11 Sep 2019 “Alexa, Don’t Leave Anyone Behind…”
by Angela Katz, development director, LARC, Inc.
It’s hard to envision life without Google, Alexa, and Amazon. Consider how deeply the internet and smart devices are woven into your everyday life and then imagine living without them. Could you?
For individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), technology can be a lifeline to independence yet many don’t have access or know how to fully use it. Think of all we do thanks to technology; we set reminders, schedule appointments, communicate, navigate, order online, call for an Uber, track our calories and fitness, Facetime with loved ones and Google for answers.
Technology has certainly made life easier, safer and more convenient, at least for some. Without equal access to technology and the knowledge of how to use it, individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities will be left behind, in life and work.
Technology today is very different than in 1954 when a handful of families created LARC. Knowing their children could learn, they created an environment and provided the tools they needed to do so. The ability to learn today is still a driving force here at LARC and requires different strategies and methods to help people achieve their goals.
As the world changes, LARC remains steadfast to providing support and services that help people with disabilities to achieve their full potential, today and for generations to come. That is the inspiration behind our newest program, LAB: Learn, Achieve, Become. LAB offers an experiential learning environment for hundreds of individuals with IDD that transforms traditional program areas into spaces for innovation, vocation, demonstration and learning. Five Labs focus on skills for work and independent living and include Lab for Living, Wellness Lab, Smart Living Lab, Vocational Exploration Lab and Collaboration Lab.
A grant from the Southwest Florida Community Foundation enabled LARC’s Bonita Springs Adult Day Training program to move forward with their Smart Living Lab by making iPads available to all participants providing a technology platform for learning, entertainment and skill development that can be used in all facets of their lives. This opens doors and possibilities for them that may have been closed previously.
LARC was also received a grant from the Golisano Foundation to support further development of LAB programming including facility renovations to house LAB efforts including the Wellness Lab and Smart Living Lab at the Fort Myers campus where the Lab for Living has already opened.
LARC’s Smart Living Lab provides people with IDD the foundational skills that are used in daily living, health and wellness, job readiness and community inclusion. For 65 years, LARC has been meeting the needs of people and families served with the help of community partners who share our vision.
Technology is changing the world and the lives of individuals with special needs through generosity of our community and the support of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, making Southwest Florida a place where no one is left behind. Thanks to all of you who make this possible!
To learn more about LARC, Inc., please visit www.larcleecounty.org.
This summer, Florida Weekly has graciously allowed us, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, to spotlight the nonprofit organizations funded through the Foundation’s 2019 competitive grant cycle. Funds made available for these grants are graciously given by donors through Field of Interest Funds. Many of these donors are deceased and have left instructions to the Foundation on the causes they care about and then rely on the Foundation team to address the communities’ greatest needs within the established criteria by the donor. We have asked these grantees to share their stories. We are pleased to partner with these change-makers.