New center in Johnson City aims to improve lives of those with disabilities

Sue Guinn Legg • Nov 14, 2013 at 4:25 PM

There’s a new resource center in Johnson City working to help people with disabilities across Northeast Tennessee live more independently.

Located in Suite 105 of The Professional Building at 112 E. Myrtle Ave., the new disABILTY Resource Center began work in August to empower people with all types of disabilities to meet their personal goals and become more active in their communities.

A satellite office of the East Tennessee disABILITY Resource Center in Knoxville, its services include independent living and employment skills training, information and referrals, peer support and advocacy for both individuals with disabilities and the organizations and systems that help them.

Tyler Venable, an independent living and employment specialist at the Johnson City office, said, “We’re here to help people with disabilities meet the goals they have established for themselves.

“It’s really about whatever personal goals they have. Not what they need, but what they want. We’re here to assist them in getting there, to provide them with the skills they need to get there.”

Venable emphasized the center is available to people with all types of disabilities, physical, intellectual, emotional or any other impairments that limits someone in their daily life.

Its goal is to provide people with disabilities the tools they need for greater independence — help budgeting on a fixed income, adaptive housekeeping and meal preparation skills, training with assistive technologies and other specialized services geared to address their individual circumstances.

“You’d be surprised by how many people are new to their disability and just don’t know how to handle it,” Venable said.

“Independent living skills are anything that can help them live more independently and employment is an extension of that.

“Information and referrals is a big part of it. We work closely with the Tennessee vocational rehabilitation centers that are located in almost every city.”

If employment is the objective, Venable said, “We want to provide them with skills to do a job and keep a job, but we also want it to be a job they want so that it’s sustainable employment for them.”

Achieving that goal may involve not only employment training but a period of “job assessment” in which a person with a disability may spend time job shadowing at a potential work site to determine if it is something they actually want to pursue.

To help its clients achieve independence in their communities, Venable said the center also strives to eliminate physical as well as attitudinal barriers.

Peer support and opportunities to get together with others whose activities may be limited by a disability is a door-opener to greater community involvement and Venable said a holiday gathering for clients at the Johnson City center is in the works.

“Our mission is to provide services, support and advocacy so that people with disabilities may thrive and actively participate within the community. ... Our vision is people with disabilities living independent and meaningful lives,” he said.

The center’s service area includes Sullivan, Washington, Carter, Johnson and Greene counties but its goal is to eventually expand throughout Northeast Tennessee.

More information about the center can be found online at www.drctn.org or may be obtained by contacting Venable at 631-0399 or tvenable@drctn.org.

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