• Financial & Legal Supports and Services 

  •  Employment 

  • Independent Living & Advocacy 

  • Mental Health & Other Health-Related Needs

  • Community Living and Participation (including post-secondary education)

  • Extensive Supports & Developmental Disabilities



            The Financial & Legal Support Services domain includes services and supports for those needing financial or legal counsel or advice.  At times, there may be circumstances where you need assistance in finance or legal situations.  People with and without disabilities are faced with a range of financial and legal responsibilities.  This can include life events such as making a will, establishing credit, establishing guardianship, obtaining a fee waiver, or maintaining eligibility for SSI/SSDI benefits.  Depending on socioeconomic status, access to financial and legal supports and services differ in terms of what someone is eligible for.  In other words, some programs are specific for those coming from low-income households whereas others will require you to have a disability to access their services. 

            It is important to know which agencies can help you depending on your situation.  When you are needing counsel in finance or legal area, it can be daunting to find someone who will help you figure out the process.  Sometimes it is necessary to go to the federal agencies like Social Security or state departments like Department of Social Services.  Other times you can benefit by going to local agencies who will help you to alleviate your situation and provide education on how to improve like the Financial Opportunity Center or Guadalupe Centers Credit Union.  If possible, you should establish a relationship with organizations so that you can benefit from the full range of supports and services they provide and so that you know who you can trust when you have financial or legal struggles.   The financial and legal realm can be intimidating with all of the technical terms and nuances so it is important to seek help from qualified professionals in these areas.   



            The Employment domain includes services and supports to gain meaningful employment.  This includes competitive employment, supported employment, and job training.  Competitive employment is fully integrated employment with comparable wages for people with disabilities and without disabilities.  Supported employment can include a job coach or any other supports that a person with a more significant disability would require to be able to obtain and maintain employment.  Job training can be basic employability skills for youth or people who have not worked before, or it can be more specified to the skills a certain job requires.  There are many organizations and service providers for people in general to locate and maintain employment, as well as many that specialize in helping people with disabilities with employment.  These include state programs like the Full Employment Council and Vocational Rehabilitation as well as locally-based non-profits such as Goodwill, Ability KC, or Easter Seals Midwest. 

            The Employment domain is an essential component for transitions.  The majority of people’s days are spent working, so it is important that everyone has access to meaningful employment.  High employment rates are an important factor because it allows people to have the independence to support themselves rather than relying on someone else and keeps the economy strong.  On a more personal note, employment empowers people with and without disabilities and gives people a sense of value and belonging.  Employment rates for people with disabilities are significantly lower than non-disabled peers so it is important for families to seek out resources and training so they can not only obtain jobs, but also maintain them.  Having meaningful employment has a major impact on a person’s self-determination level and confidence.  Therefore, it is important to be aware of all of the community resource partners who focus on employment and training so that not knowing where to get a job becomes eliminated from the barriers that keep someone from working. 



            The Independent Living and Advocacy domain covers aspect of independent and daily living as well as advocacy groups for improving rights and policies for people with disabilities.  Independent living means that a person is able to direct their own life in whatever capacity is appropriate for their ability.  For some this means living on their own, for others it may be living in a community home, or for others it may be having supports to make independent choices in a supported living situation.  Independent daily living skills include skills like cooking, taking care of one’s health, cleaning, or navigating around the community.

            One very important independent living skill is advocacy.  It is very important that all people know how to ask for the help they need and stand up for their values.  Self-advocacy is a skill that all people, those with and without disabilities, need to be able to do in order to have their needs met as a person.  If needs are not met it can have disastrous consequences for a person’s well-being.  This domain includes advocacy resources where people come together collectively to demand rights for specific groups of people.  Many of the ones included are advocacy groups for disability rights to ensure that people with disabilities are not being discriminated against in terms of education, employment, and independent living needs.  Having a community of people to advocate on your behalf or with you is very important for achieving goals of equal access and having needs met. 

          Independent Living and Advocacy is important because it has a major impact on a person’s self-worth and sense of value.  Independent Living is a natural part of society, so it is important that people with disabilities feel a degree of independence and control of their life.  It is important that they have choice and are the major drivers of decision making.  With this comes the importance of advocacy and being able to ask for needs to be met. Often, people will not know if there is an issue unless someone speaks out against it.  It is therefore essential that people know how to ask for help and to demand certain rights and needs to be met, because there is no guarantee that someone will know that your needs are not being met.  Having natural supports in the areas of independent living and advocacy is particularly important, but it is also important to become familiar with Centers for Independent Living, non-profits like the Whole Person, Assistive Technology agencies, as well as local advocacy groups.  With the support of these resources, independent living and advocacy can be shaped according to the individual’s determination rather than someone else choosing for them. 



            The Mental Health and Other Health Needs domain covers services regarding health and mental health.  This includes a range of services including information about health insurance, teenage pregnancy prevention, behavioral health treatment, mental health treatment, or other health care services.  Resources include local hospitals and organizations as well as state health agencies. 

            Mental Health and Other Health Needs are important for people to consider when planning for the future.  At some point, everyone will experience conditions that require medical or psychological treatment.  It is important to have a facility that you can trust to prescribe the right plan for your situation.  Additionally, it is important to be aware of different options and programs available in terms of health insurance or learning about health services.  Finding the right health plan for your family is very difficult to navigate so it helps to have someone there to guide you through the process.  Teen pregnancy and mental health issues are prevalent in urban high schools so it is important that students are aware of different resources to learn more about their health as well as what to do to prevent physical and mental health issues.  If you are not healthy (physically or mentally) then you are not able to be your best self.  Health (both physical and mental) is a basic need that needs to be satisfied before any learning or working can take place.  Therefore, the mental health and other health needs domain is important because it is essential to know options and resources available to address health care needs as they come up throughout a person’s life.  



            The Community Living and Participation domain covers a wide range of topics to emphasize all of the ways a person is involved in their community.  The Community Living and Participation domain includes housing resources, non-profits that serve the community in all aspects such as United Way, transportation and further education.  Community Living and Participation has many facets because everyone participates in the community at a different level.  Many communities, including Kansas City, strive to make their community a place where people want to be.  This means that there needs to be a multitude of resources and programming to fit the diverse needs of the population living here.  Participating in community life is how social interactions occur and the relationships people build shape how a person views their community life.  In order for someone to be fully immersed in the community they must know how to navigate around the community.  This is where transportation plays a key in community participation.   Additionally, post-secondary education programs at colleges provide the experience and skill training that people with disabilities need in order to seek further involvement in the community or perhaps even supported or competitive employment.  These programs help students to experience College like their non-disabled peers, but provide the skill training they need to achieve their post-secondary goals.  Therefore, this domain focuses on services and supports to access the opportunities provided within the community to foster those strong ties with the people and the community itself.

            Community Living and Participation is important because it helps people to feel a sense of value, belonging, and pride in their home.  People who are isolated and not involved in the community miss out on the array of opportunities to enrich one’s life.  Particularly for people with disabilities, it is important to be involved in the community in order to have the benefit of interacting with someone different than yourself.  The community also provides various opportunities to further your learning which can lead to the development of a hobby into a career.  Most importantly, interacting with other people and learning new skills helps to improve a person’s feeling of belonging and value.  Therefore, Community Living and Participation underscores the importance of getting people out into the community to lead more fulfilling lives by interacting with others and learning new skills.



            The Extensive Supports and Developmental Disabilities domain covers more intensive services for those who have the most significant disabilities.  These are life-long services for those who have qualifying disabilities.  These individuals require extensive services to access any of the other domains such as health, finance, legal, community living, independent living, and employment.  Many of these individuals may not be able to access “traditional” paths even with supports.  As a result, these individuals need different supports and services in all of the areas in order to still lead an independent life where they can feel a sense of value and meaning.   It is very important that the families of individuals with significant disabilities apply to their local and state organizations early as there are limited resources to help and the waiting lists for these agencies can be very long. 

            The Extensive Supports and Developmental Disabilities domain is important because for families and individuals with the most significant disabilities, they are not able to access the same types of programs as nondisabled peers.  It is important for these individuals to receive services so that they can achieve personal goals and continue to build their self-determination and independent living skills.   It is also important to include support groups, because it helps seeing others in the community who understand the intensity of the services and supports needed to provide for individuals with significant disabilities.  Therefore, this domain is important because it ensures that people with the most significant disabilities receive the services and supports they need to access all areas of post-secondary life.