Another year of impact at Disability Advocates of Kent County comes to an end and we are getting ready to turn the page and get started in 2020. We take a moment to pause and look back on the past year and what is in store for us next.
As I drove to meet a friend, I took a shortcut through a Westside Grand Rapids neighborhood and coincidentally drove by a house where we built a ramp five years ago. It was great to see how well the ramp has withstood all that Michigan weather. This brought to mind the many lives our staff have been fortunate to be a part of over the last year. Unfortunately, people do not reach out during their sunny days. When people with disabilities connect with us, there is almost certainly inclement weather raging around them.
It is always our role to help persons determine what their needs, preferences, and goals are, and then by working alongside them, the impact that they desire is achieved. In 2019 that translates into the coordination of 37 ramps, three-hundred (300) home assessments, and over a thousand pieces of equipment all aimed at helping a person increase their independence at home through barrier removal.
Our Workforce Development Team worked with 230 people on vocational services and 123 students on pre-employment skills, which includes mock interviews to get them ready for the workforce. Over this past year we research and development, our Benefits Planning Services was launched in February 2019. Our three staff members have become certified by Cornell University to help in this field. The last six months of the fiscal year, we worked with 58 people to understand what benefits they currently have, and then how to go back to work and not jeopardize these benefits.
Our Core Services Team had over 4,500 Information and Referral calls that were completed this year. This consists of staff directing people to Disability Advocates staff resources, or to our community partners to help. We also had 14 people transition out of nursing homes and back to their own home.
Absolutely Accessible Kent officially rolled out with our Inaugural
Absolutely Accessible Kent workshop and luncheon. This event featured Ileana Rodriguez, an architect and former Paralympian. After the kick off, we rolled into the streets of downtown Grand Rapids! We reviewed accessibility services for various organizations and municipalities, in collaboration with Experience Grand Rapids, which provides accessibility reviews and they in turn put the information on their website and visitors guide. This partnership was recognized in March by an Innovation in Tourism Award awarded at the Governor’s Tourism Conference.
Yes, 2019 was a great year of impact. We look forward to you being a part of our work in 2020!
Dave Bulkowski – Executive Director