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Promising Practices for Serving Crime Victims With Disabilities Toolkit
Publication Date: October 2008
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Implementing Your Plan

Your assessment is complete, your strategic plan is in place, and your collaborators are ready to begin work. Now you get to use the powerful tools your project has developed and the experience of your collaborators to start eliminating the barriers and closing the gaps you identified in your community’s local response to crime victims with disabilities.

You must have confidence in your strategic plan, but leave room to improvise as needed. Even the most detailed list of action items cannot account for every obstacle or issue a project will encounter when it is implemented. Consider the following questions to prepare yourself to handle unexpected impediments:

  • How can we leverage the partnerships and resources we have developed?

  • Are we using what we learned from the needs assessment?

  • How does our planning translate to positive action?

  • Which factors are most likely to spark change in local victim service organizations? In the community?

  • What are the best ways to disseminate information to law enforcement, service providers, and people with disabilities?

You may channel your knowledge and planning in myriad ways to improve community services and support for people with disabilities, as the project subgrantees have demonstrated. However, the most successful strategies were built upon the following implementation model:

  • Develop resources, curricula, and partnerships that can help local organizations bridge gaps in service and eliminate obstacles to assistance.

  • Provide disability-related training and technical assistance to local agencies.

  • Educate the community about the issues identified through the needs assessment.

  • Expand outreach efforts to people with disabilities.

Consider the examples of two project subgrantees who demonstrated how multiple strategic goals can be advanced by completing a few well-executed activities.

The Carbondale Police Department developed Protect and Serve, a training manual for working with people with disabilities that was pilot-tested at the Southern Illinois University Department of Public Safety and then used to train both departments. Protect and Serve was produced by the Carbondale Police Department in collaboration with members of its project task force, including the Southern Illinois University Center for Rural Health and Social Service Development, the Southern Illinois Center for Comprehensive Services, the Southern Illinois Center for Independent Living, Southern Illinois Regional Social Services, and Specialized Training for Adult Rehabilitation. In developing and disseminating this resource, the Carbondale Police Department solidified partnerships, created a new training opportunity with the potential to eliminate obstacles and gaps in service, and raised the community’s awareness of disability-related issues.

The Lafourche Parish Sheriff’s Office also met multiple strategic goals by working with its project task force to develop and implement an 11-module curriculum on working with people with disabilities for its training academy. It also submitted the curriculum to the Police Officer Standardized Training system for use with deputies and police officers in 21 regional academies throughout Louisiana. In addition, the Sheriff’s Office developed two public service announcements equipped with closed captioning and a 15-minute video about the criminal justice process, the rights of crime victims with disabilities, how to access available services, and how crime victims with disabilities can participate in the criminal justice system.

Other subgrantees also found video to be a useful medium for training law enforcement personnel:

  • NOVA developed a 10-minute police roll-call training video that was distributed to all 44 law enforcement departments in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. NOVA recruited a police officer who was also an actor to portray a detective in the video.

  • PADV and its partners in Georgia developed a DVD and training manual for domestic violence programs that includes techniques for providing sensitive services to women with cognitive and mental health disabilities.

  • The Ulster County Crime Victims Assistance Program developed a 15-minute training DVD for law enforcement and human services professionals on working with survivors of crime who have disabilities. The DVD contains information on posttraumatic stress and evidence-based prosecution practices, and includes a crime victim panel featuring individuals with disabilities.

Other examples of successful strategies for eliminating gaps in service for people with disabilities, increasing accessibility, and improving services include the following:

  • RCCCM hired two deaf liaisons to monitor and improve access to local social services and medical, legal, and judicial systems.

  • The Chadwick Center developed and implemented training for San Diego’s Adult Protective Services system on conducting interviews with crime victims who have developmental disabilities. The center now regularly provides this training for all new protective services workers, as well as for personnel at Community Care Licensing, an agency that investigates allegations of abuse in any licensed care or educational facility, such as a preschool, group home, public or private school, or skilled nursing facility.

  • NOVA developed a handbook for disability service providers on how best to respond to disclosures from people with disabilities experiencing abuse. Staff also provided training on the same topics at facilities where people with disabilities live, sheltered workshops, and disability service organizations throughout the county.

  • The Ulster County Crime Victims Assistance Program made major structural changes to improve physical accessibility to its historic building, including modifying its bathrooms and installing an entrance ramp. The program also established regular group meetings with crime victims with disabilities to share information about resources.

  • SACASA developed and distributed a best practices handbook containing information about working with sexual violence survivors with disabilities. It was designed for law enforcement, shelters, independent living centers, legal systems, and sexual assault centers, and provides information about various disabilities, indicators of abuse, and best practices to follow in serving crime victims with disabilities.

  • PADV recruited women with disabilities to conduct onsite accessibility surveys at three domestic violence shelters (two in Atlanta and one in Athens) to identify barriers to their receiving services. PADV used the data collected to determine what equipment to purchase for the three programs, including flashing fire alarms, Braille signs, tactile signs for non-Braille readers, transfer equipment such as chair lifts, safety rails for bathrooms, and video phones.
Lesson Learned: To change the community, be part of the community.

The Carbondale Police Department budgeted for improvements to the entrance of the local domestic violence agency so that people with disabilities could physically access the services they need. The department also set up peer meetings every other week at an apartment complex that primarily houses people with disabilities. Each meeting featured a guest speaker, including police officers and first responders, a representative from the Attorney General’s office, mental health care professionals, and others who could demystify justice processes and speak about the issues involved in reporting a crime.

All subgrantees created and distributed various public awareness materials as part of their implementation activities, including refrigerator magnets, fliers, brochures, newsletters, palm cards, and resource guides to reach and educate professionals and people with disabilities about crime against this population. Some organizations even placed advertisements for people with disabilities on public transportation vans and buses, with a message about the assistance available through local agencies.

SACASA’s bus poster and consumer-oriented Accessing Safety and other program services brochures, the Carbondale Police Department’s Promising Connections newsletter, Safe Passage’s outreach booklet, and NOVA’s wallet card are all examples of public awareness materials developed to directly inform people with disabilities of the services available to them in their local communities.

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