The Program in Occupational Therapy has selected Paraquad, Inc. as this year’s recipient of its Outstanding Community Partner Award. The award recognizes organizations that have developed and sustained a collaborative relationship with the Program, and share our vision, values and goals.
Paraquad is a nonprofit agency that serves more than 3,000 people with disabilities annually in the St. Louis area, providing direct services as well as advocating for systemic change to promote accessibility, integration, opportunity and independence. Paraquad offers more than 20 programs – including independent living skills training, continuing education, employment assistance, personal care services, youth and family services, assistive technology, peer mentoring, advocacy, and health and wellness – to assist people with all types of disabilities to live and work independently.
“Paraquad understands the holistic approach that we take with our clients and they recognize the importance of treating people equally and with respect,” says Kerri Morgan, PhD, OTR/L, ATP, who nominated the organization. “They epitomize the word participation. Every program they offer works towards independence and participation at the highest level for people with disabilities. Paraquad believes that every participant they serve deserves an equal opportunity to participate fully and within every aspect of life. They are constantly striving to meet the needs of a population that has ever changing needs.”
The Program began partnering with Paraquad in the early 2000s when we leased space at their facility to expand our reach into the community. Over the years, the Program has collaborated with Paraquad in education, research and community practice initiatives. Paraquad is an active partner in educating our students by providing guest lectures, hosting learning experiences in their facilities, providing assistive technology demonstration equipment for labs and providing fieldwork placements and part-time employment opportunities. The collaboration extends to several research projects, and the effort has supported community-based research for people with disabilities. The health and wellness community program at Paraquad began as a jointly funded project with the Program from the Missouri Foundation for Health in 2004. Through referrals, Program and Paraquad support each other’s community programs to provide the services people with disabilities need to accomplish their goals.
“Washington University OT fieldwork students play a major role in expanding our capacity to increase independence for people with disabilities, particularly in the accessible Health and Wellness Center. As the funding landscape evolves, the partnership with the OT Program and the resulting empirically-based data from research demonstrates the impact we collectively make,” shares Aimee Wehmeier, executive director and chief executive officer of Paraquad. “The ability to tell our story to funders and back it up with numbers increases our opportunity to reach more people. I am grateful for our partnership and look forward to continuing our great work.”
Wehmeier accepted the award on April 21 during the Program’s 9th Annual Occupational Therapy Scholarship Day.
“Paraquad as a whole tirelessly educates, advocates and supports people with disabilities on a day-to-day basis. We are very fortunate to be able to team with Paraquad and to take the education and research work that we do together and integrate it out into the community to help better serve people with disabilities,” says Morgan.
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