TACT Welcomes Students into New Facility
In July of 2022, ULC purchased a warehouse in Englewood in partnership with Teaching Autism Community Trades (TACT) to give the organization space to grow. TACT, which provides programs that teach trade skills to people on the autism spectrum, renovated the building and opened it for programming in January 2023. The educational programs that TACT offers include auto mechanics, carpentry, electrical, and computer science, and are designed to help participants find lasting, fulfilling careers. Co-founders Danny Combs and Claire Johnson started TACT after their son was placed on the autism spectrum, and they were unable to find programs that would not only meet his needs, but appreciate his strengths.
“TACT’s work is so much more than just working with individuals with autism to change the paradigm of what education and employment means,” said Combs. “We’re creating a culture that not only helps individuals recognize their full potential, but also helps businesses realize the value of our community.”
Combs says that seeing the impact that TACT’s programming makes on both individuals and businesses is his favorite part of the job.
“Recently, one of our clients started a job at Coors,” he said. “On her first day, she noticed something they were doing that could be done in a more productive way. She felt empowered enough to bring it to her employer’s attention and advocated for it on day one, which is hard for anybody. That employer listened, paid attention, thought about what she was saying, and realized that she was right. They called us the next day and said, “Can we have more of your graduates? Because we need more people like that.””
Because of TACT’s work, individuals with autism have opportunities to develop their strengths and feel empowered to use their skills in the workplace, and businesses are starting to recognize the value of hiring within the neurodivergent community. TACT’s expansion to their new building will help set students and teachers up for even greater success, says Combs.
“The new space is over three times the size of our old space, and we were able to set up this building specifically for our students, from the workshop floor all the way down to the LED lights,” Combs said.
TACT’s space includes plenty of space to teach and learn, as well as accessibility solutions like elevators, sensory rooms, color therapy lights, and motion-sensored lights. The building also has art pieces, a mural, and plenty of vintage car-inspired decor. All of these things contribute to a safe, calming, and accessible place to learn.
“By implementing these things, we can change the overall feel of the environment to one that’s calming to everyone,” says Combs. “This new space is a game changer.”