Ability First: Transforming Homes and Communities in Rural Areas of the Shenandoah Valley

Side view of girl with Down syndrome sitting on the floor with crossed legs while practicing yoga exercise or position in living room

Ability First is a fitness and wellness program. They help people with developmental disabilities (DD) who live in rural areas. The program helps people to live healthy.

Grantee: James Madison University (JMU)

Project Dates: 8/1/2021 – 7/31/2023

Areas of Emphasis: Healthcare

Award: $275,000

Match: $91,667

The goal of this project was to help people with DD and their families to have good health. This includes the health of their body and mind. To meet this goal, the grantee JMU helped rural communities in the Shenandoah Valley to work together. Communities worked to use resources that they already have.

In terms of numbers, JMU wanted to help 400 people with disabilities and their families, 100 instructors and 5 community organizations. JMU showed people ways to stay healthy at home, at school or other places. People learned to exercise and do other routines with or without tech. The grantee will work to write a 2nd Awareness and Advocacy Guide. The Guide highlights programs that are available to people with DD, their families and service providers. JMU also shared funding and support to launch five pilot programs.

With funding from the Virginia Board for People with Disabilities, Ability First can connect people with disabilities to opportunities within their communities to improve their physical and mental wellbeing. I believe that we can create more inclusive communities where everyone — regardless of ability, race or gender — are looked at equally.

- Dr. Thomas E Moran, Executive Director of Empowerment3 and JMU Kinesiology Professor