Long Beach, Calif., Dec. 12 – California Resource Services for Independent Living (SCRS-IL) is making sure that people with disabilities are able to live healthy, independent and productive lives.
“As a person with a disability, I think it is very important to know how to navigate our systems. Sometimes these systems are there to help us,” said Jose Gonzalez, who serves as the Youth Transition Specialist at SCRS-IL.
SCRS-IL was founded in 1979 by individuals with disabilities.
“It was a belief in the prophesy that everyone had a future, which gave birth to SCRS understanding that people with disabilities are the forefront of empowering other people with disabilities,” said Gonzalez.
People with disabilities living in Southern California receive an array of programs from SCRS-IL. These programs range from workshops on counseling, computer classes and community education to youth transition workshops, assistance services, assistive technology and independent living skills.
SCRS-IL serves clients of all ages, the majority of whom speak Spanish and/or English; 15 percent speak different languages such as Mandarin, Vietnamese, Cambodian and Cantonese. They never turn down a person with a disability who needs assistance to accommodate their needs.
“I tell them what services you need and how can I best serve you today no matter their age, their religion, their gender, their political point of view, sexual orientations, doesn’t matter to us, what matters to us is that as a person with a disability, they are asking for help and they want to enrich and improve their life,” said Gonzalez.
A Focus on Young Adults: Youth Transition Program
Gonzalez is part of the Youth Transition Program with the goal of developing skills to promote self-awareness and esteem, develop advocacy and self-empowerment skills and explore career options for youth between the ages of 14 and 27.
This includes the transition from school to post-school activities such as post-secondary education, vocational training, employment, adult services, independent living and community participation for youth in Long Beach and Southern California.
“This service area will focus on understanding, becoming, mentoring, sharing and the ability that all people can become role models, building confidence in which we see ourselves,” said Gonzalez.
This program focuses on teaching youth how to become as independent as possible without depending on others to help them. Various projects focus on teaching youth different skills to use during their educational journey or throughout the rest of their lives.
Project Quest: Teaching Technology Skills
Project Quest focuses on teaching youth hardware and software skills when it comes to building their own computers. It is expensive to buy a computer and maintain it in an age where everyone relies on technology, especially people with disabilities, which Gonzalez relates to.
“I know for myself I depend on medication, I depend on expensive costs because of my disability so if I would have to take my computer in for service, it might be that or my medication,” said Gonzalez.
Project Quest educates youth how to build Braille Embossers from scratch with the partnership of the Columbia Space Center. They not only learn an important technical skill but this project also benefits others who need such assistive technologies but do not have the means to acquire them.
“Label robotics takes all the parts; they are labeled and it makes them fun and they are very affordable,” explained Gonzalez.
This would not be possible without the help of their partners, as well as grants, state and federal funding. Some of the funders specifically fund different programs in SCRS-IL. Their funders include the Department of Recapitulation, Columbia Space Center, Wells Fargo and many more.
Empowering Minorities with Disabilities Through Education and Accommodations
Although these programs help youths and people with disabilities, there is still a huge gap in the disability community, mostly with youth in Southern California who are from minority communities. However, this does not stop Gonzalez from working to empower these communities.
Gonzalez is the link between the youth and schools, colleges or universities to ensure proper accommodations. He said he encourages his youth and motivates them to go back to school by acquiring everything they would need to finish their education and succeed.
“I try to get these students who have gone to colleges and who have dropped because of these accommodations; I try to get them into schools that will accommodate their specific disabilities,” emphasized Gonzalez.
The Youth Transition Program’s biggest aspiration for 2018 is for them to launch Project Destiny successfully and for them to reach their limit for 300 students who will become leaders to other people with disabilities in the future.
“We arm people with disabilities not only to empower them so much and to let them know that people with disabilities can be proud of it and to serve as role models for other people with disabilities therefor to be able to empower others through education, through independent living, through self-advocacy, through assistive technology or through really whatever the specific individual needs,” said Gonzalez.
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