Access Alaska celebrates 35 years helping people with disabilities live independently

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FAIRBANKS, Alaska - Since 1984 access Alaska has been helping people in Fairbanks acquire the skills and tools they need to live independently.

Independent Living Advocate Frank Box said, "When you can give someone hope when they have none, that's a great job. Sometimes you just sit and problem solve with somebody and you don't give them anything else except help them problem solve something they never thought about doing."

Access Alaska is a non-institutional nonprofit agency that works with people with disabilities. This year they celebrate 35 years in the Fairbanks community.

"Those small things that some of us take for granted are genuinely a huge barrier to people leaving an institutionalized setting and being able to live at home," said Independent Living Program Director Sarah Canoy.

Frank Box is an independent living advocate who works with access Alaska.

"My independence looks different than everyone else's because we are all different. Nobody really knows from my outward appearance that I have challenges. My recovery is going pretty well, but it is still a recovery," he said.

Just over half the staff and board of directors that work around the state of Alaska and in Fairbanks have disabilities. Box works with donated medical equipment and makes it reusable for the community at no cost. They are working to break the stigma of people with disabilities in the workplace and make it more accessible for those who may have mobile ailments.

A majority of the people that use the facility come from a nursing home, group home, or assisted living home, with the ability to live independently. She says if anyone walks through the door and says they have a barrier to their independence, we serve them.

"We have individuals with significant disabilities and we have people with mental health issues. I think we sort of run the gamut," Canoy said.

There are a variety of different programs offered at access Alaska. They aim to help people based on their specific needs to ensure they have best quality of life with a support system that has been helping people for over three decades.