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If you’re an employer or need volunteers for your organization, consider working with clients from United Cerebral Palsy San Diego. Those who work with UCP are reliable and potentially long-term volunteers or employees.

Landing a job is a standard responsibility that comes with adulthood for many young people. But for those with disabilities, having a job is one of the ultimate ways to build confidence and independence. That’s why the folks at United Cerebral Palsy of San Diego are working hard to get their clients jobs and volunteer positions throughout San Diego through their Networks and Work Activity programs.

Andy Myers, who has worked with UCP since 2002, stays busy by volunteering or working nearly every day of the week. He works at the new San Diego Central Library downtown cleaning books, delivering mail at San Diego State University, and is currently getting trained to make stamps for local San Diego business Ready Stamps.

Andy’s goal of independence led him to move out of his parents’ house in 2006. He’s been living with a roommate ever since.

“At first I missed my mom a lot, but I got over it,” Myers said. “I have more independence and freedom. I can do something for myself and can ask for something if I need help.”

If You Want to Change Someone’s Life, Start With a Job

United Cerebral Palsy San Diego is celebrating its 57th year as a local nonprofit, something Executive Director David Carucci said speaks to the organization’s staying power.

“We’re very proud of the longevity, and really feel you don’t get to stick around that long unless you’re doing something that’s good for the community and is needed,” Carucci said.

While UCP San Diego is known for serving those with cerebral palsy, 65 percent of the people served by the organization actually have disabilities other than cerebral palsy.

The mission of the nonprofit is simple, yet life-changing for those with disabilities: find ways to include those with disabilities in every aspect of life and society.

That means helping those with disabilities be as independent as possible.

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One of the best ways to increase independence and self-efficacy is through relationship-building and getting out in the community.

And UCP’s clients are getting out there: they work at three thrift stores run by UCP, are grocery baggers and employees at Ocean Beach People’s Organic Food Market, work at the library and even work in the recycling department of a biotech company in North County.

David Drazenovich, who’s the director of Adult and Community programs for UCP, said these jobs help those with disabilities integrate into society.

“It’s really about getting them in jobs where they feel like valued members and have increased opportunities for interaction with people without disabilities,” Drazenovich said.

Communication Technology is Key to Independence

The ability to communicate is a challenge many of UCP’s clients face. That’s where its Assistive Technology Center comes in. UCP is able to work with clients to find the latest technological tools that can help those with disabilities communicate better and bridge the digital divide. The devices range from simple switches to complex, customizable devices.

Carucci said for those with varying degrees of disabilities, these devices can give those who struggle with speech a real voice.

“When it happens initially it’s always very exciting to see, you see their eyes light up, like ‘it said it, but that’s what I would say if I could’ type of thing,” Carucci said.

Parent Roy Gash said his daughter has benefited greatly from UCP’s loan program where clients can test out different devices to see what works best for them. He said this year their family decided to give it go and they ultimately found an app for the iPad called TouchChat that worked for his daughter Heather.

Gash said the program is customizable and they’re able to upload photos of family and friends for when Heather uses the device to talk.

“She can express her needs and wants which is what we were looking for,” Gash said. “I think if she had something like this 40 years ago she would be more functional now. I think the kids that grow up with this stuff, it’s a godsend.”

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