Research has made it abundantly clear that for adults with developmental disabilities, lack of literacy has a direct impact upon quality of life. Areas most directly affected include personal health, financial and employment opportunities, as well as self-esteem and peer acceptance.
Practitioners from the literacy field have identified a need to improve the appropriateness of referrals coming from agencies serving people with developmental disabilities. In turn, many service providers for people with developmental disabilities have challenged literacy programs to be as inclusive and accessible as possible. Dr. Ken Beck and Ms. Patricia Hatt (1998) have pointed out in their research that many workers feel inadequately prepared to teach basic literacy skills when working with this population.
In response to this need, a proposal was submitted by the Executive Director of the Tri-County Literacy Network and approved for implementation by the National Literacy Secretariat.
The intent of the project was two-fold. The first was to collect data from which both administrators and front line staff could make informed decisions, while the second was to plant the "seed idea" that people from both sectors needed to become more directly involved with the issues common to both fields if the changes required to serve adults with developmental disabilities were to be met.
Now that the project is completed, it is very evident that no one person can be charged with the daunting task of bringing about all the changes needed. Rather it is the responsibility of the people in the region who are most directly involved, who must in their own way "buy in" to literacy being a priority, if positive change is to actually occur.
The "Next Steps" document provides examples for practitioners in both fields of what to do to begin the process of bringing about change, by suggesting "small, workable, first steps" that have been successfully implemented elsewhere. It is hoped that these 'seed ideas' for promoting literacy will be used to build bridges to a more accessible and inclusive life in the community for adults with developmental disabilities.
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