For as long as he could remember, Michael had a singular goal: to fly an airplane.
This would be a lofty goal for most of us. For Michael, a program participant at Envision Unlimited and one of the 61 million American adults living with a disability, the challenge seemed even more daunting. Although he has earned a food service certificate and participates in the horticulture and employment programs, something significant was still missing for Michael.
All of that changed on October 13, 2018, which just happened to be his 37th birthday. On that sunny morning, as fluffy clouds dotted a brilliant blue sky, Michael took flight in a small aircraft at Bolingbrook’s Clow International Airport. The single-engine plane gave him an unprecedented view of the earth below. Then, as planned and prepared for, he was given the controls himself. For a few moments, Michael was flying an airplane! The experience was a dream come true, and it was just one of multiple lifechanging experiences for Envision program participants and their families as part of “Adventures Unlimited,” an initiative to provide inclusive, integrated recreational activities for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). Crucially, it also provides respite services for caregivers who otherwise spend entire days taking care of their loved ones.
This type of holistic approach is key to Envision Unlimited’s vision of the future. Far more than just a one-off event, Adventures Unlimited opportunities are transformative experiences. Everyone involved benefits, from volunteers like the generous pilots at the Experimental Aircraft Association who offer free rides to children and adults interested in aviation, to others who set aside valuable time to share their expertise with our Adventures Unlimited program participants. The skills imparted, and quiet moments shared, can forge connections that last a lifetime.
Further, this is part of a broader effort at Envision to continually raise the bar that is set for people with disabilities. Envision Unlimited staff and supporters work tirelessly to break down the barriers and stereotypes that persist for adults with IDD and mental illness, along the way creating steadfast advocates for integrating people with disabilities into the community. Adventures Unlimited is one of a whole host of innovative efforts that we believe will create an ever more inclusive society for those whom Envision supports. It is our hope that over the next several years, hundreds more individuals will – like Michael – spread their wings and fly.