Reach Out to Persons With Disabilities
You’ve addressed physical accessibility, you've made changes to your policies and practices, and your staff members have begun the long-term job of addressing any of their own internal biases toward working with crime victims who have disabilities. Those gains are only the start. Persons with disabilities, as you discovered in your needs assessment, do not report crimes for many reasons, including fear and lack of trust. Conducting outreach is one way to let persons with disabilities know that your agency exists and that you and your partner agencies are committed to serving them.
Common outreach methods include staffing booths at public awareness events, distributing brochures or fact sheets that advertise that your services are accessible to persons with disabilities and address some of the issues facing these crime victims, and providing cross trainings with disability service agencies.
In developing or amending brochures, keep in mind the range of persons with disabilities and Deaf people. A woman who is easily fatigued because of multiple sclerosis has different service needs from a Deaf crime victim who requires an ASL interpreter, who, in turn, has different needs from a person with an intellectual or developmental disability. It would be impossible to develop materials that speak to all the disabilities individuals may have. Instead, your message can be simply that you provide services to persons with disabilities and those who are Deaf. Make your materials accessible to people with limited reading skills because of a cognitive disability or because their first language is ASL, not English. Invite persons with disabilities to help your agency create and edit its materials.
Other examples of outreach methods include the following:
The Sexual Assault Response Network of Central Ohio (SARNCO) leaned heavily on its community partners, who lined up trainings, copresented, and basically got SARNCO staff in the doors of disability services and other agencies throughout the community that might have otherwise been closed. As you develop your partnerships, look for people you already know who can vouch for you.
- Build relationships and partnerships with disability service agencies. These relationships can be built one-on-one or on a larger scale. The pilot sites found that having strong relationships with community partners was their biggest asset in reaching out to persons with disabilities.
- Brainstorm options for collaboration. In Austin, SafePlace provides the nonprofit Goodwill Industries with donations it is unable to use in exchange for vouchers for clients to shop at Goodwill thrift stores. (Goodwill provides job-related services and opportunities to people with barriers to employment.) Through a grant-related collaboration, a Goodwill staff member also assists SafePlace clients who are living in transitional housing with job searches.
- Develop disability-specific outreach materials. For this project, Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs and its partners developed a brochure targeting persons with disabilities. SARNCO developed fact sheets for outreach events on issues relevant to persons with disabilities (see sample fact sheet in Resources section). FCS developed a photo book of the shelter and distributed it to local disability service agencies to familiarize persons with disabilities with the shelter and its accessibility features.
- Add the universal wheelchair logo and the interpreter symbol to brochures and fact sheets, along with the note “ASL interpreters are available upon request.”
- Provide materials in alternate formats (e.g., in large print, in Braille, on CD–ROM, using simplified language).
- Distribute brochures, newsletters, and other literature in places that are frequented by persons with disabilities, including disability and Deaf advocacy and activist groups, Offices for Students With Disabilities at local colleges, independent living centers, state rehabilitation agencies, day programs for adults with disabilities, and so forth.
- Stage open houses for persons with disabilities and disability service providers to learn about your services.
- Increase your Web site’s accessibility so that someone who has limited reading skills can still get information, “alternative text” is provided for all pictures and designs, and the wheelchair logo and interpreter symbol are prominent. (See Resources: Accessible Web Sites for more information.)