Jonathan’s Big Fat Greek Birthday Vacation

Jonathan Shuman is a man who loves to travel the world, viewing the world in a positive and friendly way. He wants to share how he uses our philosophy of “create your journey.” These are his notes from his trip to Greece, exploring the ancient sites and gorgeous isles.

Day 1: Leaving Chicago

Jonathan stands in front of ancient ruins in Greece as part of his "Create Your Journey" tripMy parents picked me up from Harrison House in Evanston, and Howard drove me to Chicago O’Hare International Airport where I would board my flight from Chicago, Illinois to Minneapolis, Minnesota. At Minneapolis Saint Paul International Airport, I waited in the traveler’s assistance section. Then, I would board a Delta Airlines flight from Minneapolis, Minnesota to Newark, New Jersey. 

When I arrived at Newark Liberty International Airport, I met my travel guide named Kailash Dhaksinamurthi. Originally, a person named Harry was supposed to go on the trip to Athens, Greece with me and Kailash. Unfortunately, Harry couldn’t join us because Harry possibly got mugged and had all of his money stolen and he didn’t have enough travel insurance to travel to Athens, Greece with Kailash and me. So it’s me and Kailash, just the two of us. 

We went to baggage claim at Newark Liberty Airport and we got my big black suitcase and I had to check in again, this time with Emirates Airlines. Kailash and I boarded our Emirates Airlines flight from Newark, New Jersey to Athens, Greece. On the airplane, I fell asleep.

Day 2: Arriving in Athens

Gia sou which, in Greek, means Hello. Today I just arrived in Athens, Greece, with the travel organization Search Beyond Adventures.

An ancient building in Athens, Greece.When I woke up on my flight, I was above the Atlantic Ocean. The flight from Newark to Athens took about 10 hours traveling east. On the airplane, I was served scrambled eggs and potatoes for breakfast, and I had a cup of coffee with cream and no sugar to drink with my breakfast. I also watched a movie on the airplane called Green Book starring Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali. It was a fantastic film. I would rate the movie Green Book an 8.5/10 because it was dazzling.

Around 3 pm, me and Kailash arrived at Athens International Airport in Athens, Greece. We also went to baggage claim and we got my big black suitcase and I also converted my United States dollars into Euros, the official currency of Greece. 

Kailash and I  took a taxicab to the Philippos Hotel located on Mitseon Street in Athens Greece. Later, at around 5:35 pm Athens Greece time, me and Kailash went out to dinner at Regal Bar and Bistro and I had a turkey burger with house cut fries for dinner and Kailash had a margherita pizza for dinner. The turkey burger tasted velvety and crisp and tender and moist and also a little salty. 

After dinner, we walked around the neighborhood. We saw orange trees and a cat that was perched on top of a car. You know how there are so many squirrels in USA? Well, there are lots of feral cats in Greece and Israel as well.

Day 3: Exploring Ancient Times

Gia sous (Hello) again everyone. This is Jonathan Shuman writing his journal and blog for Day 3 of my trip to Athens Greece with Search Beyond Adventures. 

Today, my tour guide, Kailash, and I ate breakfast in the morning at the Philippos Hotel on Mitseon Street in Athens. Later, we went to see the Acropolis of Athens, and we took a tour of all the architectural sites of the Acropolis, such as the Old Temple of Athena Nike, the Erechtheion where the contest between Poseidon and Athena was held, the Theatre of Dionysus where musical contests were held in Ancient Greece. We also went to the Parthenon which is still under construction. However, rumor has it that when I turn 40 years old in 2029, the Parthenon will be completed. How cool is that? 

Later, me and Kailash went to Monastiraki Square and we went shopping and I bought 3 shirts one for me and one for each of my roommates. I also bought a tiny snowglobe and 3 postcards that I will give to my Solomon Cordwell Buenz coworker who is an American of Greek descent. 

A photo of a boat in Athens with a background of multi-colored buildings in the background.Later, me and Kailash ate lunch at the Monastiraki Square. After that, we took a tour of the Athenian Agora where there was the Library of Hadrian. I learned how the Roman Empire conquered and defeated civilizations such as the Greek Empire or Egyptian Empire. When invading Greece and Egypt, the Roman Empire burnt and destroyed buildings, and then they constructed and built their own new buildings. That is called imperialism. Other examples include the Babylonians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Venetians, the Egyptians, and the Chinese and also the British Empire and the Russian Empire and also American imperialism.

After a long day, Kailash and I went back to the Philippos Hotel where we relaxed and took naps. Now as I write, we are having dinner and for dessert. I’m going to get chocolate cake to celebrate my 30th birthday which is today. Tomorrow, me and Kailash are going to take a boat tour and visit 3 of the Saronic Islands: Hydra, Poros, and Aegina. 

Day 4: Grecian Islands

Opa! That’s what Greek people say when they celebrate an anniversary or a party or a birthday. This is Jonathan Shuman writing his Journal and Blog for Day 4 of my trip to Athens Greece. This part of my journal is about a tour of some Grecian islands. 

The first stop was in the island of Hydra, Greece, where two movies have been filmed: Boy on a Dolphin and Boat Trip. When we arrived at Hydra, we took a tour of the village of Hydra. Kailash fed the cats Edam cheese that he bought at a supermarket. On the island of Hydra, there are no cars. You have to either walk or ride on a donkey. 

After we left Hydra, our next stop was Poros. We climbed up a lot of stairs to see a clock tower on the promontory of Poros. 

The waffle Jonathan ate on his 2nd to last day in Athens, Greece.Our final stop was on the island of Aegina where I ate a waffle with chocolate ice cream and whipped cream and covered in chocolate syrup. It tasted rich and velvety and moist and creamy and crispy. On the boat cruise back to Athens, we listened and danced to authentic Greek music such as Zorba’s dance. 

What a day this has been.

Day 5: Going Home

Today, we went to Syntagma Square where we saw people run in the Athens Marathon. It was difficult to get to the other side to see the changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. We used the subway to cross, and we saw the Hellenic Parliament and the changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. 

Next, we went for a stroll at the National Garden of Hellas where we saw animals, like goats and turtles. After that, me and Kailash went shopping in the Plaka. For another coworker, I bought a blue Athens short-sleeved shirt and a tiny statue of Leonidas of Sparta.

View of a hillside in GreeceFinally, we went back to the Philippos Hotel and we rested and relaxed there. Later at night, Kailash and I went to eat dinner at an Italian restaurant called Bel Paese. “Bel Paese” means “beautiful town” in Italian. For dessert, I had a slice of apple pie, and Kailash had coffee with baklava for dessert. 

Tomorrow, me and Kailash will go see the Temple of Olympian Zeus. Then we will pack up our stuff and say goodbye to Greece. We are going home to Chicago, Illinois, ending my Big Fat Greek Birthday Vacation. 

Until next time, OPA!!!!!

View Jonathan’s England and Ireland trip journals, starting with part 1. You can support participants to “create your journey,” this year’s theme for our spring event, by attending SPARK on Saturday, April 18.

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, April 18th 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, April 18th now, and mark your calendars for February 17th when tickets will go on sale online. You’ll want to get your tickets fast because SPARK sold out 3 weeks early last year! 

Want a physical invitation or have some questions? Either call our office at (847) 328-2044 or email Niki Moe for more information.

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

“Today Was A Good Day”: Finding Your Voice

Employed in a standard workshop, Linda* built small standardized tools. Throughout her days, Linda managed some behavioral challenges. She experienced occasional outbursts of emotion, causing disruptions in the workplace. To the supervisors and coaches at this agency, it wasn’t always clear what was causing Linda’s behavior. They knew something was getting in the way of her happiness and success. 

Over the course of the past two years, the agency that employs Linda invested in rethinking their organizational philosophy. Taking steps to become a “person-centered” agency, Linda’s support team has seen some remarkable changes in her behavior.

Stepping Toward Person-Centered Planning

Two years ago, Independent Futures partnered with an agency on the west side of Chicago. One of our tutors, Rob Larson, initially trained our new partner on what it meant to provide person-centered service. 

Exploring person-centered philosophy, Rob explained our Full Life Model and how we work alongside individuals with disabilities to achieve their hopes and dreams. For many years, the agency employed a majority of their participants in their on-site workshop but realized that job didn’t work for everybody. 

With the Full Life Model and My Full Life online software, this agency began the hard work of altering their organizational culture. Planting the seed for innovation and creative thinking, Rob’s training already leads to big changes. 

A New Kind of Support

Something's Cooking attendees smiling in front of barJake Rohde, a training consultant and tutor, visited the agency late this summer. Whereas Rob taught the organization about our philosophy, now Jake would work to help implement the My Full Life tool. 

We have been a small nonprofit agency since 2002, while our new partner serves more than 300 individuals with disabilities. Founded in the mid-twentieth century, this partner’s leaders saw the change to person-centered philosophy as a difficult step. Jake explained, “Older agencies wonder, ‘How do you go from a structure where everyone is involved in one activity to something so individualized?’”

To do this, our partner agency has taken on meeting with and interviewing every adult they support about their desires. Moving past the fear that these changes brought, staff meets with each participant and asks, “What do you want to do?”

Recognizing the Impact of This Support

When the agency’s staff met with Linda, they offered her the opportunity to take some Montessori-style classes. Either instead of or in addition to the workshop, Linda could explore her interests and take a chance. She chose to take a couple of classes.

two individuals preparing food at a soup kitchenSince then, Linda’s behavior has changed dramatically. Like everyone does, she still may have difficult days. But at the end of most days, Linda visits her coaches and fellow participants with a calendar, marks off the day, and she eagerly tells each of them, “Today was a good day.”

In moments like these, the agency’s staff realizes that our person-centered approach works. Being able to see the tangible, long-term results of person-centered planning demonstrates to them that the hard work of individualized plans is worth their time. 

Building On Person-Centered Philosophy

In 2022, new federal regulations will require that all agencies serving adults with disabilities employ person-centered approaches. For many large agencies like our partner, they have a fear that this approach will be too time-consuming and too difficult to implement on large scales. We know that this is not the easiest path and asks a lot of direct support workers, but the positive impact of person-centered philosophy is great.

heARTwords participant JonathanOur partner’s next step is to continue interviewing their participants, building plans for each individual they serve. Jake will return to train the agency on using My Full Life as a goal-tracking and skill development tool. 

When adults with disabilities are given opportunities to explore their interests and skills, they begin to feel more like themselves. Independent Futures is working to expand those opportunities so every individual with disabilities can say, “Today was a good day.” 

#GivingTuesday 2019 Makes Our Community Stronger

Sarah smiles in foreground of photo with two women standing behind her, one in green and the other in blue.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.

Independent Futures’ 2019 Highlights

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

Panelists pose for a photo on stage after a successful and engaging event!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.

Jackie stands with Jane to accept the staff Awesome AwardFor 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. 

New Faces at Independent Futures

This year we said goodbye to our finance coordinator, Constance, and welcomed in two new faces to our HR/Finance department. 

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!

 

The Perfect Storm: Housing Options for People With Disabilities

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 

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.

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. 

Current residents smile outside their Community Living Option.

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 large brown and white community housing option for individuals with disabilities.
Intentional Communities of Washtenaw in Michigan, created with help from our New Futures Initiative training.

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

Aerial view of Backyard BBQ attendees chatting outside near a tree.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
Tall apartment building where several individuals with disabilities live in an integrated setting.
Sienna communities, an apartment building where several Center for Independent Futures participants reside in an integrated setting.

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. 

To start working on life skills development, begin by asking some big questions. 

  • What does the individual dream of doing?
  • 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. 

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.

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. 

Failure To Plan Is Planning To Fail: Oak Wealth Advisors

Oak Wealth Advisors logoThis 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.

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.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. 

Young student working hard.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 info@oakwealth.com, or call us at 847-945-8888.

Discover How to Celebrate Giving Tuesday!

Two light-skinned hands holding a red heart against a dark grain wood backgroundLast 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.

Bold word "Give" centered in photo near glasses and pencils. 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.

Why Hire People With Disabilities?

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. 

Sarah smiles during a photoshoot wearing a lavender shirt and using her wheelchair.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. 

New Skills Inventory client practices her kitchen skills.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. 

two individuals preparing food at a soup kitchenIn 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

Woman's Club and Center for Independent Futures volunteer to make soupSince 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. 

Sarah smiles in foreground of photo with two women standing behind her, one in green and the other in blue.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.” 

 

3 Reasons to Attend Brews & Bites

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!

Picture may not reflect raffle item

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. 

Sound like fun? Purchase your tickets today! All of us at Independent Futures can’t wait to see you there.

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