Individuals with disabilities are artists and daredevils. They work among us, shop among us, and enjoy the same things as everyone else. The Department of Economic Security (DES) Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD) provides services and supports to empower individuals to lead self-directed, healthy and meaningful lives. These DDD members are excelling in their own ways, and in the process, are redefining what it means to have a disability.
Ever wish you could escape your daily boundaries or limitations to let your spirit soar, if only for a few minutes? That’s exactly what Jay Smith did. Twice. Being legally blind and born with cerebral palsy, Jay spends most of his days in a power wheelchair. Although many would consider this a limitation, he considers it an opportunity to shatter expectations. From sky diving to zip lining, Jay is committed to living his best life.
When you first meet two-year-old Brinley Hild, you notice her heart-warming smile, captivating blue eyes and cute little pigtails. On second glance, you notice there’s something unique about her. Brinley was born with a rare disorder, without arms. Nevertheless, the toddler adapted to her own special way of doing things and learned how to put her best foot forward—literally. Brinley uses her feet to eat meals, make art and even communicate through sign language.
In 2017, Governor Doug Ducey proclaimed Arizona an Employment First state, committed to connecting individuals with disabilities to employment opportunities. Meet Nathan Hoston, who loves his job at the Texas Roadhouse in Sierra Vista, and the folks at the restaurant who love him right back. Opportunities like these empower individuals with disabilities and help them live independently.
Although his verbal skills are limited, Ray Thomas, a DDD member diagnosed with autism, has the talent to communicate through other means. Ray is an artist, and his ability to communicate complex ideas through his artwork brings him success in school and in his personal life. His art has been commissioned by schools and other venues in his community.
Team sports bring people together. That’s never been truer than with the Arizona Unified Special Olympics Team. Sawne Rippey, a DDD member with autism, thrives on the basketball court, while forging new relationships with his teammates. Last year, he traveled to Seattle, Washington to participate in the Special Olympics USA Games.
By Brett Bezio