By Abby Frantz
I am Abby Frantz and I’m proud to say I’m absolutely obsessed with working with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). I began my journey into the I/DD world at a young age. Growing up in Minnesota my mother worked in the school system and also managed a therapeutic horseback riding stable. Being around people who were different than me was just a part of life.
Currently I am the Program Manager at IndependenceWORKS of Jewish Family & Career Services (JF&CS). IndependenceWORKS offers adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities the chance to explore many opportunities through the two branches of our services — Supported Employment and Community Access Group (CAG).
Clients who are in the CAG program are offered fun, inspiring and unique community outings. We attend both volunteer and recreational outings throughout Georgia. Variety is key. When CAG clients are not out exploring the world, they are experiencing a wide range of in-house activities such as music therapy, adaptive yoga, crafts or spending time in our state-of-the-art sensory room. The Community Access Group prides itself in being both innovative and inclusive. We certainly march to the beat of our own drum.
The Supported Employment program of IndependenceWORKS provides the services needed to help employers and individuals with disabilities find each other and meet each other’s employment needs. One of our partners is Taziki’s Mediterranean Cafe in Sandy Springs. They have employed several of our clients and were honored at this year’s Power of One event. The Supported Employment program assists with all areas of employment from resume building to work place policies. The Supported Employment staff work with clients to discover their interests, strengths and remarkable abilities. IndependenceWORKS client even produce their own weekly news show.
People with disabilities can be easily overlooked by society. We see inspiring videos on social media and cute images in Special Olympic commercials, but many people are uncomfortable interacting face-to-face with someone with an intellectual or developmental disability. I don’t think this is really anyone’s fault; we are taught at a young age not to stare at someone who is different than us. While it is a great lesson to not stare, I believe it has resulted in some not looking at people with disabilities altogether. This drives my passion for the work that I do. The clients I work with are fun-filled comedians who love the chance to meet someone new.
If you would ever like a tour of IndependenceWORKS or would just like to spend some time with a program full of friendly faces, I can be reached at Afrantz@jfcsatl.org
Abby Frantz was the recipient of the Robyn Berger Emerging Leader award at the 2018 Power of One event.