While the Americans with Disabilities Ace is paving the way for great changes in the lives of us with various disabilities, and deserves celebration, does anyone consider the people who fought for it? To me, the strength, courage, persistence and forward-thinking of the men and women who sacrificed to  make the lives of future generations of people like themselves deserves as much attention as the benefits of the law itself.

For many of us, the idea of being militant, standing up for what we believe or know to be right despite its challenges, — legal and otherwise, — may seem impossible, and even frightening. Many of us have been taught, by society as well as by family perhaps, to not make waves, to be noticed as little as possible. In short, to be invisible.

The movers and shakers who brought about the creation and passing of the ADA weren’t just professionals; they came from all walks of life, and risked whatever was important to them to make things happen.

So, along with recognizing the value of the law itself, let’s celebrate the lives, efforts and power of the people who made it happen, and hope that, like them, we may live with courage, caring and a vision of what the future can hold for all of us.

Transportation: Arenas of Advocacy

Very few topics touch all of our lives like that of transportation—After all, this topic shapes how we get work and school, how our friends and family come to us,  and how we all get to the most important parts of our lives.

The importance of this issue is why PACE is committed to being a strong voice in the area of transportation, and why it is necessary for all of us to remain up-to-date on the most recent developments in this arena.

One such development is the Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP); The LRTP is one of the documents which will play a large part in determining how the Champaign-Urbana metropolitan area develops all the way to 2040.

The first opportunity for you to get involved, learn about the LRTP, and give your opinion on things we might not be thinking about will be on Wednesday, February 27 at 5PM on the fourth floor of Illinois Terminal. At this event, you will get to view the informational video, witness the unveiling of the interactive website, and meet with the people developing the plan. We encourage all of you to come and be a part of this important piece of CU’s continued growth.

The other major transportation arena PACE is involved in is the Human Services Transportation Plan (HSTP). The HSTP is a gathering of social service agencies, transportation providers, and state agencies in Champaign, Clark, Coles, Cumberland, DeWitt, Douglas, Edgar, Macon, Moultrie, Piatt, Shelby, & Vermilion counties.

The HSTP is concerned with building a unified transportation network across this vast expanse in which those with disabilities and those individuals with limited income can travel seamlessly. The HSTP is focused on ensuring that riders have access to the recreational, employment, and health resources which exist in East Central Illinois.

In both of these arenas, PACE is advocating on behalf of our consumers, and working to ensure that the Champaign-Urbana metropolitan area and indeed all of East Central Illinois is an inclusive community which works for all of its residents. We encourage you to watch for updates on the HSTP, and definitely attend the LRTP Kickoff meeting on Wednesday, February 27th.

Community Reintegration

The Community Reintegration Program is designed to reintegrate individuals between the ages of 18 – 59 who are interested in moving back into the community from a nursing facility setting, and are only barred by their financial situation from doing so.

The Community Reintegration Program is intended to be a one-time process to help with the initial set up of basic living arrangements, as well as linkages to services needed to live independently.

What the Community Reintegration Program can do for nursing home residents:

–         Locate and secure affordable housing

–         Assist with the first month’s rent and deposit

–         Provide household items

–         Provide assistive equipment and devices

–         Arrange home remodeling for safe living environment

–         Provide training in independent living skills

–         Make referrals of personal assistant services

–         Provide personal assistant management training

–         Provide case management

–         Provide advocacy and peer support

For more information about the Community Reintegration Program contact Chris Bott or Sherry Longcor at 217-344-5433

Pursuit of Happiness

Monday, January 21st was Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday.  I had the day off work, so I took the opportunity to go with another Part-time PACE Staff member to visit a former consumer who now lives out of our service area, who we’ll call Kevin, and who happens to be a friend of my co-worker.

Kevin’s life story fascinates me.  He was born with cerebral palsy prior to passage of the ADA.  His public education was basically an exercise in warehousing by the small local school district.  At age seven, his parents divorced; and he was taken in by his parental grandparents.  This caused deep resentment by the grandparents toward Kevin’s mother.  They loved and cared for him as responsibly as they knew how.  As often happens in loving families, the caregivers feared allowing their youngster to grow and become independent from them.  The grandparents wanted Kevin to remain their little boy.  But Kevin was becoming a man.  He was very conflicted, like all people are as they grow older; he wanted to be a man, but wasn’t sure he had the skills to make his own decisions, and he didn’t want to hurt his grandparent’s feelings.  When he came to PACE he was taught communication and advocacy skills, and began to let his grandparents know, that he loved them, but at the same time wanted more independence.  Too, his grandparents began to face the fact that they were becoming less and less able to physically provide all the care Kevin needed.  So they moved into a retirement facility and Kevin moved into a nearby group home.

I had visited Kevin 13 months earlier.  What was clear at this visit is that Kevin is doing exceptionally well; is extremely happy; and is becoming his own man in his own right.  The group home is lovely and well staffed.  Kevin, to his grandparent’s chagrin, has his own bank account, debit card, and is managing his funds well.  He has a new,  reciprocally loving relationship with his mother; who is taking more responsibility for her son’s wellbeing.  He is making life decisions for himself, such as a living will, arranging his own social events, and things he just wasn’t allowed to do before he became his own advocate.

Both myself, and the other staff member who was with me on this pleasant outing, agree – thinking of Kevin is an uplifting and rewarding affirmation of the power of one finding their own voice and using it to make their life better.

Earlier that day, I listened to President Obama’s second Inaugural Address and could apply his words to Kevin’s American experience of living with freedom and liberties that once were denied him.  He is living his life in pursuit of happiness.  And seeing that helps me live mine in the same way.



The Table Of Life

So being a foodie, I tend to see many things in an epicurean context, and services for people with disabilities in the Champaign-Urbana area are no different.

When we look at the traditional model for serving those with disabilities, agencies tend to be like that stuffy place where they have a pre-set menu, and they look at you weird if you want to leave off the shallots, or have your steak cooked to medium.

But at PACE on the other hand, offers people  with disabilities in Champaign, Douglas, Edgar, Piatt, and Vermilion counties a wide range of individual ingredients to choose from, and the consumer (person with a disability) builds their own meal.

This idea of a consumer controlled experience makes PACE unique in the East Central Illinois communities which we serve, and is a reason for the success which we enjoy every day in watching people take joy in directing the path of their own lives.

To keep the model vibrant, and the selection varied, PACE needs your help to keep the bins of ingredients stocked, and the chef’s around to whip up the creations of the consumer. Thus, your donation will help PACE fight this era of cutbacks, and will help maintain the table space for our consumers.