Ability Beyond Empowers Independence

Longtime nonprofit helps adults of all abilities live and work in the community.

Ability Beyond helps people work with dignity and live in the community. Photo credit: The Hour.

Helping Adults of All Abilities

As a teenager on the autism spectrum, Roxanne was homeschooled during high school because she had been bullied in the younger grades. Because of that decision, her parents did not know that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) entitled Roxanne to services that would have helped her transition to gain work experience and a job. Then the family heard about Ability Beyond, a nonprofit that empowers people with developmental disabilities to work and live as independently as possible in communities of their choice.

Roxanne enrolled in Ability Beyond’s “Workforce Opportunities,” a 10-week intensive transition-to-employment program for young adults with special needs who are at high-risk for long-term marginalization, poverty, and reliance on social services. She worked at Roses for Autism as well as with Ability Beyond partners like the Chamber of Commerce and Apple Rehabilitation. In addition to gaining work experience, Roxanne expanded her social life, increased her self-confidence, and made friends. Ability Beyond also helped Roxanne apply to the Department of Aging and Disability Services Department so that by the end of her program she was formally approved for services and assigned a vocational counselor to help her to reach her long-term goal of greater independence.

Ability Beyond began in 1953 with a group of parents who shared a dream for their children: that disability wouldn't define who they were, what they could accomplish, or where they could go. More than 60 years later, the grassroots efforts of those families have grown into Ability Beyond, which now serves 3,000 people with developmental disabilities. The organization also connects individuals with educational, recreational, and social opportunities, and helps them fulfill their personal goals.

The Community Foundation is a supporter of Ability Beyond and awarded the organization a $15,000 grant in 2017 for Workforce Opportunities, an unemployment intervention program for young adults with disabilities who remain without jobs three-to-five years after high school graduation. The grant helped Ability Beyond expand its pilot to New Haven County, connecting economically marginalized people with competitive, community-based jobs where they earn more than minimum wage and receive health benefits, ultimately eliminating their reliance on social services.

To learn more about Ability Beyond, visit its profile on giveGreater.org.

Did you know?

To better understand the scope of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in the United States, the Children's Health Act of 2000 authorized CDC to create the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network. Read the latest Community Report from the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network.

This story is part of the Inspiration Monday story series produced by The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven.