In 2015, Access Living will implement the READY (Realizing Education and Advancement for Disabled Youth) program to support low-income youth with disabilities transitioning out of high school to gain college access or employment. Since the needs of these individuals vary, READY will be a two-track program focusing on employment and college access in an innovative, person-centered model. The target population is low-income individuals with disabilities in Chicago preparing to transition out of high school. As an organization governed and staffed by people with disabilities, Access Living has a unique ability to identify and eliminate barriers faced by consumers.

The READY program is created to be easily adaptable and scalable so other institutions and organizations around the country could use READY as a model. For this program, Access Living will partner and collaborate with employment-focused organizations, community colleges and the City of Chicago. Access Living will be the hub that brings these organizations together to create a cohesive support service for these youth so they don’t slip through the cracks during their transition. This program will begin with the READY Program Director researching and mapping services in the Chicago area that connects high school graduates with employment and college preparedness programs. Access Living will receive referrals and recruit youth by partnering with the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities and Chicago Public Schools, along with partnering with local colleges and universities that are employment focused as well as organizations offering mentorships, internships, and employment opportunities. Access Living will offer accommodation training and disability awareness for employers and educators. Not only will the READY program help Chicago youth with disabilities lead independent and fulfilling lives, but our efforts and partnerships will help usher in a systems change leading us to a more inclusive society.

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Access Living will offer public facing events that include:

• Producing a video on the history and impact of the ADA through a Chicago lens.

• Hanging ADA 25 banners on street poles to be co-branded with ADA 25 Chicago.

• Loaning the historic collection of ADA photographs by Tom Olin to the Chicago History Museum.

• Hosting a traveling art exhibit of artwork by young artists with disabilities called The Journey via the Kennedy Center, VSA.