2020: Year in Review
Posted on 01/08/21 in General
Defined by a global public health crisis that continues to profoundly impact the disability community, it’s no surprise so many were glad to bid farewell to 2020.
LEAP begins the new year with a renewed sense of optimism. 2021 holds special significance for the agency as we celebrate 40 years of promoting accessible, inclusive communities in Greater Cleveland.
We have big plans for the next 12 months but wanted to take a moment to reflect on the accomplishments in the past year that have positioned LEAP for continued growth and success.
“Our shared commitment to advancing a society of equal opportunity for all, regardless of disability, unites and inspires our community of stakeholders,” said Melanie Hogan, LEAP’s executive director. “The challenges of the past year have only strengthened our collective resolve to continue our work to improve the lives of people with disabilities within our community.”
Despite our staff working primarily remotely since March to adhere to health and safety guidelines, our team adapted to new approaches to help people with disabilities achieve economic self-sufficiency, live independently and participate fully in community life. The agency’s quick pivot of our service delivery allowed us to continue to support our consumers in striving toward and achieving their independent living goals in the following areas:
- Preparing for and obtaining employment
- Succeeding in school
- Accessing health care and income supports
- Participating in recreation and socialization activities
- Living and engaging in the community
As a Center for Independent Living, helping people with disabilities living in a nursing home or other institutional setting fulfill their desire – and right – to transition back into the community has always been of one LEAP’s core services.
In 2020, our agency assisted individuals in transition from a long-term care facility back into the community. The gratitude of one such consumer, who moved into her apartment in March, epitomizes how LEAP’s services transform lives.
Upon seeing the furniture and housewares selected by her for one of LEAP’s independent living specialists, the consumer exclaimed, “I love everything; it’s the nicest stuff I’ve ever had in my life.” Being able to bring a consumer such unbridled joy over having a place to call home underscores the impact of our work.
Quantum LEAP, our adult adapted recreation program, transitioned to an online model in May and continues to offer multiple virtual programs each week. In August, we temporarily restarted in-person recreational activities - adhering to all masking and social distance requirements – and look forward to doing so again when conditions surrounding the spread of COVID-19 improve.
In June, LEAP hosted a three-part webinar focused on helping people with disabilities survive and thrive during emergencies. Participants learned about the following topics:
- tools to identify unique needs of people with disabilities,
- advocacy methods to meet needs before, during and after catastrophes
- physical preparation techniques, including formal evacuation plans and disaster kits
- emotional and psychological preparedness through stress management strategies
This past summer also saw the revamp of LEAP’s work experience and career exploration programming. In five-week sessions, students learned effective self-advocacy strategies, explored potential educational and training opportunities, investigated career paths of interest and developed job-seeking skills within a virtual environment.
In October, we celebrated the success of our employment team in assisting people with disabilities achieve competitive, integrated employment in recognition of National Disability Employment Awareness Month.
The year’s final quarter also featured the addition of two new benefits specialists to help LEAP meet the increased demand for help in obtaining information and gaining access to government programs that can help people with disabilities maintain stable and adequate financial resources.
In December, LEAP bolstered our community education efforts with the launch of our new speakers’ bureau. Our array of complimentary disability education and awareness presentations are designed to engage organizations interested in fostering inclusive relationships.
“Our future is bright,” said Cheryl Gorham, LEAP’s independent living services director. “As a positive change agent, we’ll continue to find innovative solutions to meet the evolving needs of our consumers.”