Ability Now Bay Area in Oakland, CA

"We love you just the way you are"

Staff and participants break a leg and show some love at a Valentine’s Day party. (Credit: Ability Now Bay Area)

A nonprofit organization for adults living with disabilities, Ability Now Bay Area staff and participants accept each other as they are, encouraging each other to be the best people that they can be. Many programs similar to ours have folded over the years due to budget cutbacks, and we’re one of the few left standing to get our clients out in the community, teach them skills in a wide-range of classes, facilitate a small business development program, assist clients with meals and hygiene, and provide nursing assistance to feed and administer medications to those with special needs. Our people come from many cities, traveling hours each day via Paratransit Services to be here. For many, this is the only place that meets their specific needs. Some live with family, most live in group homes, and a few live in their own apartments with attendant care — something most would LOVE to be able to do!

An Ability Now staff member lends a hand at dinner. (Credit: Ability Now Bay Area)

Stories About Ability Now Bay Area

In addition top classes, we have guest speakers and trainings hosted by people who are living with disability or who have had a background in disability issues themselves. We also have participants who help out in classes, using their own background and knowledge-base to assist their peers. Many of our participants also attend other programs that interest them, such as NIAD, an art program that helps aspiring artists work in a variety of media and help them sell their art. Some are involved in power chair soccer. Others get involved in their individual pursuits, such as rock climbing or sailing in the SF Bay. We have taken special outings with some of our participants to see the Oakland A’s games in the summer, and many have enjoyed going out to museums, parks, shopping centers, and college campuses, as well as many other places during their community outings.

No matter how busy we get, participants are patient with staff who work tirelessly to meet their needs in classrooms, during meals, or while helping with hygiene. People here always ask each other about how they are doing, and find little ways to make someone’s day brighter. For example, participants made cards for a staff member’s daughter who just had surgery. Staff listens to participants’ dreams, goals, sorrows, and triumphs, finding ways to help each one overcome their obstacles on the way to a happy and successful life. Everyone who works here goes above and beyond their job descriptions to do more for the good of our participants and to help each other, from donating extra time to helping provide resources not covered by our nonprofit. Many of our participants live hand-to-mouth, relying on government payment for devices to move or to talk. Some have gone many years waiting for replacement devices, but yet stay positive and patient…a lesson that has shaped the environment in which we come together.

Participants share with us what is important to them and help plan what they learn and where they would like to go. Because we focus on person-first learning, our clients feel happy here…they are being heard instead of being herded into doing what others feel are best for them…an all-too-common occurrence for people living with disability. They feel empowered and look forward to their futures!
I feel blessed to be a part of all of this. After having raised my own children born with severe disability, I wanted to find meaningful work doing what I love best: helping others overcome obstacles toward what they want using alternative routes if necessary! This is that place! Every day I walk down the halls, I am greeted on all sides by positive, happy, loving people, and I think to myself, “Where else on Earth could I find such caring and good will?”
No obstacle is too formidable for these daring Ability Now rock climbers. (Credit: Ability Now Bay Area)