ACCESS continues its important role in the community – building new levels of confidence, competence and opportunity for its students with learning disabilities – with strategic expansions of its programs and services.
By KD Reep | Photography by Dero Sanford
As the executive vice president and chief financial officer for Life & Specialty Ventures, LLC, Mark Langston ensures the financial strength and stability of USAble Life in Little Rock, which LSV owns. This professional role makes him uniquely qualified to lead ACCESS into an exciting season of growth and celebrated success as the organization continues its renowned comprehensive services along with its role in the community as an advocate for individuals with language and learning disabilities.
“Our mission is expanding individual potential through innovative instruction,” Mark explains. “ACCESS has been building brighter futures since it opened in 1994, and it has grown from a small, outpatient therapy clinic to a comprehensive program. We opened a second campus in August, which allowed for expansion of all programs. We’re now able to serve more than 300 families per week.”
For more than two decades, ACCESS has provided advanced therapy to children with speech, physical and occupational needs. Throughout this tenure, programs and services have evolved to meet the needs of families throughout Central Arkansas. The ACCESS Academy for school-aged children offers a unique curriculum that incorporates all children in the classroom environment. Extracurricular activities include cheerleading, swim and track teams as well as participation in the local and state Special Olympics. In an effort to create additional opportunities for its clients, ACCESS – in partnership with Arkansas Rehabilitation Services and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences – introduced Project SEARCH® Arkansas, an on-the-job internship program for adults with developmental disabilities.
Mark and his wife, Ann, recognize the transformative power of the programs and services that ACCESS provides for individuals with language and learning disabilities and their loved ones. Their 19-year-old son, Sam, is a graduate of the ACCESS Academy as well as Project SEARCH® Arkansas. It’s these kind of success stories that strengthen the Langstons’ devotion to ACCESS and inspire others to support the organization’s vision for the future.
“According to the Disability Statistics from the Institute on Employment and Disability at Cornell University, only 11.8 to 22.4 percent of individuals with disabilities other than just hearing or visual disabilities are employed,” said Tammy Simmons, co-founder and executive director of ACCESS. “In addition to a lower employment rate than the national average, the median annual income in Arkansas is significantly less for those with a disability, and the percentage of individuals with a disability living below the poverty line is significantly higher. If ACCESS can help expand the potential of individuals with developmental delays and language and learning disabilities, starting at an early age, we can make a difference in how they will live the rest of their lives.
“Without leaders like Mark and the ACCESS Board of Directors, we would not be able to continue our work of creating an enriching, uplifting educational atmosphere where children and adults can grow and flourish to meet their full potential,” notes Tammy. “The expansion of this mission to help more families requires a great amount of strategic planning and forward thinking to ensure that we are maintaining our high-quality education and therapy programs. I am truly grateful for the collaboration and faithful support from Mark and the board members.”
ACCESS is committed to building new levels of confidence, competence and opportunity for its students with learning disabilities – expanding personal potential. This is accomplished through a truly comprehensive approach to education coupled with necessary therapy and counseling. Many times, families are able to sense their child needs additional support but aren’t sure where to turn for advice. The holistic methodology that ACCESS utilizes includes evaluations, diagnoses and treatment options to create an individual, all-inclusive plan that best meets the needs of each family.
“ACCESS currently provides more than 680 families each year with options they may not otherwise have,” Mark explains. “More than 15 families have relocated to Little Rock to receive services from ACCESS, and in the fall of 2017, ACCESS will serve individuals from more than 33 counties. In order for us to succeed in our mission, it is essential for our community to be engaged and supportive. The growth of ACCESS has been led by the needs of our families and community, and it is their voices that have directed our vision to grow.”