Life skills are fun at the Disability Resource Center

For our series spotlighting the activities of Illinois CILs, we spoke with DRC Executive Director Missy Martin from her office in Joliet. She described the Center’s new fully accessible, fully experiential life-skills center serving student groups, 1:1 training, FastTrack, and more.

DiAnne: Good morning, Missy. Thank you for setting aside time to talk about DRC’s new teaching-and-learning center.

Missy: We’re very, very excited about it. Last year we purchased a doctor’s office next to us and made it a mock apartment. It is 100 percent accessible to wheelchair users and includes a computer lab, living room, bedroom, bathrooms, storage closet, laundry room, and kitchen.

Missy Martin provided this photo of a consumer stocking the storage closet in the new DRC Life Skills Center.

DiAnne: How are these rooms used?

Missy: In the computer lab, we teach how to write a resume, write and send e-mails, search for a job on the internet; we also teach internet safety, and more.

               In the living room, we do peer group and 1:1 counseling and offer a place for consumers to relax. Our transition students love it! We have bean bag chairs, games, and ‘spider web’ chairs our students with autism love because they can ‘cocoon.’

               We have a twin bed in the bedroom our consumers use to learn how to strip and make a bed. And the storage closet offers consumers a way to practice starting and finishing a job, from getting out supplies, using the supplies, and then putting them back into the closet. It does look different inside from day to day, but the practice helps them complete the project. They do such great work because they’re so proud of what they do.

Personal training? Job training? Yes! The DRC Life Skills Center teaches basic skills that serve a variety of needs, such as how to strip and make a bed as shown in this DRC photo.

               Our kitchen is well lit and well designed for people with mobility issues, including electrical outlets, handles and faucets that are operated from the front or side, not behind and above. Consumers learn to read nutrition labels and make recipes. And we have a Smart Board in the kitchen so the recipes are nice and big.

The DRC Smart Board facilitates recipe reading for cooking classes as shown in this DRC photo.

They have so much fun in the life-skills center that they don’t even realize how much they’re learning! And it all ties into job placement and employment, such as the teaching we do on housekeeping skills with the accessible front-load washer and dryer in the laundry room.

And one other thing we’re proud of is our wheelchair scale. Most private practice providers don’t have a wheelchair scale, so our consumers rarely have an opportunity to be weighed. Ours measures up to 1,000 pounds.

DiAnne: Missy, this all sounds so intentional and effective, and I know you have a lot of FastTrack students coming through now. Is there anything else you want to share today?

Missy: Yes, housing. We have helped hundreds of people into apartment buildings with H.U.D. housing vouchers – more than 250 people so far with just 99 vouchers, including 23 in the past six months.

DiAnne: The DRC is doing great work, Missy. Thank you for all you do, and for talking with me today. I’ll look forward to hearing updates any time you want to share more in 2023.

For more information about the DRC Life Skills Center, call (815) 729-0162, or visit www.drcjoliet.org.