Disability and victim services organizations each have important roles to play in helping children and adults with disabilities increase their safety and heal from abuse. Yet, few are equipped with the infrastructure necessary to effectively serve in this role. As a result, survivors with disabilities often experience barriers when trying to reach out to them for help. The good news is that these barriers can be removed and organizations can build their capacity to serve survivors with disabilities.
A growing number of organizations around the country have committed to take a stand against abuse of people with disabilities and are on their way to becoming fully accessible, responsive, and welcoming to survivors with disabilities. These organizations are engaging in an intentional process to build their capacity to better serve survivors with disabilities. The process emphasizes:
- Engaging experts in the community, including survivors with disabilities
- Identifying specific organizational strengths and needs through a structured assessment process
- Developing a strategic plan that addresses the most pressing needs and charts a path for future work
- Builds buy-in and momentum for the work
Disability organizations are implementing screening tools to safely identify people they serve who have experienced domestic or sexual violence; protocols to help staff provide basic safety planning and other crisis interventions to survivors; and other enhancements to increase the safety, confidentiality, and healing of their services. Child advocacy centers, rape crisis centers, and domestic violence programs are removing physical, attitudinal, and programmatic barriers that prevent people with disabilities from using their services; creating policies that promote full access, inclusion, and autonomy for people with disabilities; and providing their staff with training, resources, and practical tools to guide their interactions with survivors with disabilities. Disability and victim service organizations are also joining forces to share resources and create a coordinated response to abuse of people with disabilities.
With commitment, dedicated time and attention, and know-how, organizations that are actively working to build their capacity to serve survivors with disabilities are experiencing successes and making a difference in the lives of survivors with disabilities in their communities. These survivors, who historically could not access services they needed for safety, are able to get help. No matter where they turn, they can receive immediate crisis intervention and long-term support that is safe, accessible, and responsive to their needs.