Underserved and Overlooked

Advancements for equity for women began about a hundred years ago, and the movement for civil rights is about 50 years old. The legislation propelling greater acceptance and opportunities for those with disabilities is only about 30 years old. That puts us 20 years behind those groups, so we have much work to do! Our programs fill a previously unmet need in Johnson County: opportunities for individuals with developmental disabilities. Our work successfully fills these gaps by addressing the whole person – maintaining/improving health, offering access to the arts and socialization, providing job training/placement – all leading to full participation in the community.

Facing Barriers

  • Program participants are ages 8-40, all have developmental disabilities such as Down syndrome and Autism. 
  • Individuals served are almost all Medicaid eligible, typically facing a lifetime of unemployment and poverty.
  • 85% of individuals with IDD are not only unemployed but also living in poverty across the country and in the Kansas City area (from Creative Spirit).
  • Negative health experiences include a 9.5% higher prevalence of being overweight or obese (Disability and Health Surveillance Report 2006 Kansas Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System), three times the rate of diabetes, and lower muscle strength, levels of motor development and cardiovascular fitness.
  • Individuals with disabilities continue to face barriers to the arts and full inclusion in the community.
  • According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, not even one in five people with a disability was employed in 2019.
  • Average income of a single person receiving SSI is $9,156 which is 22% below the Federal Poverty Level
  • Common myths include beliefs that individuals with developmental disabilities can only do unskilled work, are less productive than co-workers, have higher absenteeism, and don’t fit in – all false!


Sam: A True Pet Lover

Sam is one of our real “success stories”! He excelled at everything during his Paws training and was one of our first students ready for employment. Taking his love for animals and pairing it with his skills, he now is a caretaker for Fetchers Play & Stay, where he feeds, waters, and plays with their furry boarders. PawsAbilities was the impetus for Sam’s dream job!

Katie: Baker Extraordinaire

Using the skills she learned during her training at Paws, Katie became a leader in the PawsAbilities bakery and an employee in our retail store. She completed an internship at a local bakery, and recently accepted a position at Hy-Vee, achieving one of her lifelong dreams! She continues to come to Paws around her work responsibilities.  Through Inclusion Connections, Katie is on the path to independence!

Piotr: Double Duty

Piotr holds positions at two local employers:  FedEx and Olathe Glass! Easygoing and hardworking, he loves to work and is putting the skills he learned through PawsAbilities to work. We continue to support Piotr with additional education, job coaching and transportation to/from his workplaces, keeping his jobs more sustainable!