Submitted by: Monique Nelson, posAbilities
The past year has been a difficult one, but for individuals with developmental disabilities and their families, there are unique challenges that require innovative solutions. Fortunately, the team at posAbilities has been implementing creative ways to transition from in-person to safely distanced activities, and to keep their clients and staff well supported – and the key has been collaboration.
Deidre, an artist at Alternative Creations Studio, shows off the pinata she created to express the struggles of COVID-19. It is, quite literally, a piece to “beat” the COVID down!
It was truly the work of our innovative team that assisted us with successfully pivoting from in-person to virtual services – and that happened virtually overnight! We work alongside other organizations like the Burnaby Association for Community Inclusion, Kinsight and InWithForward through the “Degrees of Change” to develop supports that are designed from the ground up – with users at the centre. Currently, we are hosting several such initiatives through CoMakeDo.ca, though all will soon be integrated into a new platform called Curiko.
The Zest is their weekly e-blast, which promotes a calendar of events that folks can choose from, filled with opportunities for connection, support and learning. We also had to find ways to reduce the technology barriers that folks face, and to get equipment into hands/homes.
Having virtual options was helpful to our frontline staff and families too. Many folks spent their weekdays taking the HandyDart to a day support centre, from which they would head out with friends and to participate in volunteering, recreation or other engaging community-based activities. Last spring, that all ground to a halt and they stayed home, often with elderly and vulnerable parents. We redeployed our staff, who began to provide a fraction of that support on a 1:1 basis, where safe to do so.
For families who were not comfortable with staff coming into their home, accessing this platform and other virtual events, health and wellness resources shared through regular community updates was helpful. We found that CoMakeDo was popular with our peer organizations in rural and remote communities, particularly across the Salish Sea and up north.
Of the 15 recommendations, a few stand out for me – mental health being as important as physical health, mobilization of individuals and families, the various definitions of support and connection, the need for plain language communications, the critical role of access to technology, internet connectivity and tech support, and how creativity, learning and a bit of fun are essential to resiliency.
One of the other key pandemic supports we put into place for our staff was a dedicated Emergency Response Team for those homes experiencing outbreaks.
The Pandemic Learning Project is another initiative we undertook at posAbilities. This project evolved from some earlier work that we had done exploring how our Association’s staff and other resources could play a vital role in emergency planning and community resiliency. We have a significant contribution to make towards strengthening the neighbourhoods we live and work in during times of crisis. We can offer first aid and other caring skill sets, food, and the emergency supplies we have in our homes. Our homes are located in Vancouver, Burnaby, Coquitlam and Maple Ridge and we tend to know our neighbours.
Then the pandemic arose, and we saw the opportunity for real-time learning. We developed the Pandemic Learning Project to discover how we can respond to current needs, as well as plan for future pandemics, develop strategic directions for working in a post-pandemic landscape, and to provide recommendations for the federal COVID-19 Disability Advisory Group.
You will find a downloadable copy of the Pandemic Learning Report here. We welcome you to read it and adapt the recommendations to your own context.
For more information, visit https://posabilities.ca/.