Access Living offers 'Reaching Our Dreams'

September 10, 2009 10:05:25 AM PDT
To help youth with disabilities become independent, Access Living, Chicago's center for independence created a program that promotes positive images with long-term success.The program "Reaching Our Dreams" shatters the traditional ways we perceive our future disability population.

The program started early this year with hopes of expanding and helping 16- to 27-year-olds reach their dreams.

Zorytza Rodriguez is 23 and has a learning disability and a speech problem.

Christopher Watts is 21, bipolar and anemic.

Jazmine Coates is 22 and is visually impaired.

"I can't see small print. I can only see large print," she said.

The young individuals want nothing more than to be independent and successful.

"I think society makes it hard. So you feel self-conscious about things," said Carleda Johnson, the coordinator of the monthly workshop program.

"Each month, we have a different theme," she said. "So one month, it was nutrition and healthy eating. So we bring in facilitators, or I facilitate it myself. And you just each these different skills to help them be more independent."

Johnson understands what it's like growing up with a disability. She has a condition called dermatomyositis.

"And it's a skin and muscle disease so it affects the auto immune system and calcium deposit surface on the skin, makes it really difficult to move around," she said.

Programs like this are essential for this population.

"Some youth lack confidence and its because of their disability and it has nothing to do with their skills sets," Johnson said.

Reaching Our Dreams is new and free of charge. Members are already feeling more independent.

"It helps me with my disability and show you how to get along with people," said Watts.

"My dream is to get a job and to make money," said Coates.

For mroe information visit Accessliving.org


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