On #GivingTuesday, December 3, the Center for Independent Futures community came together to see the difference one day could make in the lives of individuals with disabilities. The total is in: more than $26,000 raised in just 24 hours! Together, we’re creating opportunities for all individuals to contribute their gifts, making the entire community stronger.
Included in our total raised was a generous matching grant from The Coleman Foundation. The Coleman Foundation is a generous supporter of Center for Independent Futures, particularly behind our efforts to help families create community-based housing. Thank you to the Coleman Foundation for supporting us on #GivingTuesday again this year!
Center for Independent Futures is grateful for all who gave on #GivingTuesday efforts and helped to spread the word. All funds raised on December 3rd, and every day, directly support individuals with disabilities, their families, and their communities.
If you missed #GivingTuesday and would like to make your community stronger through an online, tax-deductible gift before the end of the year, click here. Contact us at (847) 328-2044 for more information.
2019 was full of transitions for us at Independent Futures. From updated events to exciting new partnerships, it’s been a big year. Here are 5 highlights to keep you updated on where we have been and where we are planning to go in the future.
Empowering Through Technology at 1871
In April, Independent Futures hosted a panel at Merchandise Mart’s 1871 in downtown Chicago. One of our participants, Jake Joehl, introduced the panel by explaining how technology supports his independent, full life.
Chrissy Dale spoke about My Full Life, our online life skills development software, explaining how the technology helps organizations track successes. Alongside panelists from SimplyHome, Northwestern University, Infinitec/UCP Seguin with moderating from Impact Engine, the panel and audience explored how to support individuals with disabilities through technology.
This successful panel helped Independent Futures introduce updates to My Full Life to the public and helped set up a year of exciting events.
Big Changes to Old Favorites
Since 2002, we have grown a lot as an organization, though some of our events seemed to stay the same. This year we wanted to shake things up! Starting with SPARK, we introduced new elements to the evening like the Golden Ticket raffle and a new theme: Igniting Dreams.
For Something’s Cooking, we changed the whole name! Inviting local breweries to participate in the first ever Independent Futures Best Brew Award, we introduced our community to Brews & Bites. Featuring our favorite local restaurants, the event became a fun & lively event featuring the best Evanston has to offer.
Young Professionals Boards Moves Forward
Formerly known as the Auxiliary Board, the Young Professionals Board is a group of young adults committed to serving community. Throughout 2019, the board hosted several new events. We have enjoyed getting to know the Young Professionals Board through these new events.
The Summer Social was a ton of fun at Southport Lanes & Billiards. More than 30 members of our community joined with the board for an afternoon of bowling at these old-fashioned lanes. Then in September, the Young Professionals Board hosted a tailgate before a Northwestern Wildcat game.
Erika Wade joins us from Union Leagues Boys & Girls Club as our new Director of Operations. Erika has been overseeing our new budget for 2020, executing behind-the-scenes changes to our processes, and brightening up our days with lots of laughter!
Christina Gatechair is a local Evanstonian who has worked in HR for more than 15 years. She joins Independent Futures from the healthcare industry and has been busy supporting Erika through organization changes and accounting.
Distinguished Service Award Recipient
2019 marked the second time that Independent Futures has received The Arc of Illinois’ Distinguished Service Award. For the second time this decade, Illinois’ chapter of The Arc presented the award to our Executive Director. We were deeply honored to receive this award, and we are excited and ready to continue providing excellent service in 2020!
We want to thank our whole community from the bottom of our hearts for your support in 2019. If you would like to be part of our next big year, sign up for our newsletter or donate today!
Nothing we do would be possible without your help. In 2020, we are looking forward to new collaborations and exciting events!
For parents of adults with disabilities, the path to an independent future is never without obstacles. Planning for the future requires dozens of extra steps that parents of adults without disabilities may never encounter. From developing trusts to drafting letters of intent, protecting the future leaves so many questions to answer. Yet one question stands above many others: When should families begin to consider independent housing for their loved one?
The answer? As soon as possible.
Reasons To Start Planning Today
Planning for the future is not a linear process with each step laid out for families to follow. As time passes, systems change alongside changes in perception. In the past, families expected their loved one would continue to live with them or maybe in a group home.
While many people with disabilities have lived with their family and may continue to, there are several reasons why this option is not as feasible as it once was.
Relying on Family
Unlike in the past, adults with disabilities are outliving their parents. For the first time, parents may pass at 80 years old, but their adult child with disabilities might be only 60 – and very ready to live a full life. But now, without their parents, the individual lives without parental support and without their family home to go to.
Families often plan for their disabled son or daughter to live with a sibling, but data tells us that sometimes this doesn’t work out. 50% of siblings say they plan to co-reside with their sibling. Only 10% actually do. These stats don’t tell us why this happens. However, they do tell us that we shouldn’t completely rely on siblings to become caretakers once parents have passed.
Relying on Government Support
Most families of individuals with disabilities know that relying on the government for support isn’t reliable. Few know just how unreliable this option is.
Only 25% of individuals with disabilities receive any financial government supports. Of that small percentage, 71% receive SSI/SSDI benefits, 44% receive Medicaid waivers, and only 15% receive vocational rehabilitation support. So what does this mean?
It means that your loved one cannot necessarily depend on receiving financial support from the government to live in the community when you’re gone.
It means that you may be leaving your loved one without options.
It means that the time to start looking at independent living options is now.
The Benefits of Community Independent Living
When individuals with disabilities have the chance to live in small community settings, their quality of life increases. Living in this type of setting increases an individual’s access to not only family & friends but also to medical care, preventive care, and employment opportunities.
With better access to community assets, we see increased life satisfaction in almost every individual we work with. They are able to utilize self-determination skills while gaining new independent living skills like cooking and cleaning.
These benefits of independent living are not simply nice to have. They are the difference between a full life with personal supports or segregated loneliness.
Developing Crucial Personal Support Networks
One more benefit of living in community settings is the chance to develop personal support networks. These networks consist of natural supports, such as family and friends, plus potential employers, local business owners, or even a school crossing guard.
A personal support network consists of anyone in an individual’s community. Part of living independently is community acceptance – and small settings, like an apartment or shared home, often lead to greater acceptance from neighbors.
Finally, living in this type of small, community setting often leads to increased community life participation. This can look like being part of a book club, belonging to a church, or volunteering at the local YWCA.
Each of these increases to quality of life means that an individual’s personal support network is growing. Developing support networks early, before parents pass, means an individual with disabilities can move into the next stage of their life with greater comfort and stability.
Your Next Steps To Independent Futures
By now, you may be convinced that it is time to start planning for your loved one’s next home. After a few frustrating late night sessions with Google, you realize that finding community housing options for people with disabilities isn’t easy. After you have begun applying for or securing funding, what do you do next?
1. Build Support Networks
Once your loved one knows what type of community they want to live in, it is time to develop relationships. Before anyone moves and before making any commitments, explore opportunities to get involved. The best way to nurture a relationship is to start with connections.
Is there somewhere your loved one would like to volunteer? Perhaps they want to explore the new library branch? There are many ways to get involved in a community. The hardest part is to start.
2. Focus on Life Skills Development
Our Life Skills Tutors are part of our participants’ key to success. At each session, a tutor will help someone with anything from creating a budget to getting their exercise in. Our Full Life Model illustrates that each aspect of a full life is equally important to another. For example, we know that developing friendships is just as important as creating good nutritional habits.
What skills will they need in order to achieve their dream?
What skills does this individual already possess?
What has this person had a chance to learn?
What can an individual learn?
What supports does an individual need?
After talking about these questions, start thinking about how you or a personal support worker can help. Some lesson plans exist to help individual with disabilities learn how to do, rather than how we can “do for” them.
3. Research Existing Options
Return to your original Google search. The options that exist may not be the perfect Cinderella fit for your loved one. However, the people or organizations that created them may be able to give you a road map to creating your own solution.
The first step to learning more about existing options is to visit several existing options. Begin talking to other families who have stood where you are standing today. There is strength in numbers, such as shared experiences and knowledge.
While you are visiting existing housing options for people with disabilities, you will see what an individual’s independent life can look like. Ask your loved one, “If we created our own option, what would you want?” Does that vision include a roommate? A communal space? These are the types of questions to answer before you start building.
The Perfect Storm Is Now
Today individuals with disabilities are included in more opportunities of a full life than ever before. From the time they enter school, there is typically some form of integrated classroom time. When leaving integrated school settings, families and individuals are beginning to demand inclusive options for the future. Whether in the form of community inclusion or employment, it is no longer optional to create inclusive spaces.
Yet, upon leaving school settings, many housing options are not integrated or independent. Though research argues that small community-integrated settings improve quality of life, many existing housing options for people with disabilities are large settings or removed from the community.
Ultimately, families seeking greater inclusion created a large number of the small community settings that exist. Those options have not been available without hard work, dedication, and commitment to independence. If your loved one hopes to live independently someday, the time to start looking at innovative housing options is as soon as possible.
This blog was written by our community partner Michael Walther of Oak Wealth Advisors. As experts in special needs planning, the people at Oak Wealth Advisors can provide your family with the support you need to put your future in order.
Planning For The Future
Having a loved one in your family who has special needs can be a blessing, but it comes with the responsibility to complete additional planning. While the planning includes covering the financial needs of the individual with special needs, planning extends well beyond dollars and cents. Failure to address the individual’s various planning needs can have disastrous results.
When most young adults finish school, they will make decisions about where they want to live, with whom they want to live, and what career they want to pursue. When the individual has special needs, the decisions are more complicated and usually require significant input from parents and others. Typically, the development of life skills and the focus on a future lifestyle are also developed during high school years. Many times, individuals with special needs age out of the school system without their independent life skills fully developed and some of their lifestyle questions unanswered.
Families with loved ones who face significant challenges must focus their planning on their loved ones’ current and future needs. The issues of where they will live, with whom they will live, and what they will do cannot be ignored. While underemployment and living at home are the most common outcomes for individuals, they are usually not the ones desired by them or their families. Even for families who are satisfied with these arrangements, there needs to be planning for the day when both parents have passed away.
How Planning For The Future Leads To Success
Almost every family wishes they had more resources with which to support their loved one with special needs. Fortunately, a lack of family financial resources does not mean a situation is doomed. It is important to become knowledgeable about government resources at the local, state, and federal levels. It is imperative to create a network of trusted advisors, both professional and social, who will assist your family during you loved one’s journey. You must also try to stay current with regards to new legislation and planning opportunities. New developments will impact your family’s planning.
There are two primary obstacles to successful special needs planning. Time and money. You have to accept that you cannot do everything or buy everything you would like for your loved one. However, successful planning will help you achieve more of your planning goals by making more effective use of your time and helping you stretch your dollars. In addition, the planning will supplement what the family can provide with as many government resources as possible. Effective special needs planning results in greater peace of mind for all family members.
Learn More About Special Needs Planning
If you would like more information about successful special needs financial planning, please visit our website at https://oakwealth.com, email us at email@example.com, or call us at 847-945-8888.
Last year, Independent Futures hit our $20,000 #GivingTuesday donations goal for the first time! Thanks to your support, we are hoping to raise $25,000 on Tuesday, December 3 this year.
Thanksgiving week is packed with great opportunities to treat yourself these days. Starting with great meals and lots of family time, Thanksgiving kicks off a week of fun. Next, many of us enjoy Black Friday for the deals, and local shoppers celebrate Small Business Saturday. On Monday, we search the web for more deals, and then we can finally turn our attention to community on #GivingTuesday.
Wondering how to celebrate Giving Tuesday with all the holiday bustle happening? RSVP to our #GivingTuesday calendar event to receive a reminder to donate on December 3rd!
How to Celebrate Giving Tuesday
On Tuesday, December 3rd, we are participating in #GivingTuesday through #ILGive. This is an initiative by Forefront to make Illinois one of the most generous states in the U.S. Donate to Center for Independent Futures on November 27th to show your support for Illinois nonprofits!
With your support, we know we can meet our goal of $25,000 on #GivingTuesday.
Plus, The Coleman Foundation will donate $175 for every gift of $175 or more! That means that if you donate $175, your gift is worth $350 for Center for Independent Futures. If you donate $500, your gift is worth $675! However, all gifts eligible for the matching dollars must be donated online.
Every dollar donated in honor of independent futures means we can continue to support individuals with disabilities and their full lives. Through #GivingTuesday, you help us create a future where individuals with disabilities have equitable access to the opportunities of a full life.
What do you think it takes for someone to work in theatre?
Immediate answers that might come to mind include an interest in drama, interpersonal skills, great communication, and an interest in learning new things. Thousands of people meet these qualifications – but how often do you encounter a person with disabilities working at the theatre?
People With Disabilities Working in Theatre
One of Independent Futures’ participants, Sarah, was working with a job coach from Jewish Vocational Services when she earned an apprenticeship with Piven Theatre. After exploring what Sarah might like to do for employment, Sarah’s job coach helped her get in touch with Piven Theatre.
Together, the pair went over tips and what to expect in informational interviews. Sarah’s dream job was to be an assistant teacher. “The best I thought I could shoot for was taking tickets,” Sarah said. But then, her informational interview took a positive turn.
She was offered an apprenticeship where she could learn about teaching. After looking at schedules and options, Sarah accepted.
Learning New Skills & Building Dreams
Throughout her apprenticeship, Sarah worked with 4th-8th graders in Piven Theatre workshops. She got to know the students, and she was responsible for making sure they were safe.
Interacting with the students as often as she could, Sarah was able to support the students in many ways. A budding writer herself, Sarah helped one student write a poem. This was one of Sarah’s favorite parts of her apprenticeship.
“The apprenticeship was an important way for me to get out to see what I want to do in terms of a degree or job and what field I want to go into. It was a way of finding myself,” Sarah shared.
History of American Disability Employment
In 1988, the government announced October as National Disability Employment Awareness Month. During this time, government agencies will publish articles and host events to highlight the opportunity to hire individuals with disabilities. Corporations will tout statistics about how many people with disabilities they hire.
For the rest of the year, startlingly high unemployment rates for people with disabilities persists. We dream of a day when more individuals with disabilities have opportunities like this one that Sarah had, when community employers discover the gifts that individuals have to share.
Before we get there, we need to understand where we have been and the milestones that advocates before us have achieved. Employers without disabilities sometimes think that there are limits to what someone with a disability can achieve, but these employers are proven wrong over and over. Over the last century, people with disabilities’ fight for employment equality has been long, hard, and limited by perception.
Beginnings of Anti-Discrimination Legislation
In the early and mid-twentieth century, only physical disabilities were eligible to receive public services and benefits for disability employment. When the Smith-Fess Act passed, the act established vocational rehabilitation for people with disabilities – but only physical disabilities.
In 1945, President Truman announced “National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week.” Later, the word “physically” was removed, making the week more inclusive in the 1960s. Eventually, this week turned into National Disability Employment Awareness Month, dedicating more time to the need for employment among the disability community.
Expansion of Civil Rights
By the ‘60s, creating inclusive spaces became increasingly important. While the courts had not caught up, President Kennedy introduced the President’s Panel on Mental Retardation. This committee explored ways that people with disabilities of all kinds could be included in every day life.
In 1972, the Independent Living Movement was born partially in response to President Nixon’s veto of the Rehabilitation Act. Later passed in 1973, the Rehabilitation Act prohibits discrimination based on someone’s disability by federal agencies and contractors. The Independent Living Movement is alive today, working to protect every individual’s right to choose where they live and how they are supported in community.
It wasn’t until 1977, when the government implemented Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, that people with disabilities gained civil rights. This was also when legislation acknowledged every student’s right to be in a public classroom. The precursor to supported employment, the “Try Another Way” campaign, was also born paving the path for us to where we are today.
Redefining Ability & Disability
Through the 1980s, the U.S. passed several pieces of legislation that supported individuals with disabilities’ employment prospects including the Job Training Partnership Act (1982) and the Employment Opportunities for Disabled Americans Act (1986).
The Americans with Disabilities Act was finally passed in 1990, expressly prohibiting discrimination against people with disabilities in hiring or career advancement. Since then, the perspectives of employers have been slowly evolving with the help of the federal government.
The Work Opportunity Tax Credit passed Congress in 1996, providing tax credits to businesses that hire people with disabilities. The government’s support led to an increase in community employers hiring disabled employees.
Beyond the Americans With Disabilities Act
Since 1990, disability continues to be defined and redefined again. The Olmstead Act promoted community-based, independent living whenever possible. Recently, the ADA Amendments of 2008 altered the definition of “disabled” so it is easier to establish eligibility for protections.
Since the Obama administration, the federal government’s employment agencies have supported integrated employment policies. This includes updating and improving access to services, implementing accommodations, and community outreach.
Why Should Businesses Hire People With Disabilities?
There are tons of reasons to hire individuals with disabilities, not the least of which is that they are just as capable as able-bodied employees. In fact, employees with disabilities are excellent problem solvers, stable workers (30% higher retention), safer in the workplace, and more productive.
Plus, much of the disability community is an untapped market. There are 56 million Americans with a disability of some type. The discretionary income of people with disabilities of working age alone is $21 billion. Add into this number individuals’ connections, like family and friends, and businesses realize they are missing a huge market share.
Most accommodations for employees with disabilities cost nothing. The majority of accommodations that employers pay for cost less than $500 – and this cost can be offset by the tax credit businesses receive for hiring employees with disabilities.
At the end of the day, there are many reasons to hire people with disabilities and very few reasons not to. Ability is not a marker of a great employee; many individuals can work successfully without accommodations while allowing a person with disabilities to grow and achieve their dream.
For Sarah, her apprenticeship at Piven Theatre was a big milestone. Her experience “marked the first time I had a job that wasn’t through a friend. I had to show up on time. More importantly, I had to do it for somebody else.”
Did you get your tickets for our hot, new event? Early bird prices have flown by, but we still have room for you and all your friends at Brews & Bites! Read on for more reasons to attend Brews & Bites!
Join us on a lovely Sunday afternoon for delicious bites and cool brews. On October 20 at the Evanston Art Center, learn how Center for Independent Futures and our participants help make Evanston an inclusive community for people with disabilities.
Opportunities To Win For Independence
Thanks to generous donors and our wonderful community, there are many opportunities for guests at Brews & Bites to win while supporting people with disabilities in Evanston. These opportunities include 4 raffle baskets, 2 gift card trees, and a beer & wine pull.
Seasonal, Unique Raffle Baskets
Instead of a silent auction, we are offering four fall & winter raffle baskets to keep you busy throughout the colder months coming. Tickets are $20 or 6 for $100, available for purchase at the event.
Want to have an exclusive dinner party with your closest friends or a few family members? One raffle basket includes a 3-course dinner for 8, prepared by local chefs Bonnie Dohogne and Chris Baer. The menu and date will be decided with the winner of this basket. An added bonus? You will also win a $50 gift card for some tasty desserts!
You could also choose to throw your raffle tickets into the Kitchen Basket, featuring unique kitchen tools, cookbooks, and a brand new KitchenAid mixer. This $600 value could be all yours for holiday baking and more.
Your third raffle option is the Christmas Bar Basket. This $500+ value includes all the tools you need to make your favorite Christmas drinks, plus the alcohol and garnishes for the true classics of each great holiday party.
Finally, learn how to make your favorite brews at home! The last raffle basket option is the Home Brew Kit. You could win your very own “Best Brew Award” at home by wowing your friends and family with unique beer creations.
Life Skills Gift Card Tree
Once you have entered your raffle tickets, what’s next?
Check out our *two* gift card trees this year! For either $25 or $50, you will take home a gift card guaranteed to be at least equal to the amount you spent. The gift cards come from a wide range of local and chain businesses. They range from nights out for dinner to home stores to health and wellness activities.
This year, the gift card tree will represent our Full Life Model. The model guides our work as tutors support participants in learning the life skills necessary to live independently. The 8 circles represent areas of a full life, which the leaves of the gift card trees will also represent.
Local Support From Evanston Community
Brews & Bites is being supported by many local favorites! The event will feature 14 restaurants, 6 bakeries, and 10 breweries. Whether you wake up on October 20th feeling like having sushi, pizza, lasagna, or taquitos, Brews & Bites has you covered. Check out our partners for Brews & Bites!
This year there are two ticket levels: regular adult tickets & young adult tickets. The difference between these two are the number of drink tickets allotted and pricing. While adult ticket purchases come with 9 drink tickets, the young adult tickets receive 3.
In addition to drink tickets, attendees will receive the chance to vote in our 1st ever Best Brew Award, unlimited access to all food vendors, and a commemorative tasting glass.
Leading up to the 2019 Chicago Marathon, what do you think Team CIF’s first timers and seasoned runners have in common?
It’s not the long training hours or researching tips for pre-race nutrition. It’s not avoiding injuries or even a passion for running. While these things are all important for marathon runners, the thing our team has in common is even bigger.
The team is linked by a common desire to support individuals with disabilities living independently and building the lives they want.
Fundraising For Independent Futures
Every member of Team CIF is responsible for raising at least $1,250 as part of being on a Chicago Marathon charity team. Each member does this in their own way: some reach out to coworkers and family, some host events at supporting restaurants, and some host contests among their friends.
Why do these runners commit to raising so much money to support Independent Futures? Why run a marathon at all? Because of the impact our programs have on the lives of our participants.
Over the course of the 17 years that Independent Futures has supported individuals with disabilities, our tutors have taught hundreds of distinct life skills to help participants live independently. Our New Futures Initiative, a housing training workshop, has helped 200 individuals move into the community of their choice. Our Change Champions programs have built inclusion into the fabric of community places, like the library and YMCA.
The members of Team CIF are training hard and raising over a thousand dollars each because we are leaders in helping individuals with disabilities achieve their dreams. But the team and our community need your help.
What Can You Do To Help?
After reading about some of our amazing team members, you may find yourself thinking, “I want to get involved! But how?” Luckily, there are many ways you can support the team!
First and foremost, the best way to help the team is to donate! Visit the team’s Crowdrise page to check out the team. Then you can donate to an individual runner, or you can donate to the team as a whole. Unable to donate right now? Try sharing the Crowdrise page on social media and asking your network to support independence for individuals with disabilities too.
Next, you can send words of encouragement to the team coordinator, Connor. She will pass along every bit of positivity you have for the team!
Finally, join us at the Charity Block Party on Sunday, October 13! From about 7:00 am – 1:00 pm, Independent Futures participants, staff, volunteers, and family of the team will be cheering on runners at mile 13. Look for us underneath our tent in case of rain! You can RSVP on Facebook.
Not ready to get involved this year but feeling inspired? You can also email Connor if you are interested in running for the 2020 Chicago Marathon. Looking for more reasons on why to run a marathon? Team members receive running support and help fundraising, plus free tickets to our fall fundraiser Brews & Bites and more. Start getting involved today!
At Independent Futures, we are delighted to announce that Brews & Bites will be taking the place of our annual Something’s Cooking fundraiser. On October 20th, join us at Evanston Art Center from 3:00 – 6:00 for a great time! Read more to find out what’s new in 2019, the cost of tickets, and who you’ll find at Brews & Bites.
What’s New in 2019?
While we hope the community enjoyed attending Something’s Cooking for the past 15 years, we decided it was time for some exciting changes – starting with its name. This new, updated event is now Brews & Bites, a community gathering of Evanston’s favorite local restaurants with one more big addition.
Brews & Bites will also feature local Chicagoland breweries. Each participating brewery is donating tastings of their favorite fall beers! We will be joined by 9 local breweries including: Adams Street Brewery, Kings & Convicts, Ravinia Beer Company, Revolution Beer, Sketchbook Brewing, Smylie Bros., Temperance Beer Co., The Lagunitas Brewing Co, and Ten Ninety.
The tasting portion of Brews & Bites is possible largely thanks to Byline Bank. Thanks to Byline Bank, we are able to expand Something’s Cooking into an even more engaging community event celebrating Evanston’s vibrant food scene.
How To Get Your Tickets to Brews & Bites
We are offering an early bird price for limited duration of 3 weeks this year. From now until October 6th, the early bird adult tickets will be $60. Adult tickets will then be $75 until the day before Brews & Bites. Day-of tickets purchased at the door will be $85.
For students and young adults under 26, tickets will be $30. Children 10 and under may attend free of charge.
As Independent Futures looks toward this organization’s own future, we are exploring ways to stay true to our mission while updating our work for the new decade. Brews & Bites is one of the first steps we are taking to move into the future, successfully supporting as many individuals as we can.
In Illinois, students with disabilities can stay in school until age 22. From ages 18-22, this group of students typically participates in a transition program where they learn life skills.
At Independent Futures, we partner with Evanston Township High School’s Transition House every summer. Our school team works with transition professionals to create a weeklong program that teaches critical skills for navigating the community. This program is called Travel the Town (formerly Life Tools Camp).
This year, we hosted Travel the Town at Hub 930, a community space housed in one of our Community Living Options on Chicago Avenue. A group of 7 young men from the Transition House discovered all that Evanston has to offer them.
What Are Critical Life Skills?
Let’s begin with an understanding of what Independent Futures considers ‘critical life skills.’ These are the skills that we need to live independently, like cooking, cleaning, and being safe.
For example, as part of Travel the Town, students begin each day by discussing the day’s plan. They cover questions like: Where will we go? Is that north or south? How will we get there? What is the best behavior in context?
Each of these questions help the students build safety habits, like not wandering and understanding public transportation. Building from these questions, the group voted on what they wanted to do and then left for their activities.
Where Did Travel the Town Explore?
The Transition House travelers explored a lot of Evanston, including the Evanston Public Library South Branch, parks, Andy’s Custard, Dave’s Down to Earth Rock Shop, Evanston Police Department, and more.
To visit all of these fun local favorites, the group took either the CTA bus or the ‘El’ trains. Led by Sharon Purdy and Cynthia Witherspoon, the students would determine which direction they needed to go and which train would take them there, plus which stop to get off. Each day, they navigated Evanston together, enjoying the freedom to go where they decided.
Sharon’s favorite part of Travel the Town is the chance to spend “unstructured” time with the students. “The students don’t often get the chance to be out together outside the classroom,” Sharon says. “They enjoyed hanging out with their friends, having lunch in the backyard, and being together with nothing to do.”
The Possibilities of an Independent Future
While exploring Evanston, the students were able to see what their own futures could hold. One of our community members, Lindsay, spoke with the group about what her life is like. Living independently in an apartment, Lindsay volunteers, has a job, goes out with close friends, and is engaged. Lindsay’s life is the type of full life that many of our community members have, and it’s a positive example of the life the Travel the Town students could have.
Like for people without disabilities, living independently has learning curves, and this program is a step toward futures where these students live independently. By focusing on life skills, our partnership with Evanston Township High School prepares students with disabilities for the future they choose.