L.A. GOAL (Greater Opportunities for Advanced Living) was founded in 1969 by a group of parents whose teenagers with developmental disabilities were graduating from high school.

At first, L.A. GOAL was as a social club with informal lessons on the essentials of daily life, including reading, writing, grooming and hygiene, understanding money and, the basics of social interaction.

“Early on, we recognized that the best way to provide the most appropriate and needed services was to listen to our adult members with developmental disabilities. They could tell us what they needed, evaluate programs and make recommendations. We found that involvement in this manner allows them to learn and practice self-advocacy. It gives them a voice and sense of ownership of the programs and assists in their quest for independence and employment,” said the organization.

The organization also provides consultation, free of charge, to corporations, groups and individuals who are interested in starting agencies to provide services to adults with developmental disabilities.

“Our vision is to create a more open society where people with developmental disabilities can enjoy full inclusion in their communities. To accomplish this, L.A. GOAL teaches the world about how people with developmental disabilities can better our lives. It is a magical reciprocity that we believe has long been overlooked,” said Laura O’Neal.

Since its inception, L.A. GOAL has helped more than 1200 adults with disabilities lead more independent lives. Through the Independent Living Skills programs members attain and maintain the delicate balance of emotional, mental and physical well being, while learning to deal with the mechanics of life.

“People with developmental disabilities want to be fully participating members in their communities. They want to work, live, and love; they would also like opportunities for creative expression and avenues through which they can challenge themselves. Adults with developmental disabilities learn most effectively by “over-learning,” and repetitive instruction is often necessary throughout their lives to help them maintain long-term employment and independence. We have found that with support and guidance, they are able to live and work independently and lead happy lives,” said O’Neal.

There is an open forum where they can express what they need to help increase their capacity for employment and level of independence.

“We never tell them what we want them to do, we let them figure that out on their own and then we put the wheels in motion to accomplish those things,” said O’Neal.

Many disabled adults at L.A. GOAL identified their biggest problem as teenage bullies. Many times when traveling on public transportation disabled individuals are harassed, teased, stolen from and sometimes even hit.

“They came to us and voiced this issue, this fear, and asked for help. That led us to establish a internship program with teenagers who came in and began to work with our members to establish a relationship and foster communication and inclusion. We didn’t have them sweeping floors and stuffing envelops.

They actually worked with our members, and after getting over that initial hump of nervousness began to work well together. We gave them complete autonomy to create programs and workshops with our members, many of which are still in effect today … many of the same youth we started with come back to help every year,” said O’Neal.

Aside from the day-to-day living instruction, L.A. GOAL is best known for its arts program, for which it were recently given the Joan Palevsky Award for Outstanding Nonprofits. The members have an upcoming art show “Ampers&nd,” which will merge mainstream an disabled artists at L.A. GOAL, 4911 Overland Ave., Culver City. All proceeds are recycled back into the arts program.

For more information on the organization, to donate or to volunteer, visit the website at www.lagoal.org.