UPDATE: Wednesday, April 19th. Our building is open for...
Mission and Values
To improve the opportunities, self-determination and lives of individuals with vision loss and other disabilities by providing highly competent, respectful and current training and consulting in the skills of blindness.
There are a myriad of services for people with disabilities out there, and they can be challenging to sort through. We understand this because we have been clients of these service agencies, too. Sometimes they can be wonderful, and sometimes they can be incredibly frustrating. We strive to be one of your solutions instead of one of your problems. As such, we have developed a set of core values that drive all that we do. We invite you to offer feedback and suggestions on how we can continue to improve to meet your needs.
- No matter where funding comes from, our clients are the people with disabilities we serve and their allies, first; their funding organizations second.
- Most aspects about blindness and disability can be reduced to the level of a nuisance with appropriate skills training and advocacy skills.
- We have high standards and unlimited expectations for our clients to fulfill their dreams and goals.
- We and our clients share rights and responsibility for reaching the goals and objectives of their training or service.
- We do not participate in any kind of hierarchical thinking in regards to levels of disability. Everyone should be treated with respect and without discrimination regardless of level or type of disability.
- People with vision loss and other disabilities should have full charge of their own lives and be self-determined in the services they acquire. Services should be client-driven and controlled.
- We adhere to the adage “Nothing About Us; Without Us.” Clients are always invited to participate in all verbal and written communication in regards to their services wherever possible, and should decide who or what kind of meetings and communication should be occurring on their behalf.
- Diversity of knowledge and experience is important. There is a value-added component to having real people with disabilities who have real-life experience train other disabled people. Whenever possible, services will be provided by a qualified person with a similar disability to that of the client.
- Our expertise and service is valuable and should be compensated. But we are sensitive to the financial limits of the sometimes vulnerable population we serve, and will make every attempt to assist them in working out appropriate funding.
- If, for whatever reason, we don’t immediately have the knowledge to assist our clients in meeting a particular independence/vocational goal, we will either learn the skill or refer them to someone who does. No client will be left without a path to the tools they need to succeed.
- We do not discriminate against those we serve on the basis of gender, race, sexual orientation or identity, religious beliefs, disability or socioeconomic level.
Both Lisa and Nik grew up with disability. Lisa was born with both vision and hearing loss, and Nik was in a biking accident when he was 11 in which he lost his vision. As such, we grew up as consumers of services for people with disabilities and other social programs. Across three countries and numerous states, We have seen a lot of different service models. From special education to vocational rehabilitation, we have experienced what works and what doesn’t.
We wanted to do something that works. As we go about our days on transit or around the community with our guide dogs and white canes and children, we are stopped almost daily by someone who has a disability or has a family member or friend with a disability. They ask us how we do what we do; sometimes they ask about very basic things and other times they are curious about more complex systems. And then often they might tell us about their own barriers to doing the things they would like to do.
Sometimes the barriers are that they were just unaware of available services and other times they share how disability service organizations did not help them effectively. We listen with an empathetic ear. More times than not, we have faced some of the exact same barriers that they have faced. We always wished that we had more time to share what we know, and what experience we have. We always knew that if given a chance, there was a lot we could do to give back to our own community. And finally, after years of talking about it, we finally said, “Let’s do it! Let’s figure out a way we can help each other out by solving problems, not by creating them.”
How would we do this? By having high expectations for people rather than bringing them down to the lowest common denominator. By sharing our own successes and lessons learned from mistakes. We are still learning from our clients as we share what we know, so that we can continue to be your partners in solving problems and breaking down barriers in the most effective way possible. We have a set of core values that we live by that focuses on our true belief in our clients ability to drive their own ship and sail as far as possible. Our values are our stable MAST with which we tie our sails and steer our journey. And of course, when there is no wind, we row! We hope to partner with you and work together to give you the skills to find your own wind and sail where you want to go.
Miles Access Skills Training, LLC
Our name was inspired by two elements. First, “Miles” is inspired by Lisa’s dear friend, the late Susan M. Miles. Susan was her roommate when she went through blindness skills training at the Nebraska Commission for the Visually Impaired. Susan was a 4’11″ dynamo. She had grown up in Nebraska and went on to college and became a medical technologist (one of the people that draw your blood and analyst your labs in the hospital.) She was working in a job she loved and driving around the midwest in her “car with pop-up headlights” and enjoying her 20s when she lost her vision fairly suddenly.
She completed her 9 months of adjustment and orientation training, and became the director of that very training center. She eventually wanted to return to medicine in some way, so she became a Certified Diabetic Educator. Before her unexpected death, she was traveling around South Dakota assisting both blind and sighted Native Americans to manage their diabetes. Susan inspires for Lisa, the values that we would like to bring to you in our work: a dedicated and hard work ethic, high expectations of ourselves and others, positivity, and an energetic, fun spirit.
The second inspiration for our name is its acronym, MAST. Nik grew up on the island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea in Sweden. And when you are an islander, you sail. One of the first activities Nik got involved with after losing his vision as a child was sailing, and he has loved it ever since. Nik immigrated to Canada when he was 19, and took to the water on Lake Ontario. Eventually, Nik co-founded Blind Sailing Canada, which teaches blind people to sail and gives them opportunities on the water. He helped raise enough money that the organization bought its own sailboats, and they still carry on successfully since he left Toronto to immigrate again to the U.S. For Nik, the symbolism of the MAST of a sailboat is that it is foundational, it is the core of sailing. Blindness skills are also foundational. If you learn those skills effectively, there really isn’t too much you can’t accomplish. This is why it is so important to us that everyone has access to high quality training so that they may gain the skills of blindness.
Training and consultation work best when consistent. We require 24 hour notice of cancellation of appointments. No-shows will be charged at full-rate at the discretion of MAST. Three or more no shows may result in termination of service at the discretion of MAST.
We require that the client take responsibility for payment. This means that the client must pay in a timely manner. If a third party is responsible for payment, clients must follow through with all agreements and responsibilities with that agency to remain in good standing. Clients must cooperate with MAST and other agencies when acquiring or maintaining third-party funding.
We will work with each client to individualize a training or consulting program that fits their needs and lifestyle. We may assign agreed upon activities and practice to take place between meetings. The client is expected to follow through on these assignments or communicate the need of a modification as soon as possible.
Clients have the right to choose where they will receive services. You have the right to choose Miles Access Skills Training instead of or in addition to other services you may be offered. If we are not a good match for your needs, we will make every effort to refer you elsewhere. If you choose to end your relationship with us, we would appreciate a week of notice and an exit interview.
Client confidentiality will be maintained. Information about clients will only be shared among the employees of MAST. Our accounting firm, Jones and Roth, may have access to billing and demographic information as well but are also bound by a confidentiality agreement. Any other communication with other agencies, counselors, medical professionals, family members or others can only happen with written permission from the client. Communication with third party without the client present or included can only happen with the permission of the client.
Information exchange and decision making of a significant nature involving third parties will only take place with client involvement and permission. This means, for example, that although we may confirm the date and time of an appointment or other such small logistical matters with your VR counselor without your presence, all decision making and progress meeting or written reporting will take place with your knowledge or invitation to be present. All progress reports and other written material of significance will be copied to you.
Exception to the above confidentiality and self-determination policies would only occur if we judged a client to be a danger to self or others, or if subpoenaed by court of law.
We will correspond and communicate with you in a manner that is accessible to you.
We do not discriminate based on race, ethnicity, gender expression or sexual orientation, disability, religion or socioeconomic status.
We are unable to accept or exchange gifts, or attend personal social events while you are a client.
We support self advocacy and the work of self advocacy groups. We understand that there are many opinions about living with blindness and many ways to advocate. We support the right of people with disabilities to be involved in self advocacy to the extent of their choosing. We do consider participation, support, and donation activities with self-advocate and other non-profit organizations when requested.
We are members of the professional group AER, the Association for the Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired. We are licensed in the State of Oregon and insured.