“BY THE PEOPLE, FOR THE PEOPLE!”
You’ve probably heard this common phrase thousands of times. But add the word “disabilities” to the phrase (as in, “By people with disabilities, for people with disabilities”) and the phrase suddenly becomes much less common. However, if ABILITY Awareness has its way, that uncommon declaration will soon become familiar music to the ears of many Los Angeles County residents. Working in concert with Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles, ABILITY Awareness and its team of volunteers are staging the build for the first Southern California “ABILITY House” in Long Beach, California. By engaging volunteers with disabilities in every step of the process of constructing a home, the ABILITY House program demolishes stereotypes and limitations while also building a home for a family in which one or more members has a disability.
Although Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles and ABILITY Awareness have already partnered on several successful ABILITY Builds in which volunteers with disabilities collaborated for a day on a construction site, their partnership on the ABILITY House in Long Beach brings the relationship to a whole new level. With some high-profile celebrity support and plans for a festive groundbreaking ceremony, the Long Beach ABILITY House is scheduled to be constructed over the next year and to involve volunteer with and without disabilities at every stage of construction. Outreach for volunteers with disabilities to lend their skills to this venture is slated to begin on May 1, 2010, but several volunteer groups are already waiting eagerly to begin work, including the New Directions, Inc., a group that helps integrate injured veterans back into society during and after their recovery, and the Junior Blind of Los Angeles. ABILITY House volunteers will also have a chance to meet the family selected for home ownership, giving the construction team a unique opportunity to experience the feeling of “giving back.”
On previous ABILITY Builds with Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles, ABILITY Awareness volunteers have helped re-roof and paint a home in Downey, California, have hung drywall, used power saws to cut 2”x4”’s, and have drilled holes, installed roofing, painted, framed and raised the walls on two homes in Lynwood, California. With this new Long Beach effort, ABILITY House volunteers will be part of the construction process from start to finish. Whether laying foundation or adding the final delicate paint touches to trim, ABILITY Awareness volunteers will seamlessly be integrated in the process of working alongside a Habitat for Humanity team.
Once the home is finished and dedicated, and after its new residents have moved in, ABILITY Awareness volunteers will be able to walk away with heads held high and with the personal satisfaction that comes from having helped helping their local community. Perhaps even more significant, the Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles and ABILITY Awareness volunteers will savor the satisfaction not only of having built a home for a low- income family, but also of knowing that their work has helped to shift societal mindsets from the standard, antiquated view of what society needs to do “for people with disabilities” to a more progressive mindset of how society can benefit from what can be accomplished “by people with disabilities.”
by Marci Casey