Over the
last 10 months, the COVID-19 pandemic has undeniably shifted the reality of how
we connect with each other. To protect the safety of people with disabilities,
their families, and our staff, The Arc’s chapters were forced to rapidly shut
down in-person services and shift to a virtual format. Many chapters worried they
might not be able to sustain the services and programming that are critical to
their communities.

Comcast NBCUniversal recognized that
the pandemic threatened to cut off critical local support systems for people
with disabilities at a time when they were needed the most and stepped up to quickly
provide support. Comcast generously provided grants with flexibility so
chapters of The Arc could make the most impact in their fight to safely prevent
isolation and support overburdened families. This allowed our chapters to
explore new and innovative ways to engage families in the community, at times
reaching more people than in the past.

At New Star, Inc. in Illinois and Indiana, the virtual environment brought by the pandemic has provided new opportunities to connect to the community in ways not previously available. For example, the shift has provided 35-year-old Alyssa with the possibility to participate in programming she was unable to before. Before the pandemic, Alyssa couldn’t participate in day programming for years due to her intense medical needs resulting from Angelman Syndrome. When her chapter’s offerings shifted to an online format, it increased her ability to join activities like being read to, exercise programs, socialization with peers, and music therapy. Alyssa’s mother, Renee Valfre stated,

“I have seen her cognition, attending and comprehension skills improve. I find the structure Zoom offers her in a setting at home, that is calm without the stimulus of others’ movements, vocalizations and outbursts, allows Alyssa to focus on the activity. Without virtual programming, Alyssa would have had no instruction or involvement with other individuals during the quarantine.”

A young man stands in his home on a hardwood floor with a few plants behind him and an area rug to his right. A small gray dog naps on a piece of furniture to his left.
David dances with his peers during a virtual Friday dance party

Another New
Star virtual program, the Friday dance party, has provided valuable
opportunities for social engagement as participants struggle through prolonged
isolation at home. Each week, dance party participants work together to pick a
theme and songs. On Friday, they gather on video to let loose, do musical
trivia, learn new dances, and take turns co-DJing and interacting with peers.

Community member David has been at home and unable to spend time with his friends since March. During this time, his dance parties were limited to a party of one. But with the help of New Star’s Community Day Services and the webcams purchased with their Comcast grant funding, he has been able to join group dance parties and interact with friends while doing what he loves!

David’s mom,
Denise Rhodes, couldn’t be happier with how much the program has helped him:
“I always say, get up and get active! Virtual dance parties have helped
David do that!”

assistance helped open a virtual door for another group The Arc provides
services for: parents.
parents of children with intellectual and developmental disabilities informed
The Arc of Aurora in Colorado that schooling their children with Individualized
Education Programs (IEPs) at home was challenging. With support from Comcast,
The Arc of Aurora created a no-cost online training for parents called
Schooling at Home: Your Guide To Remote and Hybrid Learning With IEP Supports.
Both parents and educators have enrolled since the training kicked off in
September, and that number rises each week. The training delves into how to
navigate the special education system and speak up for students in areas like
IEPs, procedural rights, and documentation as well as downloadable resources.

“The training aided in clarity for remote learning information and future planning. As a seasoned mom-advocate, I definitely learned things I didn’t know and hadn’t heard!” -Marry Baker, mother of child with IDD

NBCUniversal’s support extends far beyond chapter funding. They are leveraging
their media platforms to raise public awareness of the impacts of the pandemic
on people with IDD—including through multiple segments on the TODAY Show, expanding internet access to
low-income families and school districts through Internet Essentials, and advancing accessibility with
the voice-activated remote control, X1 eye control, and a dedicated service
center for customers with disabilities.

As our chapters continue to find creative solutions to the
challenges brought forth by COVID-19, they can breathe a little easier knowing
that partners like Comcast will continue to have the backs of people with
disabilities, their families, and those who support them.

These grants and more are made possible by:

Comcast logo featuring rainbow icon above the text

The post Adapting to Changing Landscapes: The Creativity and Perseverance of The Arc’s Chapters During COVID-19 appeared first on The Arc.