Independence Through Empowerment

LivAbility Magazine

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Independence Through Empowerment

By Douglas West, Program Coordinator
Community Living Options Program, Ability360

Photos by Loren Worthington

“I believe in the philosophy that empowerment yields independence.”

I am very excited to coordinate a unique program for Ability360, Community Living Options. CLO works specifically with consumers who are high-functioning individuals with a developmental disability who are ineligible for federal and state support services. The program allows individuals the opportunity to increase social skills, meet new friends, learn to navigate the transportation system, attend vocational training, prepare to live on their own and identify and work towards their independent living goals.

An important part of the program is that it gives consumers the opportunity to become independent and to advocate for themselves, demonstrating an active approach in their journeys toward independence. Community Living Options provides consumers with tools, resources and supports to help them live independently.

Let me introduce Alberto Ruiz. Alberto’s goals in the CLO program include increasing his self–advocacy skills, confidence level and self-esteem, as well as connecting to social and employment activities. Alberto is 21 and living with epilepsy. He has dealt with a lot of adversity in his life, yet is hopeful and willing to work towards his goals.

Alberto Ruiz and Douglas West sitting at a table.

By Alberto Ruiz
CLO Consumer

Throughout the course of my life, I feel I’ve overcome many obstacles (being bullied in school, struggling with anxiety), and due to that, I feel like a much stronger person now. I’m certainly glad to have found Ability360, because it has provided me with endless information and more resources than I could possibly hope for. It has taught me to think about things I had never considered in the past, such as money management and healthy eating habits. These were helpful lessons, especially in terms of living alone. One of my favorite parts of working with Ability360 is being able to meet people like my program coordinator Douglas West.


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He’s been so helpful to me in giving me all these resources to use and offering me advice on a variety of things. I’m very glad to have someone there I can talk to. As a 21-year-old part-time college student, I’m glad to have as many resources and options as I do at a time in my life when I’m uncertain as to where the future will lead me. Growing up dealing with anxiety and bullying took their toll on me and left me feeling hopeless in terms of what I could do to help myself and to help change myself for the better. Working with Ability360 has opened my eyes. I now realize that if I try hard enough in pursuing my goals I can become a better me, one that sheds the burdens of the past.

I’m glad I’m working with Ability360 because I feel I have the ability to succeed in life and accomplish the things I need to in order to lead the kind of life I want.

Help is indeed reaching out to you; all you need
to do is reach back.

Alberto was recently matched with an Ability360 Peer Mentor, who will provide support and resources as Alberto works toward his self-advocacy, education and employment goals. Alberto’s interests lie in the automotive and technical fields, and he is currently exploring automotive programs for consideration.

I like seeing the tangible results with consumers, the moments of “I got this” or the look on their faces when they realize they can accomplish their goals, whether it be volunteering, advocating for themselves in a difficult situation, obtaining employment or attending their first social outing. I believe in the philosophy that empowerment yields independence.


Picture of Douglas West

Douglas West
CLO Program Coordinator

Douglas West has been the CLO Program Coordinator at Ability360 since February 2016, after moving here from Pittsburgh, PA, where he also worked for a Center for Independent Living.