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Let’s make Santa Clara County a more accessible place for all

Here’s a statistic you probably didn’t know: Nearly 160,000 of our neighbors in Santa Clara County live with a disability. That’s one in 12 people. That one in 12 could be a co-worker, a friend or family member or a neighbor.

Folks in the intellectual and developmental disability (I/DD) community may experience the world a little differently, but they want to enjoy everything life has to offer like everybody else. Maybe they process and absorb information differently, or maybe the way they interact with their environment looks different.

Some disabilities are visible; some aren’t. Regardless, people with disabilities in our county deserve the same support and access to resources as everybody else.

For those of us who are in a position to make the world more accessible, it starts with removing physical and social barriers to help people with disabilities integrate fully into society. My office and I are fortunate to be in such a position.

I recently pushed for a two-year partnership with the College of Adaptive Arts (CAA) at West Valley College in Saratoga to provide adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities access to CAA’s new workforce and apprenticeship programs. Support from our county will enable CAA to hire staff, buy specialized computers and provide transportation for students.

While other workforce development programs for I/DD individuals focus on the retail or service industries, I believe these folks are well-suited for a wide range of career paths. CAA’s workforce and apprenticeship programs are designed to give participants the training and experience needed to reach their full potential and secure meaningful and fulfilling work.

The program is accredited by the U.S. Department of Labor and offers two training tracks, one for receptionist positions and one for teacher’s aide positions. Students receive training and experience for “non-routine” employment – jobs that promote intellectual and leadership opportunities, and the development of situational awareness and nonlinear thinking to adapt to different situations.

Fourteen years ago, when DeAnna Pursai and Dr. Pamela Lindsay founded the CAA, it had only 12 students. Today it draws hundreds, proving that the work they are doing at CAA is important and empowering to people in the I/DD community. Moreover, the workforce apprenticeship program continues to build upon the innovative practices at CAA and is another piece to help I/DD folks realize a high quality of life for themselves.

Our county has also had an opportunity to support Camp Via West, which provides programming and a wide variety of respite and inclusion camps in the Cupertino foothills for children and adults with intellectual and development disabilities. With our county’s support, Camp Via West can address essential infrastructure needs: a brand-new turf for a sport court, ADA-compliant bathrooms, storage for sports equipment, and a concession stand to provide food and water for campers at the sport court. This will hopefully alleviate some of the longstanding accessibility and mobility challenges posed when campers needed to walk up a steep hill, for example, or use portable bathrooms that are not suitable for people with disabilities.

Camp Via West is run by Via Services, an independent nonprofit that has been serving the disability community in the Bay Area since 1945. They’re one of a few remaining camps serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in the region, and their innovative programs are supervised by trained staff who help campers learn new skills, develop meaningful relationships and build confidence, all while enjoying the outdoors.

People with disabilities are an integral part of our community. A community that is truly inclusive is one that promotes equal opportunity for all, ensuring that everyone has access to education, employment, health care and other essential services. By embracing all abilities, we create a society that is more equitable and more just. I’m proud we’re making our community more accessible for everyone. But I’m also clear: we have much more to do.

If you’re interested in the CAA workforce apprenticeship programs, please send an email to Dr. Lindsay ([email protected]) and Prof. Angel Coronado ([email protected]). For more information about enrollment, visit

If you’d like to learn more about Camp Via West and the programs they offer, visit