Achieving Lifelong Independence for People With Disabilities
SeiMi Chu - Inter Press Service
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September 17, 2022

Vernae Gallaread aspires to teach sign language to people with disabilities and to families who cannot afford sign language lessons for their children.

Gallaread has an intellectual and developmental disability, but that doesn’t stop her from pursuing her dreams. She initially self-taught herself sign language through a book that her mother bought.

At The Arc San Francisco, where she works as a receptionist and a board member, Gallaread develops her sign language skills through a class the organization offers.

As a board member, Gallaread can voice her opinions and discuss the organization’s policies, improvements, and participants’ ideas.

“The Arc San Francisco has impacted my life because I got to show my independence. They taught me to have confidence in myself, be a self-advocate, and speak up for myself,” says Gallaread.

The Arc San Francisco’s mission is to partner with adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities and transform communities through lifelong learning and self-determination.

The organization offers person-centered services that include workforce development, education, wellness programs, and even art and recreational programs. Workforce is one of its pillars but not the main one.

The Arc San Francisco’s workforce development program is focused on competitive integrated employment – meaning that participants get competitive jobs compensated as they would for a more traditional candidate. Participants go through a paid internship before deciding what field they are interested in pursuing. By collaborating with a team of specialized job developers, The Arc San Francisco encourages participants to look at their needs—whether they need full-time or part-time employment, their skill sets, and their passions. After making their decision, participants will receive help from a job developer navigating their job search.

“What we have found in the last eight to 10 years is that we have corporations coming to us, looking for talent. We’ve been pounding the pavement looking for jobs for folks. This has been an interesting development. That we’re seen as a talent pipeline, which is wonderful,” Kristen Pederson, Executive Director at The Arc San Francisco, reflecting on its workforce development program.

In addition to its workforce development program, The Arc San Francisco has an adult education program. Depending on the participant’s needs, the organization will provide individualized services for its participants and ensure that they are reaching the goals that they have set for themselves.

Read the rest at Inter Press Service

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