As a busy almost eight-year-old, Steven continues to thrive and grow.
When we first spoke with his mom, Clare, back in 2017, his favorite things included going to Jacksonville Jaguars games and playing his ukulele. He continues to embrace his love for music by playing the ukulele and has grown an interest in both the piano and guitar. The biggest change of all was welcoming his little sister in early 2020.
While life gets bigger and better for Steven, his parents continue to contribute to his ABLE United account, with the goal to save.
“We have not needed to use our ABLE United account, but we are happy to know that it is there and provides Steven with financial stability for his future,” Clare shares.
Steven was one of the first ABLE United account holders and his mother continues to wish for him to grow up with health and happiness, which will be made easier knowing that he is set up for success with his ABLE United account.
“I still haven’t found a downside to opening an account!” she added.
Life continues to be an adventure for Elliott. Since we last caught up with him in 2018, he has learned important life skills and lessons that continue to help him aim high.
He recently moved into a separate living space at his parent’s home in Melbourne as he prepares for living independently in the future. Elliott also works part-time at Jersey Mike’s and continues to find opportunities to perform, whether it involves DJ’ing, acting, improv, or modeling.
Luckily, Elliott did not have to tap into his ABLE United account during the pandemic, even though his work and activities were greatly affected.
“We continue to save money in his ABLE United account and will use it for his future needs, such as purchasing his own place,” shared Sandi. “ABLE is a terrific vehicle for people with disabilities to save money for their needs, both current and future,” she added.
The next five years look bright for Elliott as he hopes to have his own home, meet someone special, and find a full-time job.
Sandi also shared that everyone that qualifies should have an ABLE account as it has been critical in Elliott’s success in establishing financial security.
Back in 2018, when we first met Faith-Christina, the main purpose of her ABLE United account was to save for college and purchase materials for her business.
And she’s been able to accomplish just that.
Today, Faith-Christina is a sophomore at Valencia College where she is majoring in American Sign Language (ASL) and completing her core studies.
When she’s not studying, she’s flexing her entrepreneurial skills as the founder of Imperfect Creations which provides handmade baby blankets and burp cloths to parents with newborn babies who have been diagnosed with Down syndrome.
She also works part-time at Chick-fil-A.
“I know individuals with Down syndrome may have medical bills and insurance does not pay it all. For me, it is a place to save for those uncertain times without impacting eligibility to benefit programs,” shared Faith-Christina.
In fact, she had to use a portion of her savings to pay for oral surgery late last year.
“The pandemic impacted how many hours I was able to work, so looking back, I was glad to have funds set aside to pay for that unexpected expense,” she adds.
Faith-Christina likes to share this example with people in her community when discussing the benefits of an ABLE United account. Her goal for the next five years is to finish college and start her professional career, all while continuing to save with ABLE United.
It seems like only yesterday that the Achieving a Better Live Experience (ABLE) Act was signed into law and opened the door to financial opportunity for persons with disabilities.
After its passage on the federal level, Florida became one of the first states to make ABLE accounts a reality through its own qualified ABLE program: ABLE United.
Since our inception on July 1, 2016, thousands of Floridians with varying disabilities have secured their future without fear of jeopardizing the critical benefits they may rely on now or in the future.
Among those include our youngest account holder, who is six months old – and our oldest, at 96-years-old – in total saving more than $47 million in total contributions and tax-free earnings.
That’s why we created the Faces of ABLE campaign in 2017 to shed light on the stories, the achievements and the milestones of those individuals – the faces behind what we do – who are using their ABLE accounts to save and invest for today, tomorrow, or whatever the future holds.
Celebrating the Faces of ABLE
To celebrate our five-year anniversary, we are going back into the archives and revisiting five of the previous Faces of ABLE. We want to catch up to see where they are now, and how they are taking advantage of their ABLE United accounts.
Through early August, we will be rolling out new profiles weekly, and we encourage you to check back and share their stories with your family, friends, neighbors or colleagues as we continue to honor and celebrate the many Faces of ABLE.
Read Their Follow-up Stories
Interested in sharing your story?
Drop us a line at email@example.com.
Deaf-Blind Awareness Week is celebrated each year during the last week in June, in honor of Helen Keller’s birthday on June 27. This is an opportunity to honor those who promote literacy among children who are deaf, blind, or deafblind and there is no better champion than Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind (FSDB).
FSDB is a fully accredited, tuition-free state public school for eligible Pre-K and K-12 students who are deaf/hard of hearing, blind/visually impaired, or deafblind. Founded in 1885, FSDB currently serves over 1,000 students on campus and statewide. Their campus of more than 80 acres in historic St. Augustine features a Montessori-based pre-K school and five K-12 schools including access to virtual courses and dual enrollment opportunities.
“What makes FSDB different from other educational programs is the full access to world-class knowledge through language acquisition, development, and mastery,” said FSDB President Tracie C. Snow. “Student-centered experiences are designed to foster intellectual curiosity, nurture personal growth, encourage creative exploration, and inspire a lifelong love of learning.”
FSDB is a trusted statewide resource, providing comprehensive programs and services for students, their families, and the professionals who serve them. The goal is to increase awareness about the many campus-based and statewide educational programs and services provided, including ASL classes, braille literacy opportunities, seasonal campus expos, school-age outreach training, consultation, and evaluation services, and more.
As part of their focus on putting the unique needs of each student first, FSDB personnel work with students to develop confidence, acquire new skills and strengthen their ability to achieve success both within and outside the classroom. Students learn life skills essential for a successful transition to the adult world of independent living, employment, postsecondary education, and community involvement – including financial independence.
At FSDB, students gain the edge to do more, be more, and achieve more, fulfilling the vision of preparing them for a lifetime of success.
Learn more about FSDB enrollment at https://www.fsdbk12.org.
For Spencer, having a backup plan when the unexpected occurs is critically important – and he has learned this lesson many times throughout his life.
Approximately 12 years ago, Spencer was a victim of an armed robbery at a gas station and the injuries he sustained left him quadriplegic. Since then, Spencer has had to adapt to the new challenges of living with a disability – and in that time, he has accomplished just as many things as his peers.
Spencer has served in a variety of capacities with different organizations and nonprofits, including as a board member of the Center for Independent Living of Northwest Florida and Northwest Florida Rehabilitation Foundation.
It was through a connection at Rehabilitation Technology Service Consulting that Spencer first learned about ABLE United – which proved to be the financial solution he was looking for.
“The constraints of living with a disability, and receiving any kind of public benefits, really hampers an individual’s ability to live a normal life,” shared Spencer.
Since enrolling, he has leaned on the funds saved in his ABLE United account many times – most recently when his home was partially destroyed and flooded by Hurricane Sally last year.
“I would not have been able to manage those unexpected expenses if it weren’t for my ABLE account,” Spencer added.
Having a secure backup plan with ABLE United has allowed him to focus on his passions in life, such as traveling and helping others travel.
Spencer is a travel agent and likes to focus on planning accessible travel. Any chance he gets, he wants to give back to the community and teach others about the benefits of planning for a brighter future with ABLE United.
If you are on disability benefits and are looking to get back to work, a disability employment service, like employU, can connect you to a variety of resources and services at no cost to you. With services for both youth and adult clients, the staff at employU is able to inform you of resources available and guide you along the pathway to a successful and fulfilling career. One such service employU offers is the Ticket to Work program, which is specifically geared towards recipients of Social Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Income (SSDI).
The Social Security Administration’s Ticket to Work program is a free and voluntary program available to recipients who wish to pursue employment opportunities. The program aims to help decrease reliance on SSI and SSDI and increase financial and independent well-being of program recipients. employU is partnered with the American Dream Employment Network (ADEN) and Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) as an Employment Network Service Provider offering career development opportunities to beneficiaries.
The employU program includes:
- Benefits/Work Incentives Counseling
- Career Planning/Counseling Job Search and Placement
- Resume creation and Interviewing
- Ongoing Employment Support
- Assistance with Work Accommodations
Your “ticket” through this program allows you to seek employment while continuing to receive cash benefits for the first 12 months. There is no income limit in the first year under this program. Additionally, beneficiaries continue to receive Medicare for at least 93 months after the last Ticket to Work Program month has been used and SSI recipients continue to receive Medicaid after they stop receiving SSI cash benefits due to working full-time, up to certain income levels determined by the state. There is also no need to worry about reapplying for SSI or SSDI benefits if you find you are unable to sustain full-time work. All in all, it is a no-risk program.
Through employU, you can also consult with a Certified Work Incentive Practitioner (C-WIP), providing you an easy access point to acquire initial and ongoing benefits support you need to attain, maintain, and advance in employment. This includes:
- Analysis and verification of your benefits
- Benefits Summary and Analysis report (BS&A) customized to you
- A copy of the Benefits Planning Query (BPQY) from the Social Security Administration
- Continued short and long-term customer support
As an employU customer, you will have the opportunity to participate in a full-service career exploration program. Through Vocational and Psychological Evaluations, you can take a deep dive into your personal attributes and abilities to formulate career plans. You can also participate in workshops such as Pre-Employment Trainings which help prepare you for the current job market.
When you are ready, you will be matched up with an Employment Specialist who will work with you one-on-one to secure the job that is right for you. They will help you develop a resume, accompany you to interviews, and advocate on your behalf every step along the way. They will even stay with you for three to five months once you have been hired to make sure you fit right in and are comfortable in your new position. It is an experience completely tailored to you and at no out of pocket cost.
While having an ABLE United account gives you the ability to save beyond resource limits and pay for expenses as they come up, service providers like employU can set you on a path to a rewarding and sustainable career. Together, both of these resources can help you achieve your goals and obtain a more secure financial future.
For more on employU and the services they offer, visit https://employU.org
Many receiving stimulus funds because of COVID-19 may be worried about exceeding the $2,000 asset and resource limit imposed by public benefits programs like Supplemental Security Income and Medicaid.
Now is the time to consider opening an ABLE United account.
The COVID-19 pandemic has put a strain on personal finances and showed us how important it is to save for the unexpected. An ABLE account – which offers tax-advantaged savings and investment options – may be a good place to save all or a portion of stimulus funds for the future.
While economic impact funds are not generally treated as income by federal, state, and local programs, funds not spent or contributed into an ABLE account within 12 months will count as a resource, likely to impact eligibility for current or future benefits.
Your ABLE United account is about more than saving. It’s investing in a better life.
Para obtener información en español sobre cómo funcionan los fondos de estímulo con las cuentas ABLE, haga clic aquí.
ABLE United team at the 2019 Family Café
The Annual Family Café is incredibly unique and remarkable in its ability to bring thousands of individuals with disabilities and their families together to connect, identify resources and learn from each other – and it is the largest statewide cross-disability event in the nation.
As an organization founded and staffed by family members of individuals with disabilities, The Family Café understands that this community often faces financial challenges. That is why there has never been a registration fee to attend the annual event.
What to Expect
The Family Café is committed to addressing the real-world needs and concerns of the disability community. Their wide range of breakout sessions are developed by the Planning Committee which consists of representatives from state agencies that serve individuals with disabilities, partner disability organizations, families, and advocates. The committee considers feedback that they collect from attendees, as well as their own expertise, as they set the agenda and select breakout sessions for inclusion.
Sessions at The Annual Family Café cover a wide range of topics. To help attendees find the right info to meet their needs, some sessions are organized into “tracks.” This year tracks will include:
- Assistive Technology
- Birth through Age Five (early childhood)
- Disaster Preparedness
- Mental Health
- Military Families
- Smart Money (financial planning)
- Youth (transition-age youth and emerging adults)
Additionally, sessions outside of those tracks will touch on an array of topics, including the arts, specific disabilities, and conversational roundtables.
Top Reasons to Join
People sometimes ask where the name The Family Café comes from, and there are a few reasons. First, a café is a friendly place where anyone can walk in and get what they want. The idea for the event was first developed by people sitting around a kitchen table, too, so the theme seemed to fit. But most importantly, “café” is an acronym for the organization’s values that also tells you why it’s worth being a part of The Family Café.
Collaboration, Advocacy, Friendship, Empowerment
And of course, there’s one more reason to be part of The Family Café – and that reason is Fun!
There’s a lot to be learned by getting connected with The Family Café, and a lot of work to be done to build a more inclusive world, but it’s also important to have a great time, spread positivity, and celebrate an inclusive community.
COVID – 19 Precautions
Last year, The Family Café and their Planning Committee made the decision to transform the event into a virtual one. Instead of bringing thousands of people together for three days, they offered a series of 26 interactive live sessions over a two-week period in June 2020.
While there were aspects of the virtual event that worked well, and many people appreciated the ability to view content online, nothing takes the place of face-to-face interaction of a traditional Annual Family Café.
At this point, it’s too early to say exactly what The 23rd Annual Family Café will look like, but the organization is hopeful to see everybody in person at the Hyatt Regency Orlando from June 11 – 13.
How to Get Involved
As a small nonprofit organization, The Family Café relies on the families they serve to spread the word about what they offer. To learn more, donate or to register for this year’s annual event, visit familycafe.net.
Ryan learned a hard life lesson at the young age of 16. After jumping from a tree into a canal in South Florida and becoming quadriplegic, he was challenged in ways he never before experienced. But through his trials, he discovered a newfound motivation to live life to the fullest.
Now, he uses this motivation to help others through the hardships of living with a disability.
“I learned that life isn’t over when you live with a disability,” says Ryan. “I love being a cheerleader for anyone that is struggling.”
Ryan graduated from Florida Atlantic University with his master’s in business administration in 2008.
“I encourage anyone with a disability to further their education, pursue work, find a hobby, participate in support groups, and most importantly, live life to the fullest,” he shared.
One tool that is critical to ensuring his independence is his ABLE United account. Ryan learned about the program at a disability expo at Nova Southeastern University – and today uses his ABLE account to maintain his independence and pay for his housing and accessible improvements.
As president of the Broward Chapter of the Spinal Cord Injury Support Group of South Florida, Ryan continues to inspire others and share his words of wisdom. Since 2009, Ryan has managed the support group which now meets virtually to provide friendship, education, advocacy, and resources to their more than 300 members. To get involved, visit www.scisg.org.