Community Options empowers individuals with disabilities through innovative programs, person-first language, and meaningful employment opportunities. Learn about the transformative impact of inclusive living environments and the future potential of people with disabilities in the workforce with Robert Stack, President and CEO of Community Options, as he shares insights on disability advocacy and inclusive housing solutions in this enlightening interview.

Robert begins by sharing the compelling journey and mission of Community Options, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to developing housing and employment for people with disabilities.

Community Options, founded in 1989, arose from the pressing need to provide sustainable living solutions for individuals with disabilities who were either living in institutions or with aging parents unable to care for them. Robert explains, “We saw a need for this because there were so many thousands and thousands of people with disabilities living in institutions and living with mom and dad. And now mom and dad are getting older. They’re no longer able to care for them, and they didn’t know where to turn.” This mission drives the organization’s innovative approach of buying small homes and creating inclusive living environments where individuals with disabilities can lead independent lives, equipped with the necessary skills and support.

Robert reflects on the progress made over the years in disability advocacy. “I think we’ve made tremendous progress, but we still have a long way to go,” he states. Highlighting the importance of evolving language and societal attitudes, he emphasizes the shift from labels like “the disabled” to “people with disabilities,” underscoring the importance of person-first language.

The conversation, with host Julia Patrick, digs into the practical aspects of Community Options’ work. Robert shares a poignant story of Bernard, an individual who found meaningful employment and a better quality of life through the organization. “Bernard was blind and had intellectual disabilities, but he knew that what he was doing was meaningless,” Robert recounts. Community Options provided Bernard with a job as a receptionist, where he thrived, living independently and retiring after a fulfilling career.

Looking ahead, Robert envisions a future where people with disabilities play a vital role in the workforce. “We still need somebody to carry our luggage up the stairs. We still need somebody to clean our office. We still need somebody who can help us change the tire on our car. People with disabilities will be those people,” he predicts, highlighting the untapped potential of this community.

This compelling discussion sheds light on the transformative power of inclusive practices and the ongoing journey toward equality and dignity for all individuals with disabilities. Community Options stands as a testament to the positive impact of dedicated advocacy and innovative solutions in the nonprofit sector.