Working For A Just & Equitable Future

At Independent Futures, our mission is to help craft a world where every individual has access to all opportunities of a full life. Our mission is to support people with disabilities, but we must condemn racism in all its forms. We are committed to expanding access to our supports and programs as much as we possibly can. 

Rather than release a statement talking about what we have done as an organization, we want to highlight the voices of our staff. At least ¾ of our staff have attended the Beyond Diversity workshops sponsored by Evanston Cradle to Career, and those staff members created a DEI working group that finds new ways to expand access to our programs. Our staff members are conscious of how the personal is political, so we asked them to share how race affects their life and work. These are their responses: 

Ann Sickon, Executive Director

I believe that societal change only comes when each person recognizes they have a role to play in making needed changes in our reality. Policies, regulations, and federal and state laws, though perhaps well intentioned, can be subverted and destructive when our citizens do not demand equal protection under the law for everyone.

Still, these demands alone are not enough. We must expand our awareness of current policies and rules, and then we must root out discriminatory racial practices. We each have the responsibility to identify ways to create fair and equitable employment opportunities and opportunities for every voice and persuasion to be heard. Everyone must have the opportunity to live their fullest life.

Kathy Lyons, Director of New Futures Initiative Training & Consultation

I believe that there are no spectators in the fight against racism. Either we are actively working to dismantle racism, or we are perpetuating it. In our work, we can make systemic change – eradicating racism in our educational institutions, health care systems, economic systems, housing systems, and justice system.  Taking action means:

  • Learning, listening, and leveling what has never been an even playing field  
  • Thinking about who’s at the table, in the room, and who never got into the building
  • Sharing, or giving up, your seat at the table
  • Filling the room with voices different from yours and then doing what those different voices demand
  • Recognizing the contributions and sacrifices of those who actually built the buildings
  • Seeing our common humanity and standing up when others do not

Rob Larson, Community Life Coordinator & Life Skills Tutor

I’m inspired to work at Independent Futures because it’s a visionary model where people with disabilities and their families have the opportunity to explore life in the context of dignity and community.  Even visionary models need to face very real obstacles when building community and systemic racism is one of those.

I learned about Evanston’s history with systemic racism.  I also learned that it was hard for some Evanston families to afford our services due to the lack of funding in Illinois and many of these families were people of color. I felt like we were missing out on the vibrant gifts of many Black, Asian and Hispanic families. I’m refreshed when I remember that we belong to one another. Independent Futures has created some free activities and a scholarship fund to remove some barriers. We still have a long way to go, but as other states have embrace funding community inclusion, why should Illinois families be robbed of that opportunity?

Regarding race, gender and sexual orientation, I’m a straight white male. By outward markers it is clear that I benefit from a confluence of power, especially white patriarchal privilege. I held some toxic views and didn’t even realize it.  It’s been life giving to struggle toward love and liberation together, with all sorts of people from all walks of life. In the process, I made surprising friendships and was freed from the toxic views which were robbing me of joy.

I look forward to being with you and learning from you. I am eager to dismantle oppressive systems and create opportunities for families to thrive.  I have faith that people will flourish wherever love is planted and justice is watered. I’m looking forward to walking in that garden with y’all.

Connor Larsen, Communications & Marketing Manager

My relationship with race and social justice issues is constant and it is personal. At work and at home, I continue to educate myself on others’ experiences while participating in active & progressive citizenship. Some of the ways I practice active citizenship include: 

  • signing petitions,
  • contacting my government representatives,
  • reading policy proposals,
  • supporting candidates I believe in through donations and volunteering,
  • voting in every election, even local primaries.

In each of these actions, I am using my power and often my privileges to move the people around me – and those who represent me – toward a more just and equitable future. In doing this work, I offer an open invitation to anyone who would like to learn more and join in! 

Sharon Purdy, School & Agency Consultant

My hope is that Independent Futures can someday provide equal opportunities for inclusion for all people with disabilities in Evanston. Unfortunately, Independent Futures’ supportive and effective programming is not affordable to many in our community. 

Currently, many of the students and families whose transition planning we support through Evanston Township High School do not have access to person-centered programs such as ours upon graduation. I hope that we will continue to expand the after school activities that we have been able to provide through generous grants and professional commitment. I also hope we will continue to develop an environment where everyone can flourish. 

Our participation in Courageous Conversations has opened important dialogue among our staff. I’m proud that we have been intentional about learning from each other. Let’s share these conversations with our whole community. I read this on a yard sign yesterday: I pledge to speak out against actions and systems of oppression that have an unjust racial impact.  I also pledge to continue to learn from the young adults in our community with an open heart and action. 

Amy Fox, Director of My Full Life Training & Consultation

At a most basic level, if we assume that we all have a social responsibility to one another, then our job as a society is to help one another. We must honor our social contract to access this greater good and it may require surrendering something for the greater good. 

This implicit bias training came up in a news piece yesterday. It is broken out into a variety of categories on implicit bias including race, sexuality, and disability. It is our duty to know where our own biases are and work to consciously correct them.

Finally, this poem by Langston Hughes gives me pause for reflection on a dream deferred.

“Harlem” by Langston Hughes

What happens to a dream deferred?
      Does it dry up
      like a raisin in the sun?
      Or fester like a sore—
      And then run?
      Does it stink like rotten meat?
      Or crust and sugar over—
      like a syrupy sweet?

      Maybe it just sags
      like a heavy load.

      Or does it explode?

Vote in Illinois’ 2020 Election

The next chance to vote in Illinois is on Tuesday, November 3rd, 2020. During this election, Illinois citizens will vote for a new president, choose our senators, and answer important questions all through their powerful ballots.

A photo of the Capitol building at night against a clear blue evening sky.There are several steps to preparing for an election, like we outlined in our primary voting blog back in February featuring information about primaries, registering to vote, and how to vote. While our primary voting guide has important information, a few things have changed since then!

Steps To Vote In Illinois

First, make sure you are registered to vote. You can check your registration at this link. If you have moved or changed your name recently, you will need to re-register. You can register to vote online until October 18th.

Next, you can decide whether you want to vote in-person during early voting, in-person on Election Day, or by mail. Early voting information can be found on this State of Illinois website.

However, due to COVID-19, the safest way to vote this year is by mail. In order to vote by mail in Illinois, you will need to visit this website to request your ballot. When you fill out this form, you will be asked if you need a military/overseas ballot or a standard vote by mail application. If you choose the standard application, you will then choose your “jurisdiction,” meaning where you live.

Next, you may be directed to another website that is specific to your location. Read and follow all of the directions on the website pages, and write down any important dates on a calendar. If you submit your vote by mail application by September 24th, you will receive your ballot by October 5th. Remember: If you vote by mail, your ballot must be returned in the mail on or before November 3rd.

This image contains information about voting by mail for Chicago. To vote in Illinois, visit the Board of Elections website for more information.

Once you have submitted your information, like your address, the site will redirect you to a confirmation page. This page is important because the page will tell you if your application was successfully submitted!

 

Being A Smart and Prepared Voter

Now that you have checked your voter registration and requested your vote by mail ballot, it’s time to learn about the candidates.

BallotReady logoOne of our favorite tools is BallotReady.org. On this website you can enter your voting address, and the site will break your ballot into each race. It will then give you the opportunity to click on a candidate’s name to learn more about them and their positions. When you make a decision about a race, you select the candidate you want, and BallotReady will save your choice. When you’re ready to cast your ballot, you can use this site to pick the candidates you believe in most.

Don’t forget about the AAPD’s Voter Resource Center! These resources are helpful to people with disabilities because they collect information about candidates specific to disability issues.

Are You Ready To Vote In Illinois?

Does it feel early to get ready for an election in November? We understand that it might. Before COVID-19, many of us could wait until the week before Election Day to start preparing to vote.

To guarantee that you are able to vote this year, start getting ready today. Check your voter registration status and request your vote by mail ballot by August, and then use the time between then and late October to make educated decisions about who represents your interests the best.

SPARK 2020: Save the Date

A woman and young man next to each other at SPARK, an Evanston eventHave you heard about how much fun our Evanston events are from your friends? Do you want to experience an event that illustrates what it means to fully include people with disabilities? Join us at SPARK on Saturday, November 7th to join the movement.

For the first time ever, Independent Futures is partnering with The Autobarn of Evanston as a host for this year’s theme, Create Your Journey. At Independent Futures, we support adults with disabilities as they explore the paths open to them, crafting their own futures. When you join us at SPARK, you will become part of the journey to inclusion.

What To Expect At This Evanston Event

Two young adults with disabilities post for camera at SPARKWe view SPARK as an opportunity to celebrate our whole community, including Independent Futures’ participants, families, employees, donors, and community partners. That means there will be dancing, dinner, and a lot of chances for fun! 

The evening will begin with the chance to bid on some of Chicago and Evanston’s favorite stores, restaurants, and experiences. Past auction items include tickets to Cubs games, classic Chicago artwork, and handmade woodworking from local artisans. 

The reception will be followed by dinner and a live auction. At last year’s live auction, winners took home trips to Costa Rica, a golf outing with a pro, gorgeous artwork from a local artist, and more! Plus, you won’t want to miss our favorite game, Heads or Tails. We will finish the evening by dancing our hearts out to a favorite of ours, Euphoria Band

Getting Tickets to SPARK

A group of SPARK attendees smile around a table at SPARKLet all your friends know you’re busy on Saturday, November 7th now, and get your tickets online today. You’ll want to get your tickets fast because SPARK sold out 3 weeks early last year! 

In the meantime, RSVP to our Facebook event page and check out these great photos from SPARK 2019 to get ready. 

Teaching Life Skills to Adults During a Pandemic

Teaching life skills to adults with disabilities is the main responsibility of our life skills tutors. Before the COVID-19 pandemic led us to close our office doors temporarily, a tutor’s daily life varied widely. One day, a tutor would meet with one participant in the office to go over budgets, and the next day they might meet at the McGaw YMCA to support healthy living goals.

New Skills Inventory client practices her kitchen skills as a tutor is teaching life skills to adults.Because of our person-centered philosophy, our tutors’ experiences are different with each participant. Each individual determines their own goals based on their hopes and dreams. After that, tutors work with the individual to create action plans, which are the basis for tutoring sessions. These individualized plans mean that tutors are usually out in the community, supporting local cafes and shops while teaching life skills to our participants.

The pandemic disrupted much of the work we do at Independent Futures, but our Direct Support team pivoted quickly. With many local businesses closed and a stay-at-home order, our tutors needed to start teaching life skills remotely.

Teaching Life Skills To Adults During A Pandemic

Three months into our stay-at-home order, tutoring looks a lot different than it used to. “Tutoring during the pandemic has evolved,” reported life skills tutor Dee Dee Goldman. “Much of what I do is teaching and modeling, so the physical distance has changed that.”

Features Cynthia, winner of staff Awesome AwardAnother tutor, Cynthia Witherspoon, said, “During the first week Independent Futures instituted the work from home policy I met with the participants I tutor using texts, FaceTime, and phone calls.” However, as the governor modified the stay-at-home order, “I returned to meeting in person with most of my participants in their homes. We practice safe distancing and I always wear a mask. For those who have not felt comfortable returning to face to face meetings, I stay in touch with FaceTime or phone calls.”

Turning Challenges Into Opportunities

Photo of two women smiling, one a direct service professional and one a participant.Working and tutoring remotely meant new challenges for tutors and participants. The first step was figuring out how sessions could continue. Dee Dee shared, “We have been very creative by using screen share, dictation, and new forms of learning to do daily tasks.”

Because tutors are teaching life skills to adults with disabilities using new tools, the topics individuals are learning have changed too. The challenges associated with teaching someone how to cook, combined with adapting to remote learning, meant tutoring topics changed too.

During Cynthia’s tutoring sessions, she and participants have gone for walks to change their scenery. She also used the pandemic as an opportunity to discuss, model, and practice safety through personal hygiene routines. But the need for distance learning with life skills led to new technology challenges. 

“One learning opportunity was understanding how to order groceries online,” Cynthia said. “It is surprising how many things need to be considered, like choosing which store you want, using a debit or credit card to pay for groceries, and scheduling time to have groceries delivered. It’s a complex process with a lot of steps to learn.” 

Adjusting To A New Normal

Many of our participants work in grocery stores and remained working as essential employees throughout the pandemic. Still, some participants felt their anxiety increase. For participants who were furloughed, the changes to their routines were difficult. These types of changes in day-to-day activities were difficult for many of us to grow accustomed to.

Some of Independent Futures team in a GoToMeeting video callAs we all adjusted slowly to the necessary COVID-19 precautions, our tutoring participants adjusted too. “At first, participants would tease me about wearing a mask and gloves, maintaining 6 feet of distance, and putting items on the ground,” Cynthia said. “Now everyone sees these as common practices, and they are respectful of the guidelines I follow. They know I am doing it to protect them.” 

Moving Our Supports Forward 

Throughout this time, individuals employed their independent living skills to face brand new challenges. However, only 3 of Dee Dee and Cynthia’s participants left their homes to live with family. Tutoring continued in a new format and adjusted to individuals’ changing needs.

We learned that teaching life skills to adults with disabilities during a pandemic required new tools and flexibility. Our tutors rose to meet this new challenge. By creatively using Zoom, screen sharing, and other tech solutions, the team continued supporting participants near and far. As we prepare for the rest of this year, we are deciding which tools we will continue using. Have thoughts you’d like to share? Email center@independentfutures.com to let us know what you think! 

 

Reopening Update for Independent Futures

June 19th Update: For the foreseeable future, our office will be open from 10:00 am – 3:00 pm. We are open to visitors only by appointment, so please call ahead. The rest of the information in this blog still applies, including requirements regarding face coverings and taking temperatures. 

Dear community members,

On March 16th, Independent Futures closed our office, and our staff started working remotely. As Illinois moves into Phase 3 of the Restore Illinois plan, we can begin informing you about our reopening update. 

Beginning June 8th, our office will be open from 11:00 am-2:00 pm. In following weeks, we will increase our open hours gradually. To limit risk, all office visitors must call (847) 328-2044 to make an appointment. Along with these limited hours, we have installed a sneeze guard at our front desk and marked 6 foot areas throughout the office. The following policies will apply to everyone entering our office.

  • Everyone must wear masks during any and all in-office meetings. We ask that you bring your own, but if you do not have a face covering, one will be provided for you.
  • We will take your temperature when you arrive at the office. Our staff are also asked to follow this procedure to protect our whole community.
  • Safety practices such as frequently washing our hands for at least 20 seconds and maintaining social distance will be required of all staff and guests.
  • There will be hand sanitizer available in the office. We recommend that anyone entering or leaving the office use hand sanitizer to reduce the chance of transmitting the virus to others.
  • Out of respect for everyone’s health, please stay home if you feel unwell or have a temperature.

While our office has been closed, our Activities Director has continued to provide activities services online. Moving forward, we will be exploring blended activities options. To make our activities as accessible as possible, we will continue providing as many options as possible for the community. Please keep an eye out for our upcoming Summer Activities schedule

We remain thankful for everyone’s patience and support as we make these transitions, and we look forward to seeing you all in person as soon as we can. We will update this blog periodically when we receive new information.

If you have any questions about our reopening update, please email center@independentfutures.com. We will forward your question to the appropriate staff member. In the meantime, stay healthy and take care! 

Warm regards,

Ann Sickon, Executive Director

Community Is A Lifestyle: Community Builders

“I had never heard of Independent Futures before, nor was I aware of any type of supported living model like their Community Living Option (CLO). So when the opportunity to apply for the Community Builder opening came across my desk nearly a decade ago, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. However, it was clear to me that Independent Futures was something incredibly unique and quite special. From the moment the opportunity presented itself to the day I moved in, it was only a span of two weeks. Needless to say, I was sold. Over eight years later, I’m still a believer.” – Aby Karottu, Community Builder 

Over the past 20 years, Independent Futures’ work has centered the best ways to bolster opportunities to be independent for adults with disabilities. Out of this work, we created the New Futures Initiative™, a training program to help families create housing options for their loved ones. 

Adam poses with friends he has made through Center for Independent FuturesOur training is based on our own experience creating Community Living Options™. Our CLOs are creative solutions to support adults with disabilities who want to live in a community of their choice. 

A key piece of our Community Living Options is our Community Builders. A Community Builder lives in their own apartment in the CLO. They provide support for their building’s other residents as needed. For this blog, we asked a couple of our Community Builders to share what it’s like to navigate their supportive role.

Daily Community Builder Routines

Before the stay-at-home policies, Aby Karottu, Community Builder for Harrison Street, started his mornings early. By 5:00 am, he would start a HIIT workout at Evanston Athletic Club. Then he went to work in Skokie as a special education teacher. When he came home, Aby checked in with the other CLO residents. Every day, he stopped by to say hello to his neighbors. After that, Aby played with his dog, hung out with friends, went on dates, rock climbed, or practiced a number of other hobbies. 

Chicago Marathon Team CIF runner in front of Chicago skylineFor Nick Connell, Community Builder at the Chicago Ave. House, the routine is similar. He and the other residents meet for a daily “hello and chat,” and then he would spend time with his family, play soccer, or practice one of his hobbies. 

Community Builders play a crucial role in supporting the full lives that CLO residents develop. But as Aby shared, “I’ve come to recognize and embrace my role as a Community Builder most closely to that of an overly-concerned neighbor.”

Challenges for Community Builders

When families in our New Futures Initiative learn about Community Builders, they often wonder how they could find anyone who would accept the role. The family members sometimes ask how Community Builders can maneuver the challenges.

Two Something's Cooking attendees poseNick and Aby each face different challenges. For Nick, scheduling and communication can be challenges, “especially in the beginning of forming our community.” These are two challenges that can only be overcome with practice.

As a special education teacher, Aby had trouble taking off his “teacher hat” in the beginning. Since then, he says he has grown into the role of Community Builder. “While I’ll always be an educator at heart, I also honor my very unique role, not as an authority figure, but rather as a role model who’s just here to lend a caring ear and a helping hand.”

Truthfully, the role of Community Builder can be demanding. But there are people who believe in community and are happy to support adults with disabilities in their daily lives. 

Finding Joy in Community

One of our Community Builders makes balloon animals at our annual benefit, SPARK.Though Community Builders face many demands on their time, they find joy in the small interactions the community shares. They see each resident every day. Though the Community Builder may offer support and advice, they also receive support in their lives. 

For Nick, his daily check-ins have brought unexpected connections. “Currently one of my neighbors and I share ingredients and recipes, and then we share whatever we bake or cook. I greatly appreciate the opportunities to give and receive.” 

“I appreciate the intimate nature inherent in living amongst the residents I serve. As such, I greatly value the relationship aspects of what I do,” Aby says of the joys he finds as a Community Builder. “Because of the journeys I’ve experienced, I have a type of joy that’s been unparalleled in my life.”

Finding Community Builders

Though becoming a Community Builder is certainly not easy, “it’s a wonderful way of life,” according to Nick. When families ask how we find folks willing to do that work, we share that it’s not always easy. 

Being a Community Builder is both challenging and joyous. It requires dedication and the willingness to support individuals with disabilities. Agreeing with Nick, Aby says, “It’s not a job. It’s a lifestyle. If you value service, compassion, and community, it will be worth it.”

Creating Housing For People With Disabilities: How To Form A Family Group

At Independent Futures, we offer our New Futures Initiative training program to families who want to see their loved ones find a place to call home. Our training facilitators support families as they explore various housing options and decide which options meet their needs. Most importantly, these trainings allow families to work with others who share the same goal.

What Is A Family Group? 

Family members and staff gather around a group of sticky notes from a planning sessionFor our New Futures Initiative training, we ask that the initial families find others to go through the training with them. A New Futures Initiative training typically includes 5-10 families all seeking to create housing for a loved one with a disability. We call this a “family group.”

The most important aspect of family groups is that you can all work together. Our trainers can help you navigate challenges that arise. Throughout the training process, there will be opportunities to explore what housing options are best for your loved ones.

How Do I Form A Family Group? 

Forming a family group is easiest if you can start with your existing relationships. Existing friendships are a natural starting place to form a family group. However, sometimes it can be difficult to find other families who share your goal of creating a housing option in your community. The following are ideas that can help you find opportunities to connect with other families in your community.

Call to Action Meeting with Independent Futures
A square brown house with red door that is one example of housing options for people with disabilities.
Harrison House created by Independent Futures families, an example of housing options for people with disabilities.

Host a “call to action” meeting in your community. Our staff will explain the need for creative new housing solutions and the New Futures Initiative process. Our staff will work with you to publicize the event, and we will lead the presentation in your community.

Schools – Public and Private

Start by contacting special education professionals in your local schools. Connect with families whose students are in high school transition programs and even families with younger students.  Don’t forget about private schools – in your search, try including faith-based schools and schools specifically for students with disabilities.  

Post-Secondary Schools and Programs (Colleges, Universities, Job Training Programs)

Use ThinkCollege.net to learn about college programs for students with intellectual disabilities in your area. Get in touch with post-secondary programs and service providers focused on employment and job training.

Area Service Providers

Check with service providers in your area. Many may know of families who are also looking for supported independent living options. Some service providers cannot meet the demand for housing and have waiting lists of families looking for a housing option for a loved one.

Disability Advocacy Groups
A tan and beige apartment structure with green awnings over businesses
Integrated Living Opportunities (ILO) in Maryland/DC, created with the support of the New Futures Initiative training.

Engage local disability-focused advocacy groups such your chapters of The Arc and Center for Independent Living. If you’re able, attend conferences, meetings, and events sponsored by these organizations to meet other families.

Disability-Specific Advocacy Groups

Contact disability-specific advocacy groups such as Autism Speaks, National Association for Down Syndrome, and others. Join these organizations and attend their meetings to make connections with other families.

Faith Based Organizations

Faith-based organizations such as churches, synagogues, mosques, and inter-faith organizations may have inclusion coordinators or inclusion services. They could help you get in touch with other families who have loved ones with disabilities.

Social Media

Meetup logoUse social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to publicize your efforts. You can set up a “Meetup” gathering for families in the area who are looking for housing options for their loved ones. Throughout these strange times, our staff can even work with you to organize a virtual meeting through a conference call app like Zoom.

Civic and Community Organizations

Contact your public library to use their space or services, and ask your librarians about other organizations. Your town or city’s Inclusion/ADA Coordinator and community foundations, Rotary Club, or other service organizations might help you connect to other families.

Social/Sports/Arts Organizations

Staff poses to welcome a family group attending New Futures Initiative training to create housing for people with disabilitiesEngage families through programs such as Best Buddies, Special Olympics, Special Recreation Departments, camps, arts and theatre programs, and other types of recreation. 

Taking The Next Step

The process of creating housing solutions for loved ones with disabilities is a journey. The Independent Futures staff who work on New Futures Initiative know this personally. We can help you and your loved ones craft the future they deserve – with a place to call home.

Remote Learning: 3 Ways to Adapt

In our work with the individuals we support, the tools we use also support the need for remote learning. For many people, thinking of teaching online right now leads them to think of the millions of school-age students, but remote teaching is just as crucial for agencies that support adults with disabilities right now. 

Teaching life skills through distance learning can be tough sometimes. With the right tools, your learners can stay on track with their goals. 

However, there are some aspects of teaching that need to be adjusted in order to make remote learning successful for everyone involved. In this blog, we’ll explore 3 ways that you can adjust your classroom and teaching to make this transition easier for your learners.

1. Measure Progress 

How do you measure progress among your learners? Do you operate with a grade system, or do you award points for completing tasks? Whatever your methods, you may find that you need to adjust how you have assessed growth in the past. 

New Skills Inventory client practices her kitchen skills.With My Full Life, the online learning management system we use, our tutors can track progress without assigning grades. Instead tutors can ask an individual some questions related to the skill they are learning.

In this way, our system of measuring progress is a little like a pass/fail system. Though we don’t use that exact system, learners can either demonstrate they have learned a skill or they can continue working on it. Could this method work for your learners? 

2. Utilize Accessibility Features

Educators can teach self-advocacy skills to students in a variety of ways. This image shows an individual in a wheelchair with two others on a grassy lawn.Historically, the term accessibility has referred to physical places. For example, one aspect of making a building accessible is including a ramp or there are no steps to enter. In digital spaces, however, accessibility means that anyone, regardless of ability, can access that website or resource.

To ensure all of your lessons are accessible, it can be necessary to provide multiple ways learners can engage with the material. That could mean recording a video and ensuring that all of the subtitles are accurate, or it could mean providing a reading lesson along with an audio recording of the material. 

Each lesson you have may be different. A good place to start during lesson development might be including a routine question to ask: How can this lesson be accessible to the greatest number of learners?

3. Allow Each Other Grace

One final key aspect to teaching remotely is to allow grace for both yourself and your learners. These are challenging times for all of us. From day to day, how we feel can seem unpredictable during these stay-at-home policies. 

All we can do in the meantime is be understanding of one another. A learner may have more trouble focusing than usual, or their internet connection may be down. By allowing each other to have space in these strange times, we can all get through this together.

Throughout these stay at home policies, we have all moved our lives online as much as possible. But we all know that this is not a perfect fit. Until we can start returning to a sense of normalcy, these 3 adjustments can help you and your learners through remote learning.

 

Staying Connected Through COVID-19

For many of us, our plans for 2020 have been upended by COVID-19 and stay at home policies enacted by state and local governments. Whether our plans were big vacations or little everyday meetings, we can feel a sense of dissonance. You might not feel connected to people or places the same way you felt before COVID-19 influenced our daily lives.

That’s okay. We’re feeling it too. 

A sign hung from trees reads "Heroes Work Here" outside an Evanston hospital.At Independent Futures, we have made tough decisions to cancel our activities through the end of April. We have also postponed SPARK, our annual benefit, until November 7th. These are big disappointments for our community, but they were important for all of our health and safety. 

However, all of these changes don’t mean we have to feel disconnected. Thanks to the technology most of us have at home, we can still feel close to friends and family through digital tools.

Tools For Staying Connected Through COVID-19

Our staff has been working away from the office since March 16th. We will continue to do so until the governor and mayor lift our stay-at-home policies. In the meantime, we have been staying connected to each other using a number of tools. We’ve even been exploring ways to move some activities online!

Tools To Maintain Relationships

Some of Independent Futures team in a GoToMeeting video callFor Apple users, Facetime is a great option that is reliable. For non-Apple users, log into a Google account and find Google Duo. This is a free and pretty trusty solution for when you want to see your friends, family, or coworkers. Finally, Zoom is another option that is easy to use and dependable. None of these options requires downloading and installing new software. Give one a try! 

Social apps are also a great way to stay connected to your friends during social isolation. Our staff uses some cool ones to connect. Netflix Party is an app that allows you and your friends to watch something at the same time and talk via a chat box on the screen. Marco Polo allows you to send video snippets to friends and respond to the stories they tell you. Finally, House Party is a video chat app that has fun games like Heads Up and trivia. 

Each of these 6 tools can help you and your friends or family with staying connected through COVID-19. Though they can’t replace face-to-face interaction, they can help us get through the next few weeks at home – together.

Access Living Resources for the Disability Community

A sign outside Jewel Osco reads "Thanks Jewel team, you guys are the best"Our friends at Access Living created a list of resources that the disability community may find helpful. These comprehensive resources range from accurate news sites and grocery store hours to caregiving resources and self-care tips.

Use these resources to help yourself or your friends. During this time, we can all come together to make our time at home easier. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or to reach out to old friends. By staying home and staying healthy, we will make it through this together.

Until We See You Again

Our current stay-at-home policy is in effect until April 30th in Illinois. In the meantime, reach out to Independent Futures if you need support. 

We are checking the office email and phone every day. Our tutors and Community Life Coordinators continue to support participants via virtual check-ins. Our community is strong. We will see each other again soon.

A Message From Our Executive Director on COVID-19

This message was updated Friday, April 24th to reflect an extension of our remote working hours through at least May 30th and a new date for SPARK 2020. 

 

Dear community members,

Over the past 2 weeks, our staff at Independent Futures has considered several options to meet the challenges posed by effects of the Covid-19 virus. Ultimately, our office staff has decided to work remotely until at least May 30th to comply with the state’s stay-at-home policy. 

Thankfully, we are prepared for this type of remote work, and we are prepared to continue moving forward on crucial projects that can be done remotely. Additionally, our Direct Service team is looking into how much of our life skills tutoring programs can be done through technology like FaceTime and Google Hangouts. However, all of our non-essential activities, such as Walking Club and Art Club, have been cancelled through April. 

At this time, the Direct Service team will provide the same comprehensive support to participants that they always have. However, we will also take necessary precautions to keep participants and staff healthy. 

If anything changes, tutors will reach out to participants and family members to coordinate details about tutoring sessions. This will include answering questions like “Are we still meeting?” or “Where will we meet?”

Right now, we are working on coordinating a Plan B for SPARK, which was scheduled to take place on Saturday, April 18th. We will no longer meet in April. Instead, we hope you will join us on the new date of Saturday, November 7th. If you have purchased tickets already and are unable to attend on November 7th, please reach out. We will work with you to find the solution that best suits you.  

To make things easier for our community, we will keep our communications as clear as possible and centralized. You may receive some more emails than usual from us in the next few weeks, and you should keep an eye on our social media for important updates. But as information becomes available, we will update this blog to reflect the most current information at all times.  

We are thankful for everyone’s patience and support as we make these transitions, and we look forward to seeing you all in person as soon as we can. We will update this blog with more information by March 31st.

If you have any questions, please email center@independentfutures.com. Your question will then be forwarded to the appropriate staff member. In the meantime, stay healthy and take care! 

Sincerely,

Ann Sickon, Executive Director

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