ExploreAbility (Ages 14-21)

Overview

Wrestling with big questions about life after high school can be daunting for teenagers and their families—and it can be especially challenging for students with multiple disabilities who may not have received an intensive assessment of their vocational potential. HKSB’s ExploreAbility program can help you figure out what’s next.  This four-week summer program enables participants to explore their strengths and abilities, set realistic goals and make plans to achieve their highest level of independence.

ExploreAbility assesses the vocational potential of youth ages 14 to 21 who are legally blind and have physical, behavioral and/or cognitive disabilities.  Developed by Helen Keller Services for the Blind with support from the New York State Commission for the Blind, ExploreAbility offers an intensive daily training schedule in: orientation and mobility, vision rehabilitation, social work, assistive technology and pre-vocational skills.  Additionally, students participate in team building social experiences like bowling and restaurant dining. 

Students are assessed as they complete one-on-one and small-group training experiences in five core areas:

  • Pre-vocational skills
  • Assistive technology
  • Orientation and mobility
  • Daily living skills 
  • Social Work

Through intensive training and individualized social casework services, each student receives expert advice to guide next steps, including a full assessment plan reflecting his or her unique capabilities and goals. Our staff collaborates with the NYS Commission on the Blind to help participants access the training and supports they need to live as independently as possible.

Pre-Vocational Training

This program is overseen by a credentialed director with extensive vocational rehabilitation experience and a history of working with clients with multiple disabilities. Under our director’s supervision,

attendees will work one on one with dedicated skills trainers.  Trainers will focus on helping participants with multiple disabilities succeed in the workplace. Students have the opportunity to:

  • Explore career options.
  • Hone current job-related skills and develop new ones.
  • Identify potential workplace obstacles and discover strategies to overcome them.

Assistive Technology Instruction

Our instructors introduce students to the latest in assistive technology and help them to determine which tools are right for them.

Equipment may include:

  • Magnification/enlargement software
  • Refreshable braille displays and note takers
  • Optical character recognition software
  • Text-to-speech screen readers
  • Standard productivity software interface with accessibility programs
  • Smart phone applications
  • Apple- and PC-based adaptations, tablets and wearable devices 

Orientation and Mobility Instruction

Knowing where you are and how to get around—it’s the key to maintaining an independent lifestyle. Our orientation and mobility specialists teach techniques for safe travel.

Students will learn how to:

  • Use a cane and other aids within
  • Take advantage of remaining vision—and create a plan to compensate when it’s not possible to do so.
  • Figure out what they can do on their own and when to ask for help.
  • Advocate for assistance when necessary.

Daily Living Skills Training

HKSB instructors will cover the basics of independent living. Students will learn to handle challenges associated with:

  • Cooking
  • Cleaning
  • Personal hygiene
  • Money management

Social Casework Services

Students receive one-on-one and group counseling, addressing both practical and emotional concerns.

Each student will be assigned a licensed social worker who will:

  • Provide individual counseling.
  • Document the participant’s capabilities and needs.
  • Collaborate on the development of a full assessment plan, which will be shared with the student’s counselor at the NYS Commission for the Blind.
  • Give referrals for supported employment opportunities, day habilitation programs, community-based activities and/or other specialized programs as appropriate.
  • Help the student learn to access the resources he or she needs in school and beyond.

Possible Program Outcomes:

Recommendations at the end of the program may include:

  • Additional training in core program areas throughout the school year
  • Referrals to community resources that address speech pathology, occupational/physical therapy
  • Day Habilitation
  • Supported Employment

Admissions

The ExploreAbility program is open to New York City and Long Island residents who are between the ages of 14 and 21, and are legally blind with additional disabilities. Services are free if your child meets the eligibilty requirements and participates in a NYS Commission for the Blind rehabilitation program. Certain optical aids and adaptive equipment are provided based on economic need.

If interested in this program, please contact your NYSCB Counselor.