What is something GOOD you can report from 2020? Answer: United Ability

Sponsored

Teachers and staff at United Ability’s Hand In Hand. Photo courtesy of United Ability

Each morning, longtime Birmingham Mountain Radio DJs Scott Register and Will Lochamy pose a question of the day to their loyal listeners. On Tuesday, December 29th they asked:

Reg and Will wanna know: What is something GOOD you can report from 2020?

Now that’s a tough one, but my answer is United Ability

Let me explain. And after I do so, consider making a year-end or 2021 gift to this remarkable organization.

The Big Pivot

Birmingham, United Ability
United Ability LINCPoint staff. Photo courtesy of United Ability

My first “GOOD” to report in 2020 from United Ability was their effort to continue to provide vital services despite a global pandemic.

United Ability serves nearly 6,000 children and adults with all types of disabilities, both on and off their campus, which is located off Lakeshore Drive in Birmingham near Red Mountain Park. Assisting, teaching, caring for and loving the children and adults in the organization is the job of over 190 people.

When the COVID-19 crisis started to grow nationwide and schools, medical offices, and stores began to close, I wondered—how is United Ability going to do their job? 

United Ability found a way. Using technology, the organization transformed itself in a matter of days and weeks. I documented their “big pivot” in a story I wrote about them in April called “See how United Ability continues to teach, care and love during the COVID-19 crisis”.

They did everything. 

  • Telehealth for Ability Clinic, Outpatient Therapy, and Early Interventions patients
  • Teletherapy and drive-by visits for the adults in the LINCPoint Adult Day Program
  • Zoom classes, dance parties and weekly Music Therapy for the children at Hand In Hand Early Learning Program 

Weekly, they connected with families and adults via ZOOM and Facebook groups. And in many cases, they kept in touch the old fashion way, a simple phone call.

Nothing can ever fully replace the caring in-person contact the teachers, therapists and medical personnel provide, but in the midst of a deadly pandemic United Ability did its best and succeeded. Now that is a GOOD.

More GOOD: Inventions, Jobs and Events

United Ability Employment Services “GROW” Program at Black Jack Farms. Photo via United Ability

Throughout 2020 I was able to document more “GOOD” coming from United Ability.

In January, speech-language pathologists Alyssa Scharf and Rebekah Waldrum showed me how they were using Alexa, Amazon’s Echo Dot, to give voice to their adults so they could communicate and learn about the world around them. 

United Ability’s Alyssa Scharf, Stacy Fredrick and Rebekah Waldrum working with a communication device and Amazon Echo Dot. Photo by Pat Byington for Bham Now

In the summer, people stepped up and helped the organization hold its annual fundraisers, United Ability Day and Journey of Hope. In fact, Birmingham’s Chris Biggins, who is the 8th ranked disabled golfer in the world and is training to compete in the upcoming Winter Paralympics, served as a spokesperson for United Ability Day.

In October, Katie Dumais, Director of United Ability’s Employment Services, described to us the United Ability GROW program, a 60-day training program for students with disabilities. This past summer students received training at three worksites—Black Jack Farms, The Red Barn, and Hilton Birmingham at UAB.

Remembering Dr. E and the Staff

United Ability
Dr. Gary Edwards and Mayor Randall Woodfin discussing employment opportunities for adults with disabilities. Photo via United Ability

I think Reg and Will would agree, no one personified for nearly four decades what is truly GOOD in our community more than the work of Dr. E.—United Ability’s longtime Chief Executive Officer, Gary Edwards, who passed away this spring. 

United Ability dedicated this year’s Journey of Hope to Dr. E. and the staff he directed and who worked tirelessly during a challenging year. That is exactly how he would have wanted to celebrate 2020—honoring his staff.

They ALL did GOOD.

Touching Lives

Finally what is good about 2020 are the families United Ability touches. I can think of no better examples than Leah and her mom NaTasha Garrett  and Croft and his parents Matt and Elizabeth Aycock. 

Nothing brings greater joy than the success of a child.

Do GOOD Today

Honor this past year’s GOOD work at United Ability and start 2021 off right with an end of the year gift. 

As you can see they are what was GOOD in 2020.

Sponsored by:


  • Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.