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The County of Summit Developmental Disabilities Board (Summit DD) is building inclusive communities. Communities that are stronger when family, friends, neighbors, teachers, and co-workers support individuals with developmental disabilities because they see the value it brings to their own world. Summit DD’s work positively impacts more than a half million citizens of Summit County by providing services to more than 4,000 citizens with developmental disabilities that enable them to work, live and learn as equal citizens of their communities.
Pam’s life is rather typical and truly inspiring. She works at Mustard Seed Market & Café where she packages and stocks bulk items. Her boss, Gabe, will tell you she is a loyal employee who works quickly and efficiently and is a friend and co-worker to many. Customers of Market Seed know Pam by name and she is always willing to help them find what they are looking for. Pam, like most people her age, enjoys getting manicures and going places with her friends. She receives support from the Summit DD to help her access public transportation, to support her in her job, and to access social functions. While this support is necessary, it is the interactions that Pam has with her friends and co-workers that enrich the lives of Pam and those who know her. You can’t help but like Pam once you meet her.
Pam is one of 300 adults served by Summit DD who work in an integrated environment. Businesses such as HB Chemical, Acme, Giant Eagle, Little Tikes and more than 50 others employ people with disabilities in Summit County. They would testify that, with proper support that is coordinated by Summit DD, their employees are hardworking, dependable and loyal. To these employers, the men and women served by the Summit DD are co-workers, not people with disabilities. Businesses are stronger when a person’s ability, not their label, define who they are as men and women.
Willie rents his home, splitting costs with three other roommates, and receives residential supports from United Disability Services (UDS) to help with meal preparation, personal care and household tasks that allow Willie to live in the community. Willie is a vibrant member of his community and his church. Willie’s services are coordinated and funded by Summit DD but Willie, his providers and his family direct a plan that allow him to live as independently as possible.
More than 550 individuals, like Willie, live in homes across Summit County than can house up to four men or women staffed day and night by paid providers. Men and women who live in these homes are just like their neighbors; they go to work during the day and enjoy their home and community in the evening and on weekends.
Summit DD coordinates and funds residential services for more than 1,000 individuals living at home with in-home supports. Caregivers provide services in the individual or family home as needed to meet the person’s needs and to ensure they can access community events.
Kids are kids, and Summit DD works to protect the rights of Summit County’s youngest citizens to learn next to and from their peers.
Joey’s parents are committed to providing typical experiences for him, such as preschool and playing with friends. Children with special needs enter the world of the public school system at age three and to prepare him for this transition, Joey’s parents wanted to expose him to a classroom experience at age two. It took more than one try to make this experience possible, four to be exact. Between the preschools who cancelled meetings and the ones who flat out refused to consider adding Joey to their community, the world of isolation and discrimination became all too real. Just look at Joey, who wouldn’t want to bring his smile into their lives?
Finally, when All About Kids Preschool wanted to include Joey, Summit DD’s Community Partnership for Inclusion (CPI) program offered training and supports to set him and his classmates up for success. Joey and his classmates are thriving and learning a great deal from each other. With the help of Summit DD inclusion specialists, 16 childcare centers are now providing care to more than 20 children in Summit County and the program continues to grow.
Summit DD believes that everyone has the right to work, live and learn as equal citizens in their community. Summit DD makes a difference in the lives of Pam, Willie, Joey and more than 4,000 others because of the support from Summit County residents. To find out how you can support inclusion, please visit www.summitdd.org/stories.
E-mail them to managing editor Abby Cymerman at firstname.lastname@example.org.