The month of March is recognized as National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month (DDAM). Officially proclaimed in 1987 by President Ronald Reagan, DDAM hopes to honor the men and women who have made a difference in the lives of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Saratoga Bridges, a nonprofit community organization, has been providing support to these individuals and their families for over 55 years. As one of the largest nonprofit organizations in Saratoga County, Saratoga Bridges is committed to helping disabled individuals achieve their goals and aspirations.
For Ben, that goal was finally realized in the form of a learner’s permit. The 26-year-old Price Chopper employee had been studying for the exam and practicing his driving since 2009. He took the test at the Wilton Mall branch of the DMV and passed. His personal motto of “keep moving forward,” seems ever appropriate for his recent accomplishment.
Ben’s Ballston Spa residence is one of several homes that Saratoga Bridges owns in the area designed to allow the individuals they serve to achieve a level of independence they might not otherwise have a chance at. One of Ben’s primary study partners for the permit test was Matthew Reed, a staff member from Saratoga Bridges working at the Juniper Avenue location.
“We actually went through the book that you get at the DMV,” said Reed. “We practiced the questions and went through the chapters one at a time, over and over again.” According to Reed, there have been a few individuals to share the same goal as Ben, but Ben has been the first to pass the exam.
Ben’s goal of a learner’s permit was just as much a statement of his independence as it was a reason for him to drive.
“I want to learn to drive so if I have to go to work, or somewhere else I want to go, I can go,” said Ben.
Though there’s no timetable for Ben’s road test, his attitude suggests he’s likely to stay the course and take as much time as he needs before signing up for a road test. Ben knows there’s still a lot of work to be done, but with the help of Saratoga Bridges, his prospects are as bright as they could possibly be.
“Anyone is capable of doing anything they choose to do; it’s just a matter of getting in that right frame of mind and Ben wanted to get his permit so he could be more independent,” said Reed. “What we do is try to provide as much support as [these individuals] need, to make them feel and be as independent as they can.”
Ben moved into the Juniper Lane house in 2008, after completing a certificate plan at Skidmore College. His mother, Donna, had been looking into different organizations for her son before choosing Saratoga Bridges.
“We felt the Bridges had quality homes, quality staff, and they really focused on what [Ben] wants,” said Donna. “This whole program is designed for them to take the reins and become independent, and he’s been doing great.”
As if passing his permit exam wasn’t enough, Ben’s already focused on what’s next. Ever goal-oriented, his plans for this summer include learning to barbeque, as well as help out with some of the yard work around the house. For the future, he has his mind set on something a little more significant.
“My main goal is to have my own apartment and live on my own without staff being around all the time,” said Ben.