Mission: A Touch of Understanding''s mission is to encourage acceptance and respect for all individuals. Our educational programs are designed to increase understanding of differences, thereby minimizing discrimination and social isolation suffered by children and adults who are perceived as different for any reason, but especially those with disabilties.
Target demographics: students and adults
Direct beneficiaries per year: over 6000 students
Geographic areas served: the Sacramento area
Programs: disability awareness workshops. A Touch of Understanding provides approximately 100 presentations each school year to students in the Greater Sacramento, California area. Each student participates in the two-part program. In one part the students handle braces and artificial limbs and write in Braille, using a slate and stylus. They use wheelchairs and white mobility canes. They complete tasks using a mirror and headphones to understand the challenges of learning disabilities and autism. The second part includes volunteer speakers who share their experiences and insight with the students. These two parts complement one another by giving students experience with the assistive devices used by people with disabilities as well as the opportunity to meet individuals who uses these tools each day.
Fifteen years ago I was new to the Eureka Union School District and was told that I had to go see a program for disability awareness at one of our schools. I saw the program, now called A Touch of Understanding, in action and saw the immediate positive impact it had on not only students with disabilities, but all students and adults on campus. Over 50,000 students later, it has only grown stronger and when I retired it was the only non-profit that I said yes to when it was time to get involved. ATOU changes lives.
I first saw this organization in action in 1998 at a school in a district where I served as the Assistant Superintendent. The impact on students was immediate and longterm as I watched students befriend students with disabilities and back away from fear and bullying. After watching the program in action for ten years, including four when I served as Superintendent, I have watched the program grow and expand. When I retired, many groups asked me to join their boards, but this was the group that hit me in the heart, so it was the only one I joined. Now I'm working to get the program into as many schools as possible as ATOU reaches beyond the 50,000 students we will have reached as of this year.