Dartmouth Adult Services Centre spearheads inclusive economic growth
The Dartmouth Adult Services Centre brings about societal change and inclusive economic growth through community relationships. “We’re here to make a difference,” says Shauna Ferrar, client service supervisor at DASC. “Our mission is to support people with disabilities and have them live a better life … we’re supporting people to make it in the world, have their stories heard and have people understand them.”
Established in 1966, DASC evolved from a day program for five adults with intellectual disabilities to a social enterprise that supports 130 clients in educational, life enhancement and social enterprise programs. Clients are encouraged to discover their full potential and become active community members through vocational and community employment programs. DASC’s impact is widespread, benefitting clients, staff, community and customers. It does contract work for a variety of customers in the community, such as Made with Local, Bin Doctor, Capital Health and Graybar Canada.
“We’re really driven by our clients, as well as our community,” says Jenna Symonds, vocational supervisor at DASC.
“A lot of vocational programs do one specific thing, but here at DASC we are a chameleon of sorts because we conform to whatever our customers need.” DASC and its devotion to providing dynamic services for businesses in the community supports the UN Sustainable Development Goal 8 — “Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.”
Developing professional and personal skills
DASC meets clients’ unique needs by offering programs with varying levels of support. Its social enterprise program focuses on work-related training, while the life enhancement program teaches social and personal skills. The one-on-one program works with clients that require full support. There are job coaches that develop clients who want to work in the community and have the skills to do so. DASC offers clients a variety of training, including grief and loss, social skills and first aid. Above all, DASC breaks down the barriers and stigma around persons with disabilities. “The end goal is to be able to have as many people as possible working with everybody… in the community, because no matter what your ability or disability is, you should be able to,” says Ferrar.
Supporting businesses and new entrepreneurs in the community
“It’s such a give-give situation,” says Ferrar. “People with disabilities, they have work to do and learn skills, yet we are helping a company thrive.” Customers include small businesses, new entrepreneurs and larger companies in the community. DASC only works with customers that have strong morals, values and community respect. “DASC is so flexible and so supportive,” says Hannah Chisholm, owner of Eggcitables! “The amount of work and help that DASC has been able to provide for me over the past two and half years has been absolutely fundamental.”
As for the future, DASC intends to expand to address the growing need among adults with intellectual disabilities in the community. Going forward, DASC asks, “What is the next big need” and “How can we work with the community”?