Florida Lions

Community Access Program

In 2001-02, the Conklin Center completed our first full year of our Community Access Program. The goal of this program is to help multihandicapped blind adults develop skills that allow them to access community resources and leisure pursuits, and build social networks on their own. We began the program in 2000 under a grant received through Daytona Beach Community College (DBCC).

The Community Access Program fills a void that has been growing over the years. While the Conklin Center has always provided support for the daily living and employment needs of graduates who move into the community, our busy Supported Employment and Supported Living Coaches seldom have time to help with social integration. We would often receive reports of loneliness and isolation. Imagine wanting to get involved in your community when you can't drive, read, find your way to new places, or make eye contact with people when you do get somewhere! The Community Access Program addresses this gap by offering supplemental, but important social services that are not typically provided through our primary funding sources.

We are pleased that our Community Access Program is making a world of difference. We served 29 persons in 2001-02. Through the program, participants learned how to pursue individual recreational interests on their own with step-by-step guidance from a professional staff person called a Community Access Facilitator. They also participated in a multitude of group activities.

As examples, many learned how to make restaurant reservations, travel there, and enjoy a meal. Several became active bowlers, forming their own teams. Others learned how to access the Talking Book Library for taped books and descriptive videos. Many took advantage of receiving a DBCC student card and enjoyed campus facilities such as the gym, pool, and libraries. Some were connected with volunteer college students to play basketball. Visits to the local museum were popular and many attended monthly arts and craft classes offered there. Some became members of the National Federation for the Blind and the Halifax Council for the Blind, and others sought out tutors through the Literacy Council or DBCC to help prepare for GED exams! Community Access Program clients also met for beach walks, potluck dinners, and baseball games. Most importantly, some gained skills to organize and attend these activities on their own for the first time in their lives.

Conklin Center graduates who are deaf/blind received even additional services. DBCC offers an interpreter training program that provided interns who worked one-on-one with deaf clients to help them realize their goals. Several participants received assistance to obtain and learn to use TDD equipment for general and emergency communications. One interpreter intern, a Captain of the local Emergency Communications System (EVAC), also observed that her staff had difficulty with calls they received through TDD equipment. She took the initiative on her own to provide her staff with training to respond appropriately to TDD calls. This type of activity highlighted for us an added benefit of offering the Community Access Program. Not only is it helping multihandicapped blind persons access community resources for their personal benefit -- it also provides a larger benefit to the community where the public becomes familiar with the needs of its citizens with disabilities and understands better how we can all interact.

The Conklin Center looks forward to our Community Access Program providing continued supplemental services in future years to help additional multihandicapped blind adults lead fuller, more active lives as participating members of their communities.

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