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Identify Needs and Plot a Course for Change

To begin to address the intersection of violence against women and disability, it’s necessary to understand the needs of survivors with disabilities, and the strengths and challenges that exist within an organization to meet those needs. There are a variety of mechanisms by which needs and gaps can be identified, including collecting and analyzing national trends on the victimization of persons with disabilities, collecting information on jurisdictional needs, and reviewing any data the organization keeps on the victimization of the people it serves. This can also be done by creating opportunities to hear from people you serve about their needs and experiences accessing services, including through the use of focus groups. The information collected can be synthesized to develop a strategic plan to determine how and where to deploy resources to have the greatest impact.

Resources You Can Use

  • Evaluating Organizational Capacity to Serve Survivors with Disabilities: Performance Indicators. Vera has developed a practical system of performance indicators for disability agencies, domestic violence programs, and rape crisis centers to track their progress over time toward improving services for survivors with disabilities. Additionally, Vera has created user-friendly guides that include instructions on what data needs to be collected, how and when to collect it, and how to calculate and interpret agency scores.
  • WEAVE Needs Assessment Plan. WEAVE of Kent County, MI created this plan to determine the needs of individuals with disabilities living in residential homes who have experienced sexual assault, and to identify the organizational strengths and challenges for meeting those needs. The plan includes recruitment strategies and sample interview and focus group questions.
  • Intersections Needs Assessment Plan. This assessment plan was created by Intersections, a Boulder, Colorado-based collaboration, to gain insights from survivors of sexual assault and individuals with disabilities about how to create safe, welcoming, and inclusive services, and to hear from staff about organizational strengths and challenges in providing such services.
  • Intersections Strategic Plan. Building off the information gathered as part of their Needs Assessment process, Intersections developed this strategic plan to document their key initiatives for improving services for survivors with disabilities and Deaf survivors of sexual assault.
  • Community Tool Box. The Community Tool Box, developed at the University of Kansas, is an online resource for those working to build healthier communities and create social change. Created to assess and address broad community needs, it contains helpful information on several key components of the needs assessment and strategic planning processes, including conducting focus groups and interviews, creating surveys, and developing strategic plans.