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Handicap This! Performers, Educators, Entrepreneurs

HTP-HOMEbar-POSTERHandicap This! may have started as a fun and educational enterprise for Mike Berkson and Tim Wambach, but it has grown into a thriving business.  The core business is a constantly-evolving show called “Handicap This!”.  It is a  funny, poignant and bawdy telling of the story of their friendship –  Mike has Cerebral Palsy and Tim was first hired as his assistant over a decade ago.  Their relationship grew and now they create a “Judgment  Not Allowed” zone during every show that educates and opens minds with facts, tales and heart.  They tell a story of human potential, using themselves as examples.

And apparently the business potential for Handicap This! is very great.  With three employees now, revenues tripled in 2013 and the company keeps growing.  They have performed for over 30,000 people in 10 states since debuting the show in 2010.  They are increasingly called upon as motivational speakers in a variety of settings.   Big users of social media, their facebook page has over 14,000 followers and offers unfailingly positive posts about life.  Handicap This! also has produced a series of 13 web episodes with more on the way.  You can watch the trailer here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7UX0ttDKUhs&feature=player_embedded

Like many businesses, they want to give back to their community.  Not surprisingly, they have created a foundation called Keep On Keeping On that has assisted 80 clients with the “high cost of living with physical disability” since 2007.

You can catch Handicap This! at the HOME Bar in Arlington Heights on September 5.  Admission is $15 online, $20 at the door.  Contact Tim to book an event.  Tim@handicapthis.com

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Entrepreneurship Program — Open House August 27

word cloudEntrepreneurs with disabilities are about to get a helping hand.  The College of Lake County Personal Success Program (CLC-PSP) is about to offer a series of two classes aimed at teaching entrepreneurship skills.  The first class is “Introduction to Entrepreneurship”.  It is followed by “Business Plan Writing”.  Each class costs $350.  There will be an open house dealing specifically with the Entrepreneurship series on August 27, 2013, at the Grayslake Campus of CLC, from 6-8pm.  Pre-registration is encouraged.

A business plan is central to developing an enterprise that actually makes money and can be taken seriously by others.  Investors and customers like tangible evidence a business has been thought through – a business plan does that.   This class is different from others because  that it targets the needs of entrepreneurs with disabilities.  It addresses customized self-employment, micro-enterprise and other topics that are specific to disability.

In addition, students in the entrepreneurship class will be encouraged to bring a mentor along as a class participant, perhaps a parent.  This individual is likely to assist with the creation of the enterprise and remain committed to its success.   The attendance of two individuals is covered in the fee, in recognition of the need for committed partners.

This self-employment program came together whan a group of like-minded agencies and individuals came together to explore options.  Dubbed The Lake County Area Entrepreneurship Initiative (LCAEI), the principal organizing agencies include: the College of Lake County (CLC), the Illinois Association of Microboards and Cooperatives (IAMC) , the Lake County Center for Independent Living (LCCIL),   the Special Education District of Lake County (SEDOL), TheNemoNews.com,  The University of Illinois at Chicago and Vocational Rehabilitation.

The initiative was sparked by the efforts of Dr. Fabricio Balcazar at UIC.  He is working with federal and state agencies to develop other such projects in the Chicago area.

The initiative is expected to announce other activities that are currently in the planning stages.  For more information,  contact the project coordinator,  Mary Curran Rhodes at mary@thenemonews.com.

 

 

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Personal Success @ CLC — Open House August 12, 2013

Did you know that the College of Lake County offers a variety of classes to train adults with intellectual disabilities for entry-level employment?  This innovative and growing program is called the Personal Success Program.  These non-credit classes are offered in Career Exploration, Childcare, Food Service, Keyboarding and Pet Care.  New classes have been added this year in Cashiering, Entrepreneurship and Computer Skills for the Workplace.  (Watch TheNemoNews.com for more exciting news about the Entrepreneurship Program.)  Tuition ranges from $350 to $425 per course.

CLC is hosting an Open House for those interested on Monday, August 12, 2013 from 6-8pm at the Vernon Hills Campus.  There will be presentations and a chance to meet the instructors.  Preregistration in encouraged.  Last spring the Open House was standing room only.

Many of the classes are team-taught by a content area instructor and a special education instructor.  These classes are targeted at adults with mild to moderate intellectual disabilities, but are open to the public.  Prior to admission, students interview with the Program Director, Michael Garamoni, mgaramoni@clcillinois.edu or (847) 543-2994.   Contact him for more information.

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LCCIL Boot Camp for Parents

Summer Boot Camp for Parents continues at the Lake County Center for Independent Living (LCCIL).  July offerings are open to parents and advocates with an interest in the IEP/Transition process.   The class is free and held on Tuesdays from 1-3 at the LCCIL.  For information contact Shanta Frierson, 847-949-4440, shanta@lccil.org

The July schedule includes:

July 16 — Bullying 101, presented by the Lake County Health Department Children’s Program.  They will also discuss the Health Department programs and services.

July 23 –Skills to Succeed, presented by the Division of Specialized Care for Children.  Shannon Jones is coming from Rockford to explain this little known program for children up to age 22 that is administered by UIC  http://www.uic.edu/hsc/dscc/

 

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iPADS & Autism Apps Workshop: June 29

little cityLittle City is offering an iPAD workshop on Saturday, June 29, 2013 at their Day School at 1760 W. Algonquin Road in Palatine.  There will be training in  five developmental apps:  speech and language, matching and sorting, academics, fine motor skills and emotions.    Attendees will receive a resource list of iPAD apps.    There will be a continental breakfast, raffles, and a tour of the Day School.   Registration is online.  A donation of $10 is suggested at the event.  For more information contact:  Sally Blake, sblake@littlecity.org, 847.221.7831.

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Entrepreneurial Jump Start on Saturday, June 8, 2013

JumpStart_FlyerChicagoland entrepreneurs (and wanna-bees) with Disabilities will gather this Saturday, June 8 for a day of education, networking and information.  Titled the “Entrepreneurial Jump Start” it will take place downtown at the Illinois Center for Rehabilitation and Education  (ICRE), 1950 W Roosevelt from 10am – 5pm, near UIC.

The fair will feature workshops, success stories, panels, booths and vendors.  In addition, it will mark the grand re-opening of their Artfully Gifted Retail Center — an consignment outlet for qualified business owners.

TheNemoNews recently toured the ICRE operation and was impressed by the vision and implementation of their goals and operations to promote entrepreneurship among those with disabilities.

For more information about the Entrepreneurial Jump Start contact Therese Manderino, Superintendent of the ICRE at  therese.manderino@illinois.gov, 312-433-3121.

 

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SEDOL Honors Graduates

Student BlurredIt was an evening of laughter and tears as over 40 young people were recognized at the Annual SEDOL Community Life Skills Program Recognition Night.   Each student had the opportunity to address the packed audience.   A slide with their photograph and “farewell address” was projected on the stage  as they spoke.   Each of them was moving on to a new phase of life.  Many had “aged out” of the program during the preceding year.   It was a joyous and moving program.

Audience BlurredFor the first time this year, three students received the Dennis Lackie Employment Readiness Award.  This award was named after former job coach Dennis Lackie and is funded by his Memorial Fund.  He was known among students and colleagues for being “all business” as he helped students achieve their goals.  The awardees were selected by transition staff based on several criteria:  appropriate social skills, readiness to work, the ability to  independently manage transportation and successful completion of vocational training.  It is expected that this award will continue  in the coming years.

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Federal Partners in Transition eDiscussion til May 27

Have you ever thought that there was a better way to do things?  Have you ever wished you could talk to somebody important enough to act on your ideas?  Or maybe just listen to your ideas?  Here’s your chance.  There is an online discussion taking place the next two weeks (May 13-27).  Representatives of the Department of Labor, Education, Health and Human Services and the Social Security Administration (Federal Partners in Transition)   are hosting this discussion and asking the following question:

What legislative and regulatory changes need to happen to effectively implement employment, education, health and human and social security services for youth and young adults with disabilities under public law?

It is a “crowd-sourced” discussion.  Individuals and agencies present their ideas and the rest of us vote their ideas up and down.  In this way, the “cream” of ideas rise to the top.  There were over 100 ideas within 24 hours, and the top idea (with 54 votes) was to eliminate waiting lists.  (Nemo votes for that!)

Participants need to register in order to participate.  In order to participate go to:  http://fptepolicyworks.ideascale.com/  In addition, we asked one author a question about their particular idea, and have received half a dozen responses from participants so far.  So Nemo won’t be asking a lot of idle questions…LOL.

Nemo has noted that some ideas on the website are poorly written and difficult to understand.  Some are pure jargon.  A participant might want to draft an idea and have someone else read it before posting.  Otherwise your great idea could be lost in the mix if it is unclear.   And we don’t want that to happen!

 

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IEP Boot Camp at LCCIL: High School

No two IEPs are the same, not even for the same child.  And IEPs for high school and transition students are different from elementary aged IEPs.  At a certain age, independence, transportation and employment take on more importance than the 3Rs.  As parents and students we are often baffled about the issues and options.  And where does the IEP fit into that?

The Lake County Center for Independent Living is offering a “IEP Summer BootCamp for Parents” in June that is focused on the high school and transition needs of students and families.  Parents will meet on June 4, 11, and 18 to share experiences and learn about IEPs in the teenage years.  Other particulars are still being worked out.  It would be a good time to express your interest in the workshops.

For more information on the IEP Bootcamp contact Shanta Frierson, 847-949-4440, shanta@lccil.org

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Nemo’s Business Plan: In Progress

Hoping to become self-sustaining and more robust, TheNemoNews.com started working on it’s business plan this spring.  Part of the process was to attend the Entrepreneurship Class held at the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) during March and April.  While the business plan for Nemo  is not yet complete, we made great progress.  We will publish more about our plan as it moves forward.

There were about 10 students in the Business Plan class.  All were adults with disabilities who dreamed of self-employment.  All had an open case with Vocational Rehabilitation.  Their dreams ranged from fashion design to bed-bug control.  Some had dealt with disabilities all their life, others only recently.   And all of us sought to assess the competition, develop a marketing plan, struggled with  our break-even spreadsheets and tried to project earnings as we wrote our business plans.  The company we kept with each other was great.

Did you know that self-employment hovers around 11% among the disabled community?  That is somewhat more than the 7% in the general population.   It is good to see UIC and VR take a leadership role in promoting entrepreneurship among those with disabilities.   Dr. Fabricio  Balcazar should be lauded for leading these efforts at UIC.

For more information about the UIC Business Plan Program, contact Shawn Dimfl, sdimpf1@uic.edu, at 312-413-8993.

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