True Inclusion: Maria's Story - Access Services

True Inclusion: Maria’s Story

Two women smiling signing the word friend in American Sign Language ASL.

Have you ever been left out of a conversation simply because you have no way to communicate? This can leave you feeling very alone. Communication accommodations create a way to connect regardless of our communication style. This is true inclusion. At Access Services, we desire to help create a world that is accessible to everybody. This takes intentionality. Each person we serve offers a unique opportunity to learn and challenge ourselves.

One of those individuals, Maria McGlinn, challenged our team to embrace a new path of communication. Maria is a wonderful, deaf individual with intellectual disabilities served by Access Services. In October of 2010, Maria joined our Twining Life day program. At that time, none of the staff knew American Sign Language (ASL). When they were informed that Maria would begin coming to the program, Sue Maddalo, one of our direct support professionals (DSPs), spent the next three weeks learning as much ASL as possible before she arrived. On the day Maria started coming to the program, Sue was able to start communicating and learning from Maria immediately. This commitment has continued on over the years as each of the staff and even the other individuals who attended the Twining Life day program do their best to learn ASL.

Then in 2020, the pandemic came. This presented unique challenges for all those we serve, and many of our programs had to shut down. Unfortunately, Maria had to stop utilizing services. During this time, Twining Life staff maintained contact virtually and took part in 30-minute ASL lessons facilitated with Maria, the staff, and other individuals from the program who were at home. Afterwards, it was difficult to get Maria back to the program due to limited transportation options. Finally in March 2024, Maria was able to return to Twining Life!

Within the first few minutes of meeting Maria, she will greet you with a “Hello, nice to meet you!” and then patiently teach you how to sign it back. Jessica Fein, Program Specialist for Twining Life, shared,

“Maria is an amazing teacher. Even though it’s not her job to teach any of us, she enjoys sharing ASL with anyone who wants to learn.”

This enthusiasm is infectious. It has led to the whole program using online tools and classes to learn ASL over the years, individually and as a group. Maria makes you feel at ease to stumble through communicating with her and leaves you with the desire to learn as much as you can to be ready for the next time you see her. Maria is an inspiration to us to challenge ourselves to embrace all forms of communication as we serve our community. Being person-centered means getting outside of your comfort zone sometimes. In the end, you gain so much more than you expected!

Photo: Sue Maddalo and Maria McGlinn sign the word “friend” in ASL

Share This Post


Get these sent to your inbox.

Subscribe to get these stories emailed to you as soon as they’re posted. Plus, stay up to date on everything happening at access and learn how you can get involved.

More Stories

Subscribe To Our Monthly Newsletter

Stay up to date with what’s happening at Access Services, read inspiring stories, and discover how you can get involved.

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.