Having the opportunity to live independently is an exciting step for individuals with I/DD. This can be scary for them as well as for their families in making sure the individual feels welcome, supported, and safe within their community. A great option can be a community within the greater community. An emerging trend in residential options is the development of a planned community or neighborhood built specifically with the preferences of people with I/DD in mind, but not just for people with I/DD. Most of these emerging projects are “consumer-controlled” which means one’s housing is disconnected from a Medicaid-funded service provider. Thus, residents have more control over their home, can choose any residential service provider they prefer, and can change providers as needed but stay in their own home.
The Arc Jacksonville Village is an example of these neuro-inclusive, consumer-controlled planned communities. Its model has since spawned similar communities in both Florida and nationally.
The Village offers apartments and amenities designed with the neurodiverse population in mind. For example, every unit has an intercom that can be used to request immediate help from an on-site support person in the case of an emergency. In addition to being within walking distance to several shopping centers and public transportation, alternate transportation can be scheduled as needed which is a huge benefit for many people with I/DD to access their community. The Arc Jacksonville Village features game and fitness rooms, a theater room, a computer lab, raised garden beds, jacuzzis, half-courts and a swimming pool. Americorps volunteers, both neurotypical and neurodiverse, offer additional in-person support to residents. Additional amenities include planned social activities, life skill classes, and an optional dining hall where residents can purchase meals and eat with others or bring back to their apartment. These additional options would not be available in a typical apartment community, and residential service providers could not cover these costs through Medicaid reimbursements.
The Village provides a safe, supportive environment for residents to live meaningful, inclusive, and independent lives. We were able to sit down and talk with one of the residents at the Village to hear her experience. She moved to The Village from living with her parents to see if it would be a good place to try living independently. She told us, “Here at The Village I have grown and matured and learned how to do more things on my own than if I didn’t live here.”
The Village encourages all residents to engage with their greater community, get a job, volunteer, go to college and be in charge of their own life. To achieve this goal of independent living, opportunities are provided to residents to learn skills relating to: decision-making, safety, wellness/medical management, employment, self-advocacy, community access, civic responsibility and ‘sense of self.’
At The Village, residents can take advantage of built-in support systems, life-long education opportunities, and intentionally networked relationships to offer more recreational and employment connections throughout the city. The resident we met told us, “My favorite thing about living here is being able to have the opportunity to go out and volunteer in the community and attend the different classes, programs, and activities they offer at The Village.”