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Robin and Charlie Weidanz enjoy the Anderson Art Collection at the
Stanford Cantor Arts Museum during a  March Adult Day Activities field trip.

To create the life we want tomorrow, we will live that life today.

As I reflect on my first 9 months at Abilities United, I see that services, options, and community inclusion have come a long way since Abilities United was founded. However, we have a long way to go to reach our vision…a society where people of all abilities learn, live, work, and play with no barriers between them.  We want the best life possible for our participants and their families – a life without barriers to education, employment, or housing.  As we continue to provide services and supports to remove existing barriers, we constantly challenge ourselves to seek new opportunities, programs, and partnerships so participants can live the fullest life possible in our community. To accomplish this, we are putting the finishing touches on the three-year strategic plan that will drive our accountability and our participants’ success, in three areas:

•    education Today, the high school graduation rate is 61%
for people with disabilities compared to 80% for other
students; post-secondary school attendance is 27% vs 68%. We strive for graduation and attendance rates that are the same for all students by preparing them for the classroom, helping them navigate their school years, and more recently, opening post-secondary educational opportunities at local colleges.
•   employment Only 1/3 of people with disabilities are employed. Their average annual earnings are $10,000 less than other employees.  Abilities United places people in jobs that utilize their skills, talent, and experience so they are hired for work they are qualified for and want to do. Our goal is to place 100% of candidates in jobs that challenge them, maximize their abilities, and provide them wages that are commensurate with their experience.
•    housing Training and support for daily living are readily available but housing opportunities for people with disabilities are few.  While we continue to teach the daily living skills required to live independently, we will also work to achieve a placement rate of 85% so most people who are ready to live in their own house or apartment can do so.

This may seem like a daunting job, but remember how much progress has been made in the last 50 years. Imagine how much more can change in the next 50 years and how rapidly that change can happen.  With our vision of equality and inclusion for all, Abilities United has defined strategic goals for 2015-2018 that will enable us to address the issues that still exist around education, employment, and housing.  By the end of 2018, Abilities United will:

•    Provide seamless transition from one service to another throughout the lifetime of participants.
•    Increase Abilities United brand awareness.
•    Redevelop Abilities United facilities.

How are we going to accomplish all this? One step at a time, one person at a time, one goal at a time.  For example, we will achieve seamless service transition throughout the lifetime of participants.  To accomplish this, we will:

•    Create a roadmap that defines the transition points in participants’ lives and the services they will need.
•    Identify which of these services we can deliver and partner with community organizations who provide complimentary services.
•    Implement an information database so we can reach out to current or past participants at upcoming transition points in their lives and offer assistance to navigate through those transitions.
•    Focus on personal relationships with participants and their families so they know they can trust us to provide the resources, support, and services they need throughout their lives.

We clearly have a lot to do here at Abilities United and we are eager to make progress on further removing the barriers to full inclusion for people of all abilities.  Today, our work begins and continues until we reach our goals. Join us in our quest to deliver seamless service transitions for participants throughout their lifetime.

Until then, if you have any questions about our strategy, please contact me.  I look forward to keeping you informed about progress at Abilities United.

Charlie Weidanz
Executive Director