site.
Who do I talk to about volunteering with Peaceful Living?
We have a wide range of volunteer positions available at Peaceful Living for people of all levels of skill and interest. We are especially eager for volunteers to run enthusiasms based Creative Gifts activities, to pair with adults with intellectual disabilities through our social programs, to befriend the residents at our homes, and to help with special projects at our office. If you are interested, please complete our Volunteer Application.
How can I be more welcoming to people with disabilities?
The most important rule is to focus on them as people rather than focusing on their medical condition. Labels like “disabled” and “autism” may help define a person’s needs but it is essential to remember that a person is not their labels. Try to relax and make a connection - don’t get so worried about doing the wrong thing that you end up doing nothing at all. Like all people, adults with disabilities are looking for connection and belonging. In order to create a mutual relationship, you need to allow people with disabilities to serve you even though this may feel very uncomfortable and thank them appropriately for it (don’t go overboard with praise). Ask about their interests and share your interests – if their disability comes up, talk about it naturally, but don’t focus on it. Even if someone is low verbal or nonverbal, they are still people and the best approach is always to ‘assume competence.’
How can I make my building more accessible to people with disabilities?
Most public locations are already physically accessible due to ADA Guidelines and, if your site is not, the Department of Justice has the guidelines available online. It can be more challenging to make a building welcoming to people with sensory needs. People have many senses and can be seeking or defensive for each one. For example, someone may be defensive towards sound but seeking towards touch – this would be a person who is touching everything they can but who covers their ears and retreats from loud sound. It can be challenging to accommodate diverse needs such as these but the first step is to get to know the person in question. Some general guidelines are to avoid strong scents if possible, set aside “low stim” rooms, and set aside sensory areas (for example – sections with things that can be touched safely).
How can I advocate for people with disabilities?
Start by getting to know them. Learn their stories and their struggles. Then start sharing those stories and connecting with people who can help. The most important advocacy work is on the grassroots level, connecting individual people in your local community and promoting inclusion there. There are several advocacy agencies dedicated to helping people with disabilities that can provide you with resources and that run larger campaigns.