Disability Services: I Live Here, I Give Here March Community Spotlight

On the fourth Monday of each month, I Live Here, I Give Here will shine a light on an issue that effects Central Texans by holding a panel discussion series. Panel participants will include experts on the issue–agencies that provide services–and the recipients of those services. Following the panel, we invite you to enjoy a free drink at a local bar or restaurant and have the opportunity to continue the discussion of the issues with other community minded Austinites.

Join us at Austin Groups for the Elderly (3710 Cedar St.) Monday, March 23, 2009 At 06:00 PM to learn more about how we as a community can help organizations that provide services to people with disabilities. Then, continue the conversation and enjoy a free drink at our happy hour.

Read on to find out more information on Disability Services in Austin

Community Spotlight: Disability Services Providing Services for People with Disabilities: A Labor of Love

A child is born with a developmental disability such as cerebral palsy or autism. An adult contracts a physical illness that makes work impossible. A youth exhibits emotional and mental disorders. An aging parent suffers a debilitating stroke.

All people with disabilities have special needs as unique as each individual. The impact on families is profound: How do loved ones find, fund and sustain compassionate and competent round-the-clock care? And what is the toll on caregivers themselves?

In 2000, more than 111,000 people in Travis County over age 5 – 14 percent of the population – had a disability and depended on assistance to live their lives to maximum potential. While many issues may receive more attention, advocates urge donors to support our community’s services for those unable to fully care for themselves.

Living with a Disability

People living with a disability want what all people want: Respect, understanding and acceptance, education, employment, and friendship. Yet most need special help to experience these most basic of human needs.

Access to transportation and affordable housing in Travis County and limited resources for trained attendants are critical barriers for individuals with disabilities trying to maintain independence. Families striving to keep loved ones at home and out of institutions often make great personal sacrifices, such as quitting their jobs, to provide care. As incomes drop, more financial assistance is needed. A vicious cycle develops.

Birthdays are bittersweet because as individuals with disabilities get older, assistance programs become fewer and farther between, and family caregivers worry about what will happen to their loved one when they’re gone. Caring for a disabled individual becomes a lifelong quest for the best services possible.

Access to Services

For many families, the financial and emotional challenges of caring for someone with a disability can be overwhelming. Simply accessing the State of Texas’ increasingly complex and limited benefits system is mind-boggling and frustrating. Waiting lists for state services can stretch into years.

Community nonprofits that provide essential services to people with disabilities and their families face equally daunting challenges: limited staffs, increasing demand for resources and competition for private funding.

The Arc of the Capital Area helps adults and children with developmental disabilities and their families seek state assistance while providing academic support, basic needs and crisis assistance services, case management, and guardianship services. The Arc and other agencies also provide sorely needed care for the caregiver through family support programs and respite services.

H.A.N.D. (Helping the Aging, Needy and Disabled) assists clients navigate the system and access community resources through case management, and provides in-home attendant services. AGE (Austin Groups for the Elderly) helps the elderly and individuals with disabilities stay in their homes and out of nursing homes by offering the only licensed adult day care center in Central Texas.

Early Intervention is Key

Experts agree that identifying a child’s needs and getting him or her into therapeutic services as early as possible is critical. Any Baby Can strives to identify children from birth to age 3 who have special needs, including critical illnesses and chronic medical conditions, and offers early developmental and educational intervention services, Easter Seals Central Texas serves nearly 3,000 children and adults with disabilities, providing services in three main areas: Early Childhood Intervention (ECI), Outpatient Medical Rehabilitation, and Workforce Development.

The Austin Travis County Mental Health Mental Retardation Center (MHMR) also offers early childhood intervention services as well as assistance for families in paying for service options. The Autism Society of Greater Austin (ASGA) helps parents of children and adults with autism share information and access community resources for autism spectrum disorders.

Enrichment services such as art and music programs expand life skills and let children with disabilities express their inner feelings. The Kent Cummins Magic Camps accept all children – all the time – regardless of mental, physical or emotional impairments. The Open My World Therapeutic Riding Center in Leander serves children with special needs by offering experiences with horses that stimulate the senses, improve motor coordination, and bolster self-esteem.

Striving for Independence

Adults with mental and intellectual disabilities often struggle to stay with their family or move into group homes tailored to their needs. Finding affordable housing and employment options are critical to staying out of institutional facilities.

Goodwill Industries of Central Texas offers resources and workforce development programs to help individuals with barriers to employment, including physical and mental disabilities, move through obstacles within the workforce world. With one-on-one resume building and job hunting assistance, and continued job coaching, Goodwill assists people with disabilities find meaningful employment – one individual, one success story at a time.

A little financial help can go a long way toward supporting the needs of citizens with disabilities in our community. To find out how you can help agencies that serve individuals living with disabilities, please visit http://www.ilivehereigivehere.org.

By The Numbers

* Almost 500,000 Texans are living with developmental disabilities.
* It is estimated that 2.5 percent of the population has an intellectual disability, and from 4 to 7 percent of the population has a developmental disability.
* In 2007, 11,504 Texans with developmental disabilities were living in institutions; state schools failed to find community-based homes for 70 percent of the residents who wanted them.
* Care via two alternatives to institutionalization, Community Living Assistance and Support Services (CLASS) and Home and Community-Based Services (HSC), costs 15 to 25 percent less than care provided in institutional settings.
* Approximately 57,000 people are on waiting lists for CLASS And HSC services. In April 2008, the average wait time for CLASS placement was 2.4 years, and the average wait for HCS was 3.4 years.
* People with developmental disabilities had a life expectancy of only 19 years in the 1930s; by 1993 their life expectancy had increased to 66 years.
* A 2006 study found that young adults with a history of intellectual disabilities were seven times more likely to have been attacked or beaten in the past 12 months than young adults without a history of developmental disabilities.
* A 2007 study of the Austin-Round Rock MSA found that persons with no disability were employed at a rate of 77 percent, while persons with physical and mental disabilities were employed at a rate of 40 percent.
* 70 percent of individuals with disabilities who want to work are unable to find jobs.
* The poverty rate for individuals with mental disabilities in the Austin-Round Rock MSA was 23 percent in 2007.
* In 2000, the typical working family caregiver lost $109 per day in wages and health benefits due to the need to provide full time care at home.
* Women who are family caregivers are 2.5 times more likely than non-caregivers to live in poverty and five times more likely to receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
* Care giving families (families in which one member has a disability) have median incomes that are more than 15 percent lower than non-care giving families.
* In every state and DC, the poverty rate is higher among families with members with a disability than among families without.
* People over 65 are expected to increase at a rate of 2.3 percent, but the rate of family members available to care for them will only increase at a 0.8 percent rate.
* Most workers with disabilities require no special accommodations and the cost for those who do is minimal or much lower than many employers believe: 15 percent of accommodations cost nothing, 51 percent cost between $1 and $500, 12 percent cost between $501 and $1,000, and 22 percent cost more than $1,000.

U.S. Census Bureau,
Community Action Network,
Community Action Network,
Arc of the Capital Area,
Austin Groups for the Elderly,
Goodwill Industries of Central Texas,

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