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National Center on Secondary Education and Transition: Creating opportunities for youth with disabilities to achieve successful futures.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How can young adults with disabilities ensure that they will have stable and adequate income?

As with anyone else, young adults with disabilities must have money in order to live successfully and independently. While all young adults need to have opportunities for employment, many times, young adults with disabilities are not able to earn enough money to enjoy a satisfactory quality of life. This can happen for a variety of reasons, including lack of extensive direct experience, lack of opportunity, misconceptions about ability, inadequate support, and lack of knowledge about services and supports that can make this a reality.

However, the federal government, through the Social Security Administration, has several programs that can provide young adults with disabilities monetary support to help meet living expenses. While in the past, remaining eligible for such programs essentially made it impossible for persons with disabilities to also work and earn an income, there are now several options to use social security payments as a way to supplement a young person’s paychecks. Young adults with disabilities may also be eligible for other forms of economic assistance available through federal, state, and local government to assist them with subsidized housing programs, food stamps, and vouchers.

The bottom line is that preparing for fiscal independence must happen during the transition planning process. Although not every young adult will need the programs described above or qualify for these programs, it is still essential to develop goals and steps to achieve those goals on the IEP in the area of financial management, fiscal responsibility, and independent living.

How can young adults with disabilities find support and assistance to live independently in the community?

A normal life passage for most young adults is to leave their family home and live independently. Although they may receive support from time to time, their ultimate goal is to have a place of their own and to manage their lives as independent adults. This process can become more complicated when the young adult has a disability. For some young adults, the disability can make it difficult to care for their personal needs or manage a household without some support. Support could include living with friends or obtaining help through a supervised living arrangement, such as a group home.

This does not change the fact that most young adults with disabilities express the same desires as their non-disabled peers—to have their own place and to live as independently as possible. This does not mean it has to be accomplished without support. The goal is to make sure it is addressed through the transition planning process, and to connect a young adult with all of the necessary resources, services, and supports before they are ready to make this move.

There are many resources and supports that can be invaluable in this area. Centers for Independent Living (CILs) are an excellent place to start. Most cities around the United States have one or more CILs that can provide assistance with locating affordable and accessible housing. CILs can also provide training to help youth with disabilities prepare for living independently. This can include things like cooking, cleaning, safety, budgeting, understanding rental contracts, how to interview landlords, and much more.

Another source of support might include programs offered through Social Security, such as Supplemental Security Income, or SSI. SSI provides eligible recipients with a monthly check to support their daily living needs, such as rent, a car or transportation costs, food, and other necessities.

A third program that can support independent living is Medical Assistance, which may provide funding to pay for durable medical equipment or for personal assistants that provide help with personal care or household management tasks in the individual’s home.

What helps young adults to build friendships and relationships in which they feel valued?

Young adults with disabilities really want the same things as any other young adult—a social or peer group to be a part of, a place where they feel they belong and are valued, friends to have fun with, and social activities to enjoy. High school provides many opportunities to build friendships and to get involved in activities that provide a forum for friendships to be built. However, it is a common scenario to find that few young adults with disabilities are involved in school clubs and organizations such as student council, the school newspaper, the homecoming committee, and sports. When young adults with disabilities are developing their transition plan, involvement in these types of activities is essential to include as goals on their plan. Academics and employment experience are only a part of what contributes to an individual’s quality of life.

As young adults graduate or leave school, it may become difficult for them to maintain existing relationships or to build new friendships. Connecting young adults with disabilities to community organizations and opportunities that match their interests before they leave high school is one way to ensure that relationships continue to be built and to grow. There are a wide variety of community organizations youth can become involved with; everything from those focused on health and fitness such as the YMCA/YWCA, to political parties, volunteer opportunities, and hobby groups.

Young adults with disabilities also need frequent opportunities to engage in other typical activities for their age, such as attending parties or going shopping. While many young adults with disabilities only need occasional encouragement and support in maintaining their social networks, other young adults may need ongoing and direct assistance to maintain and build upon social contacts. Such assistance can be afforded by a paid support person, or by supportive family members and friends who make a conscious effort to include the young adult with the disability in activities, and in assisting them with contacting others.

What considerations are important in ensuring that young adults with disabilities have access to appropriate healthcare?

Young adults with disabilities are exposed to all the health and safety perils of anyone in our society, as well as additional ones that may be specific to their disabilities. Youth with disabilities need access to general practitioners and healthcare coordinators who will take the time to learn about their disabilities and how those disabilities fit into the context of their overall physical and emotional health.

Young adults with disabilities also occasionally need access to specialized healthcare provided by specialized healthcare professionals. Finally, these young adults need healthcare insurance that is capable of meeting any needs that may arise. This may be available through a employer-sponsored health plan or Medicaid, a federally sponsored health insurance program, or some combination of the two.

What transportation options are typically available for young adults with disabilities?

Transportation is a critical issue for young adults with disabilities if they are to be employed and maintain active lives in their communities. It is always important to consider whether the young adult is interested and able to drive a car or van. Centers for Independent Living or vocational rehabilitation agencies should be aware of local programs that assess an individual’s ability to drive, recommend adapted equipment, and provide driving instruction, especially for persons with disabilities.

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, all modes of public transportation, such as buses, trains, and subways, must now be accessible to people with disabilities. Youth and young adults with disabilities may benefit from training and an opportunity to practice safely using such systems. Young adults who have disabilities that would cause them to be especially vulnerable in using public transportation may be eligible for other transportation options supported through the local transit authority or government social service agency.

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This page was last updated on November 29, 2017.