A recent expansion of VersAbility Resources’ Day Support program helps underserved adults and seniors with disabilities to reach their highest level of independence and community engagement.
Project Independence offers personalized life skills classes that cover topics that include technology, budgeting, healthy living, personal safety, nutrition, self-care and self-advocacy.
Project Independence also offers Virtual Reality simulation programs to help train people with disabilities for various real-life scenarios. By practicing these skills in a safe environment among supportive staff, people with disabilities can expand their personal and economic independence.
“Our Project Independence program allows people with disabilities to build skills, so they are prepared to make choices and navigate our community with confidence,” said Kasia Grzelkowski, CEO of the Hampton nonprofit. “This program promotes physical and social wellbeing while creating an invaluable sense of empowerment and independence.”
Participants in Project Independence can select from among five different areas of interest, each broken down into several rooms onsite at the Hampton facility:
- A game room contains four card tables, an air hockey game, exercise equipment and yoga mats.
- A coffee connection room staged to resemble a coffee shop encourages individuals to practice independent decision-making in choosing products. They can make their own coffee or enjoy a beverage at a table among friends. They also enjoy baking goods for the room or for in-person events hosted by VersAbility.
- In the Hot Spot room, individuals can practice technology skills using a laptop or iPad, familiarize themselves with software and learn how to research items to purchase online. Using virtual reality equipment, individuals can practice real-life scenarios, such as going to the grocery store, to the bank or navigating their way through an airport.
- An arts and crafts room fosters creative engagement by offering opportunities for individuals to express themselves in unique ways, including arts and crafts projects.
- A relaxation or “quiet” room offers a safe space to break from the stresses of the day. The lighting is dimmed, soft music plays, and comfortable lounging options are available.
Project Independence launched in June 2022 with seven participants. The growing program now serves 30 individuals.
“We want to create the opportunity for choice, to give people with disabilities options, to encourage independent thinking and decision-making in their daily routine and activities,” Grzelkowski said. “At the end of the day, we want them to have control over their day, what they choose to do and how they want to learn and progress within the program to best fit their interests, needs and aspirations.”
In addition to the various rooms, Project Independence features a community engagement component. Individuals usually go out into the community a minimum of twice per week. They visit parks, museums, beaches and more. They also participate with volunteer programs through the Foodbank of the Virginia Peninsula and clean-up projects for the city of Hampton.
“These opportunities give them a sense of pride for their community,” Grzelkowski said.
VersAbility continues to research new areas of interest that can add to the program to expand the learning/volunteer opportunities available to individuals participating in Project Independence.
VersAbility’s mission is to break down the barriers people with disabilities face that prevent them from living independently. The nonprofit teaches and encourages participants while building their confidence in a supportive environment.
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