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Comprehensive & Inclusive Services for People with Disabilities

March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. The goal of this month is to raise awareness about developmental disabilities and teach the importance of inclusion in every aspect of life. A person is not their disability. A person with a developmental disability is different than a developmentally disabled person; a person with a mental health challenge is different than a mentally ill person. Using Person-First language changes the conversation. It puts the person before the ability difference.

Understanding and practicing cultural humility is essential in providing services. The person with the disability is the expert. An advocate does not need to know every aspect of a disability before offering assistance. Focus on establishing rapport and asking the survivor with a disability to share information about themselves and what they need in relation to any disability. Survivors with disabilities sometimes face challenges in accessing services. Creating programs and services as accessible as possible for all survivors is an important part of our work.

In 2006, the Safety First Initiative, funded by the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women, was a collaboration that included Rose Brooks Center, Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault (MOCSA) and the University of Missouri Kansas City Institute of Human Development. Rose Brooks Center conducted accessibility and responsiveness evaluations, examining program practices, policies, physical environment, and communication between staff and clients.

The results were used to develop an improvement plan and secure funding for improvements that included:

Training and education for staff and community partners on safety planning with survivors with disabilities, trauma-informed care principles and universal design principles for accessibility;

Equipment to improve communication with survivors who are deaf or hard of hearing including adding a video phone, flashing emergency alert light at the shelter car gate and written guidance on emergency response procedures posted throughout the building;

Installation of automatic door openers designed to meet ADA guidelines, accessible playground equipment, personal safes in bedrooms for safe storage of medications and the addition of meditation rooms including one that is pet friendly; and

Adoption of low barrier rules and voluntary services including making chores voluntary, policy and procedures for service animals, emotional support animals and companion animals, and partnerships with community partners serving persons with disabilities.

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