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Accessible Academics!

By February 20, 2019No Comments

We have BIG transition news to share with you!

A new non-profit agency in WNY is currently expanding and seeking new students for the Fall 2019 semester! Accessible Academics is to provide transition support exclusively to students with varying abilities who are seeking a credit or certificate bearing post-secondary education. With the help of this program, students can attend any higher education institution in WNY and receive the additional supports they need to successfully realize their goals.

The organization is currently operating with the help of a grant from the Peter & Elizabeth Tower Foundation.

The Accessible Academics “Base Transition” program includes four hours per week of individualized, curriculum-based coaching, personalized for each student. Students receive coaching based on their goals, including help with coursework and planning, time management, organization, life skills, social skills, and other skill areas. “At other transition programs, students are expected to work on the same skills, attend the same school, or only audit classes. The programs that offer more variety to students tend to be for-profit and prohibitively expensive for the majority of families,” says Founder and CEO, Anne Showers. “Accessible Academics is giving students the same range of higher education choices that their peers have, with the personalized support that they need to be successful, regardless of their income.”

“Young adults and their families need to know they have access to an additional, cross-system source of support. What makes us unique is that our students really get to know and connect with one person: their coach. Their coach provides services and coordination for most of their needs while in school. They help students communicate more effectively and efficiently with professors, school administrators, parents, care coordinators and anyone else involved with the student, and can serve as a point person who knows all aspects of the student. Services are based on the student’s needs and goals. If the student only requires two hours of coaching & support per week, for example, but wants to be paired with a peer mentor, we can make that happen.”

Accessible Academics’ programming has been reviewed the Office for People With Developmental Disabilities and may be able to be paid for as a Transition Program under the Individualized Goods & Services (IDGS) line of the Self-Directed budget. This means that students who have a self-directed plan can ask their Fiscal Intermediary (FI) agency to designate money from that plan to pay for transition services through Accessible Academics. If the FI approves, up to 4 hours per week of individualized coaching as well as workshops hosted by Accessible Academics may be able to be paid for through the Self-Directed budget. The agency may also apply to become a Home and Community Based Service (HCBS) Waiver provider. Accessible Academics will continue to provide updates on their progress via Facebook (, Twitter ( and their website, ( ). Private pay options for the program are also available.

In addition, Accessible Academics has a wide array of add-on supports, including: workshops, a weeknight resource room, on-call support, group meals, and social outings. The workshops follow the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework for their curriculum, an evidence-based design that engages all different types of learners. Workshops offered by Accessible Academics can be classified as community classes in the Self-Directed budget. Check out their website for more information.

Showers is a NYS certified educator who is a PhD Candidate at the University at Buffalo. With the startup grant, the agency hired on Melissa Heldwein, who has 12 years of experience working at various non-profits in WNY that are funded by the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities.

“Working in Medicaid Service Coordination, I have seen the progression of the system after the major changes that occurred in 2010. I participated in the Personal Outcome MeasuresⓇ Interviews at People Inc. as part of their accreditation process with the Council on Quality & Leadership and brought a service coordination department through the transition to the Health Home Care Coordination model. I’ve seen every side of the system from the ground level up. When I met Anne and saw her passion for helping bring these services & supports to students, I knew this was where I was needed. Anne knows the educational system and I know the service system. We have been a great team to build a sustainable and affordable program for these kids,” Heldwein said.

“During the coming Spring semester we want to be connected to students who are considering college for the fall, as well as those who have already started school but may need some additional support,” says Showers. Accessible Academics has openings for 14 students starting in Fall 2019. While the agency’s application deadline is June 15, 2019, it is important to start the process early if the student wants to try to have Self Direction money pay for the services.

Accessible Academics recognizes the potential challenges faced by students that are working toward eligibility for OPWDD services. The Transition Coordinator, as part of the intake process, can help guide students and families through their application. “We don’t want students and families to be deterred from contacting us if they don’t already have eligibility and cannot afford private pay. Melissa can work with families alongside intake professionals at one of the local Care Coordination Organizations during the application process. Navigating the system can be quite overwhelming and with our background, we can guide families through both systems” Showers states. Their weekly blog provides helpful tips and ideas on topics that affect students and families – from suggested school shopping lists to how to save money in college; from coping strategies around exams to coping strategies for the holidays. You can check out their blog at

Accessible Academics is hosting a fundraiser to help continue to support students who are not OPWDD eligible and need assistance paying for this specialized support! The fundraiser is open to the public – limited tickets available. Comedy for a Cause will take place on Sunday, March 30, 2019 at 6pm at Rob’s Comedy Playhouse.  To purchase tickets, go to:

Students interested in learning more about what Accessible Academics has to offer, can complete an interest survey online at:

Or they can contact Melissa Heldwein by sending an e-mail to or by phone at (716) 492-8656.

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