The E.N.O.B.L.E. Project
The E.N.O.B.L.E. project was conceived as a "partnership" between professionals who teach or train adults with developmental disabilities, adults with disabilities who are concerned about ongoing education for their peers, and Rhode Island college students who have an interest in teaching adults with disabilities and are perhaps, looking for life experience beyond the classroom.
Our first meeting was in January 2005 at the Rockefeller Library at Brown University. Those who came that day drew up a mission statement with the letters ENOBLE meaning Enabling Opportunities By Lifelong Education and the statement:
"E.N.O.B.L.E.'s mission will be to bring adult education to those with disabilities who have a need and desire no matter the age, to educate themselves for the betterment of their life and the opportunities that education will bring to their future. "
Of those in attendance, Robert Geake was named Project Coordinator and Bill Guy from Project Friends of Coventry was named as secretary. The members debated about how best to put this effort forward and it was decided that an initial survey of Agencies statewide that provide services to adults with disabilities would enable us to find what types of education might be needed in various communities. Mr. Geake and Andrew Mania of Blackstone Valley Arc were given the task of outlining a survey and Bill Guy agreed as secretary to begin collecting a data base of Agencies and Individuals who might provide answers for the survey.
Over the next few weeks members began debating what types of questions and what elements of education should we ask about that may not be provided. We know for instance that many agency day programs are vocationally based, either providing employment through sheltered workshops or outgrowths in the community such as flower shops, gift stores, or other small business ventures. Others work toward individual employment through workshops that provide basic employment training and counselors who actively seek a job for the individual and provide job counseling once that individual is employed.
Both types of programs have their merits and their successes, but under both programs, needed education can be lacking. But what types of education could be needed beyond the obvious literacy and writing skills that are needed on an ongoing basis ? Life skills and education beyond Adult Basic Education came quickly to the forefront of our discussions between members and others in the community with disabilities. Were adults being taught the skills to open and manage a savings account, to take the RIPTA bus, or to organize a grocery list and go shopping ? Were adults registered to vote on admission to agencies being given any voter education beyond making sure they knew how to use a voting machine ? Were adults whose abilities extend beyond ABE classes provided at their centers being given opportunities to learn a subject that might be of interest to them, or to perhaps even prepare for a college course ?
These debates among members helped to form the questions on the survey we developed. Through meetings at the Rock in March and April and with input from a pair of Brown students from the Swearer Center, the survey was completed and brought before a meeting where the members decided it was acceptable to send to the Agencies. Robert Geake was asked to compose a letter to be sent with the survey.We had our final meeting before the Summer on June 21st at Brown, followed by a cookout at a member's condo at an apartment complex in Johnston for disabled adults. In the meeting Mr. Geake presented his letter which was voted on and approved, and Bill Guy displayed his database which includes more that thirty agencies throughout Rhode Island and many more individuals that gave him their business card and expressed an interest in helping E.N.O.B.L.E achieve its goal.
Both Robert Geake and Bill Guy have worked since then in sending out surveys and contacting people to join our effort in the coming months. We know that a survey to access the needs is only a first step in a long process towards achieving the mission that the members have conceived. Much work will be needed in organizing, recruiting, and providing once that need is known, but it has been heartening that the most active members of E.N.O.B.L.E are those with disabilities who see the need the most within the services that are provided, and want to work toward improving those services for their peers.
lessons learned from E.N.O.B.L.E.'s first year
One to one meetings work best in introducing the program to agencies who might wish to participate. This is especially important after sending out a survey to ensure the agency that we will make every attempt to follow through for their efforts.
It would be good to recruit adults from day programs who have already learned and become proficient at their living skills and would be willing to teach another adult an important task such as taking the bus or grocery shopping. Working with the day program, Enoble could make this part of the individual's program and provide a volunteer from their area.
It will be important as we recruit student volunteers to integrate them into our meetings so that they will see the focus of our program and learn the not so obvious obstacles that adults with disabilities must overcome. Support for those students who take on the task of a group program will be equally important.
It would be good if I paired up with another member who has experienced the day program mode of education whether it be ABE or something else so that they can bring that experience to the meetings with an interested agency.
The project continues during the 2005/6 program year