The COVID-19 pandemic has caused interruptions and barriers to service delivery for people with disabilities around the country. When Centers for Independent Living (CILs) offices closed, it affected their ability to offer their usual in-person services, including skills-based trainings and classes.
Staff from RTC:Rural learned first-hand how the pandemic was affecting CILs’ delivery of such classes. Healthy Community Living (HCL), a health promotion and independent living skills program developed by RTC:Rural staff and disability stakeholders, was designed for in-person delivery. With several partnering CILs actively conducting in-person HCL workshops with consumers when the pandemic hit, it triggered a need for discussions, collaboration, and problem solving to adapt the program’s delivery under vastly new conditions.
A joint effort among RTC:Rural staff, CIL stakeholders and the Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living ensued to figure out how to move the in-person delivery of the HCL program to an online delivery format. Through coordinated and consistent stakeholder communication, RTC:Rural provided extensive technical assistance and support to CILs to continue to offer HCL despite the ongoing restrictions from COVID-19. Without the knowledge exchanged between RTC staff and disability service providers doing on-the-ground work, however, the proposed solutions and support would not have resulted in as smooth a transition of the HCL program from solely in-person delivery to online delivery. Stakeholder input and engagement were key to its success to make sure adjustments to programming really fit the context of the CIL service delivery experiences.
While current providers of HCL are grateful for the support and opportunity to offer the program to consumers virtually, office closures and limitations to in-person CIL service delivery continue to provide challenges. Efforts to increase and improve online programs and support for people with disabilities is needed.
Dori Tempio, Director of Community Outreach & Consumer Rights at Able SC, a CIL in South Carolina, shared:
“Healthy Community Living is such a wonderful curriculum and opportunity for individuals to live well in the community and incorporate health into their everyday lives. You can’t live in the community and be independent without your health being an aspect of that. I think the fact that we’re offering multiple modalities for people to be involved is important. In spite of COVID, we need to offer them on a regular basis too. The majority of [workshop] participants have said if more things were offered online, they would be able to participate and benefit.”
More information about how this stakeholder engagement and collaborative problem-solving took place to support the continued delivery of the Healthy Community Living Program can be found as a written submission, “Engaging Stakeholders to Address Changing Service Delivery Conditions Due to COVID-19,” featured in the 8th Edition KT Casebook, sponsored by the Center on Knowledge Translation for Disability and Rehabilitation Research.