Beginning in 2008, the Vera Institute of Justice’s (Vera) Center on Victimization and Safety partnered with the U.S. Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) to develop a series of national training opportunities and resources to address violence against people with disabilities and Deaf people. Using our extensive network of experts, a wide variety of resources, and a collection of emerging best practices to ensure safe and accessible services for survivors with disabilities and Deaf survivors, we created the Bridging the Gap Training Academy and Resource Center.
Through the Academy, we have hosted two national trainings on sexual assault and domestic violence against people with disabilities, one national training on serving Deaf survivors, over 20 webinars, and trained over 2200 people. All training opportunities are designed to explore emerging and enduring issues at the intersection of violence and disability; highlight promising practices for serving survivors with disabilities and Deaf survivors; and foster a network of support to end violence against people with disabilities. Highlights from the training academy include:
- The 2008 Building Bridges Across Disciplines: Developing Safe and Accessible Services for Survivors of Domestic and Sexual Violence Who Have Disabilities national conference in Nashville, TN. The conference brought together 300 people from across the country to learn from 35 experts in the fields of domestic violence, sexual violence, stalking, and disability and Deaf services to learn, share ideas, and be part of the movement to end abuse of people with disabilities.
- The 2012 Bridging the Gap: Creating a Community of Support for Survivors with Disabilities national conference on sexual assault and domestic violence against people with disabilities in Louisville, KY. The conference brought together 300 people including self-advocates, practitioners, first responders, and policymakers to learn, share ideas, and be part of the movement to end abuse of people with disabilities. Beyond key note addresses and workshop sessions, the conference featured an assistive technology display, and the first ever clothesline project focused on people with disabilities.
- The Bridging the Gap Webinar Series, a webinar series on sexual assault and domestic violence against people with disabilities and Deaf individuals. The 2016 webinar series, attended by over 400 people included trainings on: working with American Sign Language interpreters; safety planning for survivors with disabilities; assessing your organizations for physical access and safety; screening survivors with disabilities; and tools to support the forensic exam process for survivors with disabilities.
As part of the training academy, we provide one-on-one consultations to organizations and communities who are interested in addressing abuse of people with disabilities. We respond to requests through our toll free warm line and email for information and guidance on serving survivors with disabilities and Deaf survivors, removing barriers to accessible services, establishing collaborations between violence against women service providers and disability organizations, and other needs as they arise.
Why This Work Matters
Disability service providers, victim service organizations, and criminal justice agencies all have a role to play in ending abuse of people with disabilities and Deaf individuals. Even with increased attention to the issue, however, these service providers are not routinely provided training opportunities to enhance their services to better meet the needs of survivors with disabilities. This project provides us with the opportunity to garner the expertise of national experts, share lessons learned, and foster a network of support to help these organizations better meet the needs of survivors with disabilities.