Click the “+” to read full stories. Names of consumers have been changed to protect their confidentiality.

The employment department works closely with job seekers with disabilities to help them fine competitive integrated employment.   This consumer came in to the office in need of  developing her job preparation skills.  The Center’s employment staff worked with her to develop the soft skills and retention skills employers look for when hiring anyone.  This individual was taught how to ride public transportation on her own, with time and exposure she began to develop relationships with staff members at the center and ultimately she did develop a number of skills that will assist her in obtaining and maintaining her employment objective..
A student participated in our Disability Mentoring Day event. He was mentored by a person who worked at a restaurant. After the day of mentoring the manager of the restaurant told the student that if he wanted to fill out an application the restaurant would hire him. The student filled out the application and a year later is still working at that restaurant.
The PILR Home Modification Program makes health and safety home modifications for residents living independently.  The scope of the program allows for improvements which increase accessibility, install safety devices, and replace hazardous materials affecting the home environment.  One of PILR’s consumers was in need of an accessible bathroom, she required assistance to transfer to a different chair so that she could get in and out of the bathroom.  An ADA assessment of the bathroom was conducted to determine the consumers specific needs, a contractor was found to complete the work, and finally the consumer could access the bathroom safely and fears of injury were greatly reduced.
A woman came in saying she needed help finding funding to get a leak repaired in the bathroom. It had been leaking for several years and she was concerned that it was getting worse, and might be causing mold. She did not have the money to pay for repairs. The house was given to her by her mother but the paperwork had not been transferred over yet. She received a USDA rural loan where she could borrow the money for 20 years at 1% interest—but the house had to be in her name. PILR staff helped her (and her mother) find and fill out the papers for a quit claim deed, which transferred the house to her name. She was then able to fill out the application for the loan by herself and the leak (and surrounding damaged area) was fixed.
A young woman called saying she had received a letter from the Social Security Administration stating that since she was hospitalized for 6 weeks she would have to repay them the full amount of her social security benefits, as they would not pay for the hospital stay and an apartment at the same time. She did not receive enough money to repay the amount and keep her apartment at the same time. I helped her fill out paperwork and call the Social Security Administration to see if she could appeal the decision. We made the appeal and several days later she received a letter that she had won the appeal. Two weeks later she came in saying she did not have a car but she really wanted to get her driver’s license again—just so she could drive if she ever wanted to. I helped her study for the exam, find a truck she could borrow for the driving part of the test, and went with her to the examiner’s office where she passed the written and driving tests with flying colors!
I come from a history of verbal, physical, and sexual abuse. Mental illness runs in my family. I have gone through a large array of symptoms, from panic attacks to bouts of catatonia to hallucinations. I have been to the edge of hypersomnia and back. I’ve been given over 30 different types of medication in the last 5 years to treat my mental illness (I‘ve been on mental disability since 2004). My diagnosis has waxed and waned until finding it’s solid label of bipolar with schizotypal and borderline characteristics.

During my last major depressive episode, I found myself only being able to stay awake for 3 hours at a time, and sleeping 12-48 hours consecutively only to repeat the process. Months after inpatient treatment for suicidal ideation, I received electroconvulsive therapy. When I was released from the hospital I came to Pratt, whereupon I had the luck of becoming acquainted with the Prairie Independent Living Resource Center and all that they have to offer.

After the shock treatment, my short term memory was so dysfunctional I could barely unload a dishwasher without repetitive instruction; I was paranoid and hallucinating, having panic attacks; and I was still suffering from relentless suicidal ideation. I remember feeling already dead, having dissociated so as to not have to deal with the torment my daily living had become.

PILR was there for me. The people who work for PILR are a special bunch of people who are the most positive and encouraging and sincere I’ve ever come across. Having given up on hospitalization, I asked the people of PILR if I could stay in their waiting area during the day — for hours. I felt at the time that my suicidal ideation was nothing I wanted to be alone with. And they not only let me read and write in their waiting room, but they aided in my recovery like no other therapy I’ve ever received. Their constant encouragement, care, and kind words gradually lifted my spirits and gave me hope. They were understanding of my situation and they said they could help me with what I couldn’t handle, and they did just that. Step by step, PILR led me in the right direction: down the lighted path of recovery.

A member of PILR helped me with all of my mail; I tried to read it myself when I could force up the energy to open the letters, but at the time I could make no sense of the print. It was overwhelming and unintelligible. When phone calls needed to be made about bills (or anything else, for that matter), and I was incapable of having the organized thought required to hold a conversation, let alone understand what needed to be conversed, a PILR member helped me. One member even went out of his way to give me a file-organizer, and showed me how to use it. When I needed someone to advocate for me, PILR was there. One member drove me from Pratt to Hutchinson to speak directly to my psychiatrist, helping me to get on the meds I am on today, thus helping me become a functioning member of society. Thanks to the advocacy of PILR, I am no longer having panic attacks, bouts of catatonia, hallucinations or hypersomnia. Those ailments are things of the past.

PILR made me feel like I had a purpose. When they recognized that I was improving and could handle more on my own, they presented volunteer opportunities which directly led me to employment. Now, thanks to PILR, my suicidal ideation is minimal to none, I have a job, my billing issues have been settled, I’ve been taught how to review, handle and organize my mail on my own, and I know if I ever need support it’s not far away.

Also, now that I’m employed there is Job Club of which I am a member of, where I find support from those with similar disabilities. Overall, PILR has helped me to become a more independent individual, putting the ABLE into my disability.

When I met this consumer she was living in squalor in her sister’s basement. She is in her mid-fifties and struggles with depression and anxiety as well as living with a life-long learning disability. She was paying her sister rent but was not allowed to have a key to the home. She stated that she felt like a prisoner. She was given chores to do such as feed her sister’s dogs in a muddy pen where they were kept in the backyard. Her immediate goal was to move, not simply to move to a different house, but to move to another town, away from her sister.

Our CIL was located in this city so I was able to search for an appropriate apartment for her. When I would meet with her I would share photos of different apartments I had taken with my phone. She was curious about different aspects of the photos and would ask a lot of questions. We filled out housing applications together and talked with her payee about what was affordable for her. Finally, I found a nice landlord and an appropriate apartment and she agreed to move into it.

Another ILS and I secured a U-Haul to move her and chose a day to move her from one city to the other. She was very particular and protective of her belongings. She required constant reassurance that everything would be alright. She would often break down about how unhappy she was and how thankful she was to have found a way out of her living situation.

In fact, the six months spent at her sister’s home would haunt her even after moving a whole city away. Once in her new apartment, her mood changed to one of excitement and relief. She was anxious to settle in and finally have a chance to go through her things and also purchase new items for her home. As she sorted through her belongings, she donated several items including a TV and clothing to others she thought might be able to use them. She also wanted to get rid of anything that reminded her of her past with her sister.

Today she is living on her own without aid from her sister, going shopping, decorating her home, enjoying radio and tv programs, and is becoming interested in joining more community activities.

I met Tom when he was a freshman in high school but did not get to know him until his Junior year. I got to know him because he was involved with a project that our center did to show youth with disabilities the importance of community service. This young man had always been told that he would graduate high school and get on SSI and that would be his life, but I, and others here at the Independent living center had higher expectations for him. It took a lot of encouragement and a little assistance with filling out applications and even some work on social skills but Tom is now employed fulltime and has kept that job for almost a year. Not only that, but even though he has graduated from high school, he still helps with our youth service project. The center gave him the support that he needed to become a contributing member of our community and both are better because of it.
Our independent living center does a one day advocacy training every year for high school students with disabilities. At each of those trainings the first thing that happens is that we go around and introduce ourselves and tell one goal we have for our future. The last thing that happens in this training is we go back around and tell one thing we learned that will help accomplish our goal.

When it was this one young man’s turn to introduce himself he told his name, and then said he had no goals because he had a disability and couldn’t accomplish goals.

We spent that day talking about the history and treatment of people with disabilities, and how to advocate for your needs and how and why you should get involved in the legislative process.

At the end of the training when we went back around this same young man said that he had learned that he could have goals and that he could achieve them as well. Since that training, he has been involved in several projects with the center, and is working full time.

I went to meet with this consumer because she was having trouble with mobility. Because of a stroke one side of her body didn’t work correctly and so she couldn’t get up off her couch without someone helping her. She was really frustrated because she had to plan everything in her life around others’ schedules. She believed a lift chair would allow her to stand without help. I found out what a lift chair would cost and helped her get the funding to purchase it. I went to visit her after it had been delivered and she cried with happiness because that chair had given her back her independence.
Bonnie has many reasons to celebrate today. Two years ago, if you asked her, she probably wouldn’t believe that life could be any better than it had been for several years. Today, after developing a relationship with PILR, she celebrated two years of full time employment with the same company. Benefits now assist her with the priceless meds she needs to survive in the latest legislative war.

Schizophrenia doesn’t have to mean a life of institutions and tragedy. With the assistance and guidance of our Employment Specialist, Bonnie has excelled in her professional and private life. She is active in our peer support Job Club, which emphasizes consumer employment training skills, vocational peer support and disabilities in the workplace education.

Although she has been employed for several months, she has learned that it is important to give back to others who may be struggling behind her. She still attends faithfully to offer her strength, support and experience. PILR has been able to consistently provide a lush training field that cultivates various life skills and empowerment recognition opportunities.

Bonnie has recently been able to reconnect with her family, and they are encouraged by her steady growth with us and within herself. She looks forward to building a real future with her infant daughter. The unsure and frightened young adult has flourished into a confident and empowered ray of hope with PILR growing by her side.

We witnessed the transformation of a young lady who struggles mightily with Agoraphobia and other Mental Health Disabilities. Unable to venture out of her home, Tiffany took a chance and accepted the helping hand of PILR and began to form a trusting relationship with our satellite office manager/employment specialist.

There was a time when she would only accept home visits, and preferred to communicate solely through phone lines and e-mail. With consistent encouragement and small secure steps, our employment specialist was able to gain trust and teach confidence as she dared believe in our center’s mission statement; “The purpose of Prairie Independent Living Resource Center (PILR) is to achieve the full inclusion and acceptance of people with disabilities through education and advocacy.”

Tiffany suffered a severe setback after her mother passed away from prolonged illness. Her mother was her main lifeline to the rest of the world, and the only real family Tiffany has ever known. Alone and frightened beyond belief, she knew her choices were to either move forward with PILR or sink back into the all too comfortable world of institutions and invisible barriers.

Tiffany made a choice. She branched out and into partnership with vocational rehabilitation services and mental health case management. She set up a new apartment and created a home for herself, away from the sad memories of her former dark rooms.

PILR has been able to successfully form partnerships with these agencies and also become a viable community collaborator with other local organizations. Because our center was able to offer independent living skills and employment education and advocacy services, Tiffany now lives independently in her own home, volunteers in the community (she can now enter businesses and public places with confidence and assurance) and has begun to live a vibrant and full life.

It wasn’t so long ago, that we dared hope she would at least be able to come to our office and sit comfortably at a distance from others. Now she is in the middle of groups, taking part in lively discussions and offers her time and care to others in need. She has found her own mission and gives back to a new community of friends.

I work with an individual who is an older lady having speech and vision problems due to a brain tumor. She needed some magnification to continue living in her home. I arranged for her to get a Merlin video magnifier. The day I set it up for her was truly an amazing experience. Her daughter and I were showing her pictures of her great-grandchildren – she’d never been able to see their faces before. She didn’t say a word; she just stared at the screen, reached over and squeezed my hand. The expression on her face said it all!
One of my consumers told me that he used to enjoy cooking, but couldn’t read product labels anymore. Consequently, he mixed ingredients that didn’t belong together. Eventually, he stopped cooking as often as he had been. We purchased an IDMate for him using iKan funding. This equipment has enabled him to read labels, mark measuring equipment, etc. He is also able to use it to mark other items in his home, making his life easier in general!
One individual has called me several times to tell me how much different her life has become since we got her the Merlin magnifier. Every time she discovers something ‘new’ that she can read or do, she calls to tell me how excited she is! The first time I met her, she told me that if something happened to her husband she would have to move to an assisted living facility because she just couldn’t see to do things on her own. Since we provided the Merlin, she’s not even thinking about moving! She can do things so much more independently – pay bills, read her mail, and take care of other correspondence. Her husband says she’s much happier as well.
Patty has always known that cerebral palsy is a fact of life. When you want to describe Patty to someone, you really don’t have to struggle for descriptive words for very long. Among many positive things, she is intelligent, articulate, educated, motivated, compassionate, and committed to living a full and independent life.

Patty came our way after graduating from a local state university with a degree in education. Seeking local employment services, she partnered with vocational rehabilitation services and PILR to actively seek employment as a teacher and seek assistance with setting up independence in one of our small rural communities. Our employment specialist was able to connect her with various interview opportunities and guide her through the long winding trail of completing applications and submitting resumes, interviewing with various levels of administration and developing local resources.

Patty is now employed as a substitute teacher and Para-professional with one of our local junior high schools. With PILR’s assistance, she has begun a journey that will no doubt take her to various levels of success and fulfillment.