Linking Employment, Abilities and Potential

News and Media

TV 20: Age-Friendly Cleveland with Melanie Hogan, ED of LEAP

Posted April 03, 2018 in LEAP in the News

TV 20: Age-Friendly Cleveland with Melanie Hogan, ED of LEAP

Image is a still from the video of Melanie Hogan and show host, Enrique Correa sitting at a desk, facing each other as they talk about LEAP and disability rights.


Melanie Hogan, ED at LEAP, was interviewed on TV 20 for their Age-Friendly Cleveland series. Learn more about LEAP's mission to advance a society of equal opportunity for all persons, regardless of disability through our programs and services.



Welcome to Age-Friendly Cleveland. My name is Mary McNamara and I’m the Director of the Cleveland Department of Aging.

Across our country we have what we call an aging network of services because no one division of government, agency, hospital system or faith-based group provides all the services an older adult might need to age successfully. As examples, some older adults may need transportation or in-home health care, modifications to the home or resources for staying engaged after retirement.

It is our hope with this Age-Friendly Cleveland series that you might learn more about the resources right here in Cleveland.

This next segment is about one of the trusted agencies we work closely with every day to make Cleveland an Age-Friendly City.

00:49 – 01:14



{Enrique} Welcome to another episode of Age-Friendly Cleveland. I’m Enrique Correa and I’m here with the Executive Director of LEAP, Melanie Hogan. Melanie, welcome to the show.

{Melanie} Thank you so much for having me.

{Enrique} I’m gonna give you an easy question right off the bat. What is LEAP stand for?

{Melanie} LEAP stands for Linking Abilities, Employment and Potential.

{Enrique} Tell us a little bit about your organization and what you do and how you help seniors.

{Melanie} Sure. We actually work with people with disabilities and disability runs the gamut of all ages. And, as you know, many people who are aging are also growing into disabilities. So, our organization was founded 37 years ago by a woman who had a spinal cord injury as a teenager as a result of an automobile accident and what she wanted more than anything was to stay in her home and stay in community. And so, she systematically began developing services that would benefit people with disabilities.

{Enrique} How does someone qualify for services?

{Melanie} Most of our services are provided through other agencies so we are a vendor of state agency programs. So, individuals would come to use as a referral somebody else.

{Enrique} Another thing is what does independent living mean and what is that philosophy all about?

{Melanie} Sure. You know most people have a choice in their life about where they’re going to live, where they’re going to work, how they’re going to engage in the community. People with dishabilles typically don’t have those choices because there are many barriers that are preventing them for accessing community services the way you and I would. So, the idea of independent living is really about letting people with disabilities know what’s available to them in the community and helping them achieve their goals of full community inclusion.

{Enrique} You also have a Center for Independent Living, tell me about that.

{Melanie} Right. The center is a place where people can come identify what goals they have in their lives and we work with them to eliminate those barriers - whether it’s a barrier to living in the community to employment to accessing community benefits, transportation and housing. So, it’s not a place where people come and live – it’s a place where people come and get problems solved.

{Enrique} One of the unique things I see about your program and your organization is that you help people with disabilities find a job, right? Tell me about that.

{Melanie} Sure. So, 65% of the population of people with disabilities are unemployed. It’s not because they don’t want to work. It’s because the community doesn’t understand that they have skills and talents to share and employers typically don’t know how to reach out to that community.

It’s the largest untapped labor pool in the country actually.

So, we help people with disabilities build their skills (and) identify what type of work opportunity would they want. We work with employers to teach them how to recruit, hire, train and retain people with disabilities. We make that match and then help both sides – both the employer and the employee – become successful.

{Enrique} How does this enrich their lives, either because they want to work, right?

{Melanie} Well yeah. I mean most of us are identified by what we do for a living. So, working and living in the community really is fulfilling basic fundamental life goals and our agency really believes that it’s not the disability that prevents people from achieving those goals but it’s our attitudes and our barriers and our communities. So, achieving your goal it’s pretty, pretty amazing…

{Enrique} …exactly, it’s an accomplishment it makes it and it makes you feel better about yourself when you don’t have to depend and you can be more independent.

{Melanie} Right.

{Enrique} You have an interesting program called the home transition team. Tell me about that.

{Melanie} Sure, it’s a nursing home transition program and in Ohio it’s called the Home Choice program. It helps people with disabilities or seniors move from an institutional setting like a nursing home back into the community. They have to be on Medicaid and they have to have had at least a 90-day nursing home stay. If they qualify for that, then we work with the individual to transition back to community. And that could be of any age.

So, we’ve transitioned babies back home and we’ve transitioned you know up to 90-year olds who want to leave the nursing home and go back into the community. We’ve helped over 350 people get back into an environment in which they’re feeling safe, comfortable and have a better quality of life.

{Enrique} Exactly. Exactly. Accessibility. You make modifications to someone’s home or apartment. Tell me more about that. It’s more again giving that person independence.

{Melanie} Absolutely it is. The biggest need for making a home accessible and letting a senior or a person with disability stay in that home longer is ramps, wider doorways, better lighting, no slip rugs to prevent falls. Transitioning over doorways so they’re not tripping over small steps in the doorways. A big part of living independently though is assistive devices so magnifiers, assistive listening devices, large print items, push-button telephones that are very large. Things like that really make a difference between being dependent on somebody else and living your life as independently as you want to live.

{Enrique} Someone with a new disability and you have a caretaker. How can a caretaker find out what programs and resources are available to them and how does your program help them because a lot of people don’t know what’s out there that’s available to them.

{Melanie} And there’s so much out there. So, it’s that is a big challenge. Our goal first and foremost is to work with the individual with the disability and understand what their goals are and what they want.

So, the first thing I would say, is that the person should not be defining themselves as a person as a disability first. Right, you’re still a person regardless of what has happened to you in your life circumstances. You’re still the person you are. You still have wants and dreams and desires and so we work with folks to make sure that they’re not giving that up to manage their disability.

Secondarily, then we work with them and their caregivers to find the resources and the community that meet their needs whether it’s employment, whether it’s having care at home, whether it’s modifying their home, finding transportation – there’s a whole variety of things. So, we have an information referral assistance program they can call and tell us what they’re looking for.

I think the main thing I would say is be true to yourself and don’t give up hope.

{Enrique} What is that number?

{Melanie} It’s 216-696-2716 and ask for the information & Referral line.

{Enrique} Another thing you have is ADA Cleveland and what role does LEAP play with ADA Cleveland?

{Melanie} In 2014 the ADA, the Americans with Disabilities Act, was turning 25 and it is really the basic civil rights law for people with disabilities that ensures or is should be ensuring equal access and leveling the playing field for people to be included in community and to be able to work and to be able to live independently. There’s a lot more work that still needs to be done as a result of that. And so, in preparation for that 25thyear celebration, we gathered a group of 19 organizations (with) like-minded missions to really start a path of educating the community about the Americans with Disabilities Act – celebrating the lives of people with disabilities and getting the community to engage with us about just embracing people.

{Enrique} Your organization also advocates for people with disabilities. Tell me about that. How helpful is that to these people?

{Melanie} Sure. I mean I think it’s very helpful. One in four people have a disability. So, it’s not those people that you might have a sort of stereotypical idea of what disability means. It’s people with diabetes, people with cancer, people with heart disease, people with vision loss and hearing loss, people with dementia, people who have emotional problems or depression or anxiety.

So, it’s the whole gamut of our community and I think the first thing that we have to realize is that disability is the natural part of the human existence. So, if we embrace the concept that we are all going to have a disability at some point in time and we want to live the best quality of life that we can, then we all have to be engaging and making sure that we know what we want. We can identify that. We know how to self-advocate for ourselves and make sure that people are assisting us in achieving those goals.

And then on a policy level, on a federal level, on a state level, and even in our local government level, making sure that we have the disability voice at the table so that we’re not forgotten when policies are being written and rules are being made about things that impact our quality of life.

{Enrique} One thing that everyone seems to do these days; everyone want to volunteer. They want to help. How can they volunteer to help your organization? And just people interested in volunteering, what could they do?

{Melanie} Sure. We have a recreation program that runs almost seven nights a week. It’s called Quantum LEAP. We serve over 400 people a year. And again, true to our philosophy of integration, it is a fully integrated program so we utilize the Metro parks and we utilize recreation centers in the community but with that many people coming to participate we can always use volunteers to kind of help us keep the game going.

{Enrique} Exaclty. What number should they call if they want to volunteer?

{Melanie} 216-696-2716

{Enrique} That is all we have for this episode of Age-Friendly Cleveland. Thank you for joining us.

{Melanie} Thank you.

{Enrique} We’re gonna have more episodes like this so I’m gonna tell the people out there, make sure you tune in the TV 20 because we’ll have more Age-Friendly episodes to keep you educated out there.

For TV 20, I’m Enrique Correa. We are Cleveland.