In my last post I offered New Year’s resolutions for the Department on Disability Services. I hope DDS will take these on board, since much progress is needed. Progress, though, is a two-way street – or maybe even a four- or five-way intersection – and we can’t just sit back and wait for DDS to think of everything.
I’ve talked in earlier blogs about the Supporting Families Community of Practice. D.C. is one of five jurisdictions in the country that got a national grant to explore ways of bringing better supports to families, who nationwide provide the bulk of support for people with disabilities (as we know!). As the number of people with disabilities increases while government budgets stagnate, there’s a need for a lot more creativity in how we approach support. The D.C. CoP is chaired by DDS and the non-profit monitoring organization, the Quality Trust for Individuals with Disabilities, with a core group of local disability organizations (I was recently invited to join the organizers as a parent advocate at planning sessions for the public CoP meetings, and attended my first one on December 10.) Attendance has grown at each successive meeting of the D.C. Community of Practice, but as I continue to remind the organizers, meetings held in the middle of workdays just aren’t always convenient for family members or people with disabilities themselves. So far there haven’t been good mechanisms for people who can’t attend to participate by webinar or even on a conference line, nor a good means for people to give input if they weren’t able to attend. There are sometimes technology limitations, but for the CoP, as for many meetings that DDS hosts on other topics, these limitations need to be overcome.
This is where you come in. There's a meeting scheduled for Wednesday, January 22, 2-4 (441 4th Street, NW, Room 1107), that will focus on educating attendees about the Lifecourse Framework for achieving systems and individual change. A webinar will air, followed by discussion among the participants. In the planning session, I strongly urged organizers to make available an option allowing people who can’t attend in person to participate, and arrangements have been made to allow remote viewing of the webinar: https://nasddds.adobeconnect.com/familynetworks/, and (888) 407-5039 for audio (you need to call in for webinar audio, apparently). I urge any and all of you who can to take advantage of this. Up to now, service providers have not been a part of the CoP, but beginning at this meeting they will be. It’s important for families to remain the dominant voice in these discussions!
The issues being discussed in the CoP matter to you – how to get providers, doctors, teachers and others to see you or your family member as a person rather than a disability; how to make local service delivery more responsive to people’s individual needs; how to bring our local laws into the 21st century and get supports to people who don’t currently get any. But your voice needs to be heard. Participating in meetings of the Supporting Families Community of Practice is one way. And whether or not this works for you next week, be in touch with Erin Leveton (email@example.com) to let her know that it’s a priority for all future meetings of the CoP, and other meetings hosted by DDS, to allow participation by those unable to attend in person. Also ask for minutes, video, documents, etc., posted on a website or made available by other means to anyone with an interest, starting with you! This is a good opportunity to advocate and be heard, so speak up!