Access for All is a project designed to encourage domestic violence and sexual assault service providers to adopt best practices in serving women with disabilities who are victims of violence. The sexual assault and/or domestic violence agencies targeted in this project are assisted to become more responsive to the needs of women with disabilities who have experienced domestic violence/ sexual assault by increasing knowledge among their agency staff and improving accessibility of their sites. The goal is for more women with disabilities who are victims of domestic violence to receive appropriate services.
Identify what needs to happen for your vision of your community to be fulfilled:
• Convene a planning group. The planning group for this project began with an existing task force with a focus on increasing the health of women with disabilities. During the planning process, the lead agency from the task force partnered with agencies that brought expertise in public health, domestic violence, clinical practice, research, and disability issues. More specifically, the university-based research center brought skills related to evidence-based research, epidemiology, and violence and assisted in developing an evaluation plan. The state coalitions brought expertise related to the overall issue of domestic violence and sexual assault services and contributed their ‘big picture’ understanding of the issues and services in the state. Each targeted agency and shelter brought its unique perspective and expertise on providing direct services to persons who have experienced domestic violence or sexual assault. Finally, the lead agency brought expertise related to quality of life for people with disabilities, accessibility, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the connection between violence and disability.
• Describe the vision for the initiative. The overall vision for the project was to improve access to services for women with disabilities who had experienced domestic violence or sexual assault. The vision statement was “Access for All.”
• State the mission. The essential “what” of the initiative was to improve access, identification, and referral to domestic violence and sexual assault services for women with disabilities (an “underserved” group). The essential “why” of the initiative was because women with disabilities are more likely to be victims of domestic violence or sexual assault than, yet are less likely to receive services.
The mission statement was to improve access, identification, and referral to domestic violence and sexual assault services for women with disabilities through increasing awareness and providing training.
Measure behaviors to gather information on the level of the problem:
• State the objectives. Results from the Domestic Violence Program Survey guided the project’s objectives. This survey provided data regarding the accessibility of domestic violence facilities and programs for women with disabilities and awareness of the needs of women with disabilities. Though objectives and strategies were guided by this survey, they were tailored slightly to fit a grant opportunity that funded the project.
Objective 1: By 04/04, provide training on disability and violence to 90% of targeted sexual assault and/or domestic violence service provider staff and 75% of volunteers.
Objective 2: By 12/05, increase the environmental accessibility of two shelters and four sexual assault and/or domestic violence agency offices.
Objective 3: By 12/05, increase accessibility of agency information and communication channels (printed materials, hotlines, intake) for women with disabilities in four agency offices and two shelters.
Objective 4: By 05/07, increase the outreach and identification of women with disabilities who are victims of sexual assault and domestic violence in all three of the targeted counties.
• Identify strategies.
As a part of the process to develop the strategies for the project, the following components were recognized.
The project targeted the organizational level.
The project targeted sexual assault/domestic violence shelters and agencies, staff providing services, and organizations that can refer women with disabilities to appropriate services.
Personal factors included the staff’s knowledge and beliefs about the needs of women with disabilities. Environmental factors included physical access to domestic violence shelters, communication access, and policies that affect access.
Those who benefited most from the project included the women with disabilities who are victims of violence and their families. Targets of change were the staff and volunteers of the domestic violence agencies and shelters. Change agents were the staff and volunteers in addition to the coalition members and other members of the planning group.
The following strategies represented how each objective was to be accomplished. They represented the overall mission and correspond to the stated objectives. The strategies fit within the available resources and opportunities.
Strategy 1: Conduct six hours of training on disability and violence with staff members and volunteers from sexual assault and/or domestic violence service agencies in each of the targeted counties.
Strategy 2: Conduct accessibility audits of sexual assault and/or domestic violence service agency sites, develop summary reports and recommendations, and assist each agency in developing a plan of action.
Strategy 3: Assess information and communication channels (print materials, hotlines, etc.) to determine accessibility, develop summary reports and recommendations, and assist each agency to develop a plan of action.
Strategy 4: Coordinate meetings with domestic violence and sexual assault service agency staff and community disability agencies to develop protocols for identifying and referring women with disabilities to victim services.
Describe those whom the intervention should benefit, i.e., those whose behavior should be targeted for change and those who can help make change happen:
Select particular community or systems changes.
Policy changes are made to allow for personal care needs of women with disabilities within service settings.
Modifications to the physical environments of service settings (e.g., ramped entrances, wider doorways, and accessible bathrooms) are made to increase access.
Printed materials and other forms of communication are made available in alternate formats.
Women with disabilities are referred to appropriate victim services.
Collaborative relationships between sexual assault and domestic violence programs and community disability agencies are strengthened.
Develop an action plan to carry out the intervention:
The specific tasks of the intervention involved training, coalition building, assessment of accessibility and making changes to improve accessibility.
Strategy 1: Staff and volunteers gain knowledge and skills in working with women with disabilities who are victims of violence. The project coordinator oversees the six-hour training. Training requires the time of the project coordinator and one support staff and funding for training materials.
Strategy 2: Shelters and sexual assault and domestic violence agencies will be made more accessible for women with disabilities. A cross-disability team of four women uses an accessibility checklist to access site audits. After the audit, the project coordinator generates the report and assists the agency in developing an action plan. The initial audit and the subsequent reports and action plans may take many months to implement. Resources needed include four members of a cross-disability team and project coordinator and funding for travel and materials.
Strategy 3: Information and means of communication used by agencies and shelters will be made accessible to women with disabilities. A cross-disability team of four women will use information accessibility checklists to carry out the assessment. After the assessment, the project coordinator will generate the report and assist the agency in developing an action plan, which may take several months. Resources needed include four members of a cross-disability team, a project coordinator and funding for travel and materials.
Strategy 4: Women with disabilities who are victims of violence are more easily identified and referred to sexual assault and/or domestic violence agencies or shelter. Project staff (project coordinator and support staff) make initial contacts and organize initial meetings that take place over the life of the project. Resources include staff to organize meetings and funding for meeting materials and incidentals.
Evaluate the action plan:
The action plan appeared to be complete and clear. It reflected the current work and created opportunities for expansion and replication in the future. Most importantly, the flexible action plan was simple enough to allow changes to occur in the face of crisis and fit the agencies’ crisis operation mode of dealing with issues as they come in.