TULSA, Okla. — As the coronavirus grips the nation, there is a small group of people at a higher risk of becoming infected: people with disabilities who have a chronic underlying condition.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults with disabilities are "three times more likely than adults without disabilities to have heart disease, stroke, diabetes or cancer."
That is why many are strictly following the "safer at home" orders to avoid getting infected.
"She is in that very high risk category, so we've created a bit of a cocoon around her," says Kim Voss.
Her 35-year-old daughter Ashley, who was born with Down Syndrome and a congenital heart disease, suffered a stroke a few years ago and lost the ability to walk and use of her right hand. She requires physical therapy sessions, which have all been canceled due to the pandemic.
"A lot of services have changed. Not just for Ashley, but for other individuals in the community, and that is a real challenge," says Voss.
However, there is one thing that is almost as therapeutic for Ashley as her sessions: baking.
Even before her stroke, she would mix ingredients with the help of her family, hold the mixer and cut out cookies and biscuits ready to be put in the oven.
What started out as a fun project has turned into a home-based business called Woofles and Biscuits.
"It's neat because it uses a model of entrepreneurship where instead of Ashley fit into a job, we create a job around her abilities," explains Voss.
In 2015, Ashley participated in a program called Champs in Broken Arrow that pairs young adults with developmental disabilities with a coach and a therapy dog. One of the assignments was to learn about their dog's breed and make a report to the group.
With Ashley's limited verbal communication, the Voss family came up with a different idea. They baked dog biscuits in the shape of Donald, the Golden Retriever that Ashley was paired with in the program.
"Dogs loved them, and she loved passing them out to all the dogs, and so we kept doing that and thought well that worked well, we'll do it again," shares Voss.
And that is how Woofles and Biscuits was created.
Ashley and her family bake dog biscuits at home with gluten-free, organic ingredients, which Voss says the dogs love and can tell the difference.
She is making home deliveries in the Tulsa metro area during the pandemic, while Ashley stays behind at home to protect her from the coronavirus.
While it's unclear when Ashley will be able to resume close contact physical therapies once again, making dog treats continues to motivate her to get up.
"I think working and being able to create something of value gives them value," says Voss, "I think even more so than the income for us it's a way to make Ashley part of our community.
Last year, about 19 percent of people with disabilities were employed in the United States, with the majority in service occupations. A large portion of workers were self-employed, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
If you would like to support Ashley and her family, you can check out Woofles and Biscuits and order online. They have both shipping and home delivery options. The prices range for the dog treats range from $3.50 to $14 holiday jars.
Woofles and Biscuits is one of several local small businesses we continue to highlight in our "We're Open Green Country" series.
Visit our website, for a full list of businesses. You may also fill out a submission form for a small business that is still operating and offering essential services.
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