Jeff Byron: transformation, change, and growth since 1969: By Abilities United
Jeff Byron first became familiar with Abilities United in 1969, when his sister, who has a developmental disability, was a participant of the organization. Since then, services for people with disabilities have come a very long way.
“The biggest transformation has been from institutionalization, which was the typical approach until the 1960s, to mainstreaming and inclusion in the community, which is what Abilities United is all about,” says Jeff. “For example, today my sister has a job. Working means so much to her, and it adds value to her life and to the lives of others. Those with disabilities are a vital part of our society.”
In 2002 Jeff become an Abilities United board member, and served as President of the board for two years. “While I was on the board we started Milestones Preschool. It’s critical to identify and start therapy for those with disabilities and introduce children to diversity at the earliest possible age, and Milestones Preschool continues to be one of our most critical services,” says Jeff. “In 2008, we also changed the name of the agency from C.A.R to Abilities United. The name reflects that we’re about abilities, not disabilities; and that we’re about uniting, not separating.”
As is true for most people who have served with the agency, the participants of Abilities United touched Jeff’s heart. “They greet you with so much appreciation and affection,” says Jeff, and it certainly wasn’t just him, these individuals influence the community. “Dave, a participant of Abilities United, was a tall, gregarious guy, who worked at Stanford. He also marched and performed with the Stanford band. He passed away a few years ago, but they still keep a life-sized cut-out of him today in the Stanford band shack. He was big part of the Stanford band.”
Looking forward, Jeff makes an appeal to the community to continue supporting Abilities United. “Government funding has steadily decreased over time, so we really need those who have the means to step-up and provide support,” says Jeff. “There are more people out there who need our services, and we want to be able to help.”
“The staff and the volunteers help make Abilities United a magical place,” says Jeff. “Their commitment and dedication always warm my heart.”
Based on an interview with Jeff Byron in 2012. Written by Bob Thomas. Edited by Jeff Byron and Wendy Kuehnl.