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curiousKC | Submit Questions About Disability Resources in KC  Inform Next ‘Flatland in Focus’ Episode, Airing April 20 

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Above image credit: A crowd surrounds Kim Riley, parent and founder of the Transition Academy. For the past several years, her focus has been to build a network that better assists families whose children have developmental or intellectual disabilities find meaningful careers. (Vicky Diaz-Camacho | Flatland)
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2 minute read

In April, Flatland reporter and Institute for Citizens and Scholars Media Fellow Vicky Diaz-Camacho and producer Cody Boston will focus on the persistent, invisible barriers facing youth with disabilities and their families.  

Nationwide, 21% of people with disabilities are employed compared with 66% of those without a disability, according to the most recent report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Locally, research centers are dedicating more time and resources to find solutions. 

“It’s a vexing problem,” said Karrie Shogren, director of the Kansas University Center on Developmental Disabilities. “We have knowledge of what works in research. We can even inform policy. But … it’s just an ongoing problem that necessitates big, large-scale changes.” 

Earlier this year, the center was awarded $2.9 million to address needs and bolster support networks.  

Reports have shown a disparity in employment, resources and support — and the gap widens further among different racial and ethnic groups. People of color with disabilities experience isolation and lower access to the help they need, according to a study by the Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools

This month we are reporting on youth with disabilities and their families, and what Kansas City parents with similar experiences have done to provide their kids with self-sustainable careers. In a special series, Flatland will dissect challenges, explore what the data show about these trends and look at what supports students with disabilities need.  

What is clogging the college and career readiness pipeline for youth with disabilities?  

That is what the Transition Academy, founded by a Kansas City mother whose son has a developmental disability, has sought to fix. Kim Riley has worked for years to find her son vocational training. Four years ago, Flatland reported on her fight for equitable treatment in special education classrooms.  

Today, her fight continues — for her and other families whose stories are like hers. 

Barriers to career success often crop up after high school graduation. Disabilities scholars call this “the cliff.” Stay tuned for the next episode of Flatland in Focus on April 20.  

Now, we’re opening the floor to community members who are curious to learn more about the topic of workforce training and access for young people with disabilities, many of whom want a shot at doing something they love. Your questions can be directed at local public officials, researchers, organizations or be a general question about how to apply for help.  

For those who don’t know, curiousKC is an engagement journalism initiative that takes your submissions as fuel for future stories. Write your question below and a Flatland reporter or producer will be in touch!  

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Vicky Diaz-Camacho covers community affairs for Kansas City PBS.

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