The sky over Illinois, my home state, is mainly grey in the late-autumn. This year, it seems like snow and snow clouds have come a bit earlier and are more frequent than usual. So the proverb “Every cloud has a silver lining”, seems particularly appropriate. I frequently use this proverb as an intro to the state (of being, not geographical) of Illinois disability services. Services in Illinois have been very bad for a very long time. The only silver lining is that this situation has people with disabilities and those who support them muster the energy and creativity to move things forward despite systemic limitations.
Illinois, ranks forty-seven out of the fifty states and D.C. in terms of supporting people with disabilities. This is according to the annual United Cerebral Palsy Case for Inclusion scorecard. The State of the States on Developmental Disabilities data on Illinois shows some improvement in services, but the data still charts almost 25% of people with disabilities as still living in institutions and another 18% living in non-institutional settings of more than 6 unrelated adults. According to the State’s own Prioritization of Urgency of Need for Services (PUNS) database, nearly 9,000 people with disabilities are in need of residential support and 17,000 are in need of employment supports.
Despite this, it is Thanksgiving and its accompanying holiday weekend; and besides the turkey and all of the fixings, the friends and family, the Bears and the Lions, and the premature (in my opinion) but efficient launch of holiday retailing for big chains, small businesses and online portals, I do have the following people and organizations that I feel thankful for in my work with people with disabilities and their families:
All those at Social Security (active and retired), who make the time and take the effort to educate on disability benefits and work incentives.
All those at The Department of Human Services (DHS) and the Department of Health Care and Family Services (DHFS), who answer their phones, return email and actually know how to apply Medicaid’s complicated regulations.
Self-advocates, who teach other self-advocates how to communicate what they want and need.
People with disabilities who are determined to work despite the hoops that they have to jump through.
Those legislators who take Human Services funding seriously.
All the parents, who are constantly attending advocacy education, support groups and school-and-provider planning meetings to make sure that they are getting the best support for their children.
Those parents, who either start micro-businesses or canvass the neighborhood to help their children with disabilities get some employment.
Those employers, who hire and mentor people with disabilities.
Those faith communities that provide the support for people with disabilities to participate actively.
Those provider agencies that make supported and competitive employment a priority over workshops.
Those provider agencies that are committed to people living in homes of four persons or less.
Comedians with disabilities who educate with healthy humor.
The Campaign to end the “r-word”.
The ARC of Illinois and all sister organizations, including Illinois Lifespan, the Consumer Involvement Program, the Family to Family Health Center, the Family Support Network, The Ligas Family Advocate Program, the Assistive Technology Program and the Family Transition Project (under “programs”).
I was about to end this blog with: Online shopping, which makes Black Friday accessible to people with disabilities. I won’t, though, because as a financial planner, it is my duty to remind you to always Spend Responsibly. And, even though the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which first applies this upcoming tax season, has lessened the impact of charitable deductions for many people, the impact of your contributions on the success of non-profit programs is just as great. So don’t forget to hold something back for Giving Tuesday. Let us give thanks to all who support people with disabilities.