by Jojo Faircloth
Imagine you have an appointment with DEC. You walk into the building, and find the Disability Empowerment Center. You let the receptionist know you’re here for your appointment, and then you take a seat and wait for a bit. You think about the reason why you’re here. Maybe you’re in a wheelchair and you need help finding the right skydiving instructor. Or maybe you’re blind and you want to find a good music tutor so you can learn how to play an instrument, say the violin. Perhaps you’re well into your golden years and you need help with learning how to use a computer for the first time. DEC is here to assist you in obtaining or maintaining your independence.
These are all examples of actual consumers we’ve had in the past. Once we had a man come in, and he was literally living on the streets with his family. They had moved out of a homeless shelter due to a lack of available room. The man was from another country and couldn’t speak English very well. He also had a physical disability. DEC helped him find housing for him and his family, and we helped him find a job as well. Another time, we had a consumer who wanted to go to college. DEC helped them obtain a full scholarship and a full ride to a technical school; they didn’t have to pay a single cent. Another one of our consumers had tried several times to get their driver’s permit but failed. DEC helped them study for their driving test, and they ended up getting their driver’s license! Also, one time we had a consumer with a physical disability who wanted to travel. We provided them with the help they needed, and they got to travel to the Bahamas.
DEC see all kinds of consumers and offers a huge variety of services. A consumer can come in for any reason in the world, and we will help them with whatever they need. At any time, DEC has over 200 active consumers. DEC is consumer-controlled, which means DEC is run by people with disabilities, for people with disabilities. For example, we provide peer mentoring, we teach independent living skills, we can provide information and referral, and we also help with transition to life as an independent adult. Deaf or Hard of Hearing consumers can get help with service coordination, case management, and ASL interpreters as well as Certified Deaf Interpreters. Each person that walks in through our door is unique, and we do our best to adapt to all of your needs. But that’s not all we do, we also work on improving accessibility by teaching business owners or their employees sensitivity to disabilities and we also educate the local community to make life easier for all of you. Improving accessibility is one of our major goals here at DEC, because we want to make sure that businesses, services, etc. are able to accommodate to your needs no matter what.
We also organize fun events every month and bring the community together! Sometimes we’ll host a movie day here in the office and provide popcorn and drinks. Other times we will have a bowling night, a silent auction, and we throw a Christmas party each December. Once we even had Yogi Bear come in for a visit! DEC always hold an event once a month, sometimes even twice a month! Early in June, we held “Camp DEC” with grilled burgers and outdoor games. Each year, on August, we have a pizza party. DEC even had a wine and cheese tasting party once. We want to grow our staff and expand our event planning, and we want to add more events for the Deaf community as well. On July 29th, we’ll be having our annual DEC Picnic to celebrate the Americans with Disability Act at Long’s Park. There will be music, games, food, and even face painting! It’s from 12pm to 3pm, and you should RSVP by the 22nd. However, attendance is completely free, so feel free to join in on the fun!
Giving back to the community is important to us here at DEC. The money raised at our events goes back to the community because we believe in serving the community in any way we can. For example, the money earned at interpreting jobs will go back to the Deaf community. We work to eliminate barriers, ensure equal access, protect civil rights and affect positive social change! DEC encourages self-determination, consumer control, and personal choice to people with all types of disabilities. The Disability Empowerment Center stands ready to provide Deaf consumers with advocacy and uphold equality for the Deaf community!
This article is an excerpt from our Deaf Newsletter. If you’d like to receive this newsletter in the mail, fill out the following form.