Beyond Disabilities: Helping people live their best lives

Left to right: Sherri Smith, CEO; Mike Smith, program director; Onyette Foster, office manager; and Sheila Hannah, documentation specialist, review their client priorities for the day. (Photo by Cathy Welch)

It’s about going beyond disabilities and focusing on your capabilities, what you can do rather than what you can’t do. We might have a person who wants to run a marathon, for example, but can’t run very well. That doesn’t mean that he can’t participate in the marathon; that doesn’t mean he can’t finish the race,” says Sherri Smith, CEO of Beyond Disabilities.

Beyond Disabilities provides in-home care services for people who face challenges that the average person does not. The goal is to help them live the best life they can, while treating them with the kind of dignity and respect that every person deserves. The model for helping people with disabilities has changed over the years; the biggest goal is to avoid institutionalization at all costs. Putting people with cognitive challenges in an independent living situation requires professionals who can come by and do wellness checks, answer questions and help individuals solve problems that might arise in an independent living situation.

Smith began her career in this field as a certified nurse’s assistant at Eastern State Hospital in the early 90s. From that position, she moved to Colonial Community Services Board in Williamsburg, where she oversaw an on-sight transitional living facility for people who had been discharged from Eastern State. She later worked for Hampton-Newport News Community Services Board (H-NNCSB), managing a group home for people with intellectual disabilities, and she found herself loving the work more as time went on.

“I loved working at H-NNCSB. The individuals I have worked with are the most caring and sweetest people. They just need to be treated with dignity, respect and love,” Smith says.

The people who receive help from Beyond Disabilities are a diverse group, and some require more assistance than others. “From cerebral palsy, down syndrome, autism and some people who are not mentally disabled but are physically disabled, we have people who might live in a home with their parents, some have a legal guardian and some are their own guardian. Whatever their situation, the goal is always the same: we want to help them to live their best life.”

This is not always easy, as Smith explains. Communication can often be a big challenge. “You might see a person banging her head against a wall or something like that, and you could mistake that person as being upset or angry. But, in fact, it could be a sinus infection or something to do with physical health. We really have to be a person’s interpreter sometimes, and also their advocate. We have to see what makes them tick,” Smith says.

Smith has made wonderful friends along the way. “I have a very good friend with whom I have worked at H-NNCSB. She is from Peru and I was able to travel there with her for the second time this past September. I love to travel, and I’m now planning a trip to India with her. When I’m here in the U.S.A., however, my husband Michael and my kids are the most important part of my life,” Smith says.

Beyond Disabilities LLC
Address: 11828 Canon Blvd., Ste E, Newport News, VA 23606
Contact: Sherri Smith, CEO
Phone: 757-599-0650

About Christian Chance 17 Articles
Christian was born and raised in Newport News, Virginia, but has lived in the Shenandoah Valley, Richmond, Norfolk and the Outer Banks of North Carolina. One day he would like to live on the rocky coast of Central California, where the surf is plentiful. He is particularly interested in Latin American culture, which led him to major in Spanish at Old Dominion University. He is happiest when he is creating things with his hands, and he is slightly obsessed with music. So his idea of a perfect day would be creating something interesting in the metal shop with his ear buds in, listening to good music.

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