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Promising Practices in Serving Crime Victims With Disabilities Printer-Friendly Option Promising Practices in Serving Crime Victims With Disabilities Image of a woman in a wheelchair working at a computer. Image of a woman walking alongside a man on a motorized scooter.
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Planning and Implementation
Planning and Implementation

Strategic Planning

After completing the community needs assessment, it was time for each project site to develop a strategy for effecting change. Subgrantee strategies included plans to—

  • Increase physical and programmatic accessibility to services.

  • Train law enforcement, crisis services, and disability services staff, as well as people with disabilities, and build collaborations among these entities and individuals.

  • Expand outreach to include crime victims with disabilities.

  • Develop and distribute resource materials.

Most project sites began the planning process by outlining the adjustments they needed to make to their own programs and services. The Southern Arizona Center Against Sexual Assault and Ulster County made structural modifications to improve accessibility to their agencies, implemented new disability-focused policies and procedures, and trained staff in how to work with persons with disabilities. The Network of Victim Assistance hired a full-time victim advocate dedicated to outreach to people with disabilities, and the Partnership Against Domestic Violence modified their policies and procedures to address services to women with disabilities. The Rape Crisis Center of Central Massachusetts made simple accessibility improvements, such as making promotional materials available in alternative formats such as Braille, audiotape, or large print.

Each subgrantee’s plan comprised different elements, collaborators, and goals, but all shared a central framework for meeting the critical needs identified in all 10 communities:

  • Develop a strategy to address service barriers that prevent crime victims with disabilities from reporting an incident to authorities or seeking assistance from social service agencies. Subgrantee plans included a wide array of strategies to address service barriers, from cross-agency meetings and dialogue among victim service providers, first responders, and law enforcement to developing and promoting resource materials targeted to people with disabilities. Innovative strategies included the Stavros Center/Safe Passage plan to build a speakers’ bureau of abuse survivors with disabilities who could provide peer support, and the “Day of Training” proposed by Ability1st to coincide with National Disability Employment Awareness Month each October.

  • Work with law enforcement to address the need for better training, collaborations, and awareness of issues, and review forensic interviewing techniques for ways to enhance their appropriateness for people with disabilities. Most subgrantees addressed this issue by developing training modules and relationships with their local justice community. A key component of the Chadwick Center’s strategy was developing and testing an Extended Assessment Protocol for use in interviewing people with disabilities. The Carbondale Police Department and LaFourche Parish Sheriff’s Department sought to advance their training curriculum for use at regional and state levels.

  • Work with victim service agencies, crisis service providers, and other community partners to eliminate gaps in service and make services more accessible to people with disabilities. The subgrantees’ strategies for addressing gaps in service included development of interagency task forces and referral systems, education and training on physical and procedural accessibility issues for service providers, case review processes, and improved and increased outreach to persons with disabilities. Most plans also emphasized using manuals and public awareness materials. For example, the Southern Arizona Center distributed its Promising Practices Handbook, outlining best practices, to the Southern Arizona Sexual Violence Disability Coalition, which included members from the criminal justice field and medical, crisis, and mental health service providers.

By the time the strategic plans were in place, subgrantees were a year into their projects and had a much better understanding of the issues they faced. The next stage would bring obstacles, some outright roadblocks, and also much success. Some found the process of affecting change more arduous than others, but each discovered new ways of thinking about and working through the challenges.