OCALI Now | Issue 20 | August 2020

Improving Accessibility for Remote Learning Environments

Mom assists daughter with work on laptop computer
Photo by August de Richelieu on Pexels.com

Accessibility of remote learning—it’s not something the average person thinks about. But, for Ohio’s students with disabilities, particularly for those starting the school year in hybrid or completely remote learning environments, access is front and center in everyone’s daily lives. Many educators are now tasked with providing access to educational content online through video or digital documents.

The Assistive Technology & Accessible Educational Materials (AT&AEM) Center at OCALI is committed to ensuring access for all people with disabilities. As educators, students, and families prepare to head back to school, we wanted to share a few easy tips and reminders to improve accessibility for all students—whether that be in the classroom or remotely.

Colored letters spell the word "sparkle"
Photo by Magda Ehlers on Pexels.com

Using Descriptive Language
Instruction-based videos and documents tend to have visuals that support learning. Using descriptive language in videos and providing text descriptions of images in documents is incredibly important for many students. Doing so not only increases access, but follows many best practices, such as those in Universal Design for Learning (UDL). Descriptive language and text descriptions support one of the core principles of UDL, by providing multiple means of representation. When you are able to describe information, students are able to get a stronger visual picture of what they are learning and how it is connected to the content.  Providing descriptive language, or audio description, increases access for students with blindness or visual impairments, but also supports students using text-based transcript of a video, students with poor or unstable internet that may not have high quality video or images, and students of all learning styles. To learn more about how to use descriptive language, watch OCALI’s short video.

Closed Caption label

Using Captions
Whereas audio description describes visual information, closed captions provide text of the audio or narration. Research has shown that tools, such as captions and audio description, not only increase access for students with sensory impairments, such as deafness or blindness, but also support many students, such as auditory learners, or students learning a language. Text , or captions, of the audio or narration helps reiterate the content and makes it accessible to students who are Deaf or hard of hearing, with auditory processing disorders, learning a language, or are learning in noisy environments with many environmental distractions. In order to provide captions for your students, there are many built-in captioning tools in common instructional tools, such as Microsoft PowerPoint and Google Slides. To learn about using these tools for both in person and virtual teaching, you can also check out OCALI’s short video on creating captions for online learning.

In addition to considering descriptive language and captions for teacher developed resources, it is important to use external or curricular resources that have also been made accessible. The Described and Captioned Media Program (DCMP), provides free access to thousands of accessible videos for any family or educator who has a student with a disability. Teachers can create class and student accounts, assigning videos to be watched. Videos within the DCMP library offer captions, audio descriptions, and most recently, readings of children’s books using American Sign Language. 

To get started, visit DCMP and register for an account. Through email verification, you will have access to educational videos that have closed captions and many that have audio descriptions.

Assistive Technology Internet Modules (ATIM)

Providing Accessible Digital Materials
In addition to adding accessibility to online learning, such as videos and virtual classes, consider providing documents and slide presentations in an accessible format to students. Educators may be interested in learning about accessible educational materials through our Assistive Technology Internet Modules: Reading WATI Part I and Part II. Learn more about upcoming professional development through our BEST Grant, which focuses on students with visual impairments, with one session focusing specifically on Creating Accessible Word Documents in September 2020.

#HereToHelp OCALI Presents 4 minutes at 4:00 p.m.

Using Accessibility Features in Virtual Conferencing Platforms
Many of you are familiar with Zoom, a popular video conferencing platform. In our new distance learning environment, Zoom’s use and popularity with teachers and students have skyrocketed.  Take time to discover accessibility features within the virtual meeting platform that your district has chosen and inform your students of the options available. 

To learn more about specific features in Zoom and how to use them, check out this short video.

Tips on Making the Transition from School to Remote, Home-based Learning for Learners with Complex Needs

Person works at a desk, taking notes while watching a presentation on a large computer monitor
Photo by Julia M Cameron on Pexels.com

School year 2020-2021—it’s unlike anything educators, students, and families have ever experienced. While teachers are typically setting up their classrooms, many families are wondering how to make the transition from school to home-based learning this year. There’s no question that learning will look different this year. Whether your school district is going back traditionally with new social distancing and sanitation requirements, or whether it’s a hybrid model of in-person and remote learning, or a completely remote model, educators, students, and families will experience many new ways of learning, connecting, and providing support.

Throughout the spring and summer, the Teaching Diverse Learners Center at OCALI has compiled a list of questions and answers from educators and practitioners across Ohio to address important topics for educators and families who support students with complex needs. Following are some key questions to consider for back-to-school.

How can we help a student understand that home is a place where school-like activities/learning can take place? 

Replicating a school-like environment and structure are important to helping students connect their typical perception of school and learning to now being at home for learning. Ideas on ways that families can recreate a school-like environment include:

For Educators

  • Send families photos or descriptions of each learning space in your classroom or school building where specific learning tasks take place. Offer ideas on how to recreate similar spaces within the home or yard. Label selected spaces to be matched with transition cues (pictures, objects, etc.).
  • Send home familiar tools and materials used in school.
  • Remember that some students will need sensory regulation materials. Sensory regulation is not something that only happens in a specific space or room. Some tools can act as a stimulant and others as a means of calming or focus. Be sure to pair the right sensory tools with the appropriate activities.

For Families

  • Use different rooms or areas in the home and yard for different activities. Create and use photos/symbols of each space to model transitions in time and activities throughout the day. For example, in the morning, the day begins in the bedroom, (with specific picture schedule/task analysis) then to the bathroom (with specific picture schedule/task analysis) then transition to the kitchen (with specific picture schedule/task analysis/choice board), next show and carry the picture of the desk area (with specific picture schedule/task analysis/choice board), followed by a picture of the yard/sidewalk/open space in the home to indicate recess, movement or play (with specific picture schedule/choice board), and so on.
  • Post pictures of school environments in locations within the home to indicate activities or learning that will take place in each specific location.
  • Set out tools and materials (in tubs/containers) that go with activities in designated spaces (math manipulatives at a table, art supplies at the counter, games on the coffee table, swing, balls and mini trampoline in the basement, etc.).

What types of learning can families leverage as they work and learn in the home? 

Now is the perfect time to think about teaching and learning about daily living and life skills. Identify chores or tasks that are required in the home—Are there any that the child could help with (helping with pets, preparing a meal or snack, cleaning items, picking up items, washing items, loading/putting away dishes, etc.)? Think about taking advantage of the warm weather to make the outdoors a learning lab—listening to the birds and insects, enjoying the sunshine, feeling the grass, finding natural objects, digging in the dirt, etc. Following are additional resources for educators and parents to consider:

For Educators

Resources can offer ideas for academic connections (language arts, math, social sciences and social skills) to life skills per grade-level, like life skills curriculum resources, which includes skill development in communication, consumer sciences, safety, recreation and leisure and more. Other resources to check out, include: Project WET, Discover Water, Project WILD (book and activity list, books about animals, and ideas at home for parents), Project Learning Tree, and Camp Nuhop’s online at home outdoor education modules.

For Families

Look at lists of life skills by subject area and grade-level for more ideas on how learners can assist with tasks at home.

How can families communicate new routines and changing timelines with their children, especially those who don’t understand why these changes keep happening?

  • Use or create a home calendar to communicate daily routines or schedules. Include words or symbols that indicate where learning will take place that day.
  • Schedule time on the calendar to listen to the news.
  • Schedule a morning video/phone call with the principal, bus driver, or teacher to hear from them. These can be video recorded and played back each day, if needed. 
  • Use objects, symbols, signs, and/or words to communicate with your child and to label the calendar.
  • Play a morning or wake-up song that indicates learning at home.

What digital resources can educators suggest/provide to families to replace traditional classroom materials?

Tips for teachers:

  • Morning meetings/circle time: Teachers can record morning meeting routines within PowerPoint or Google slides, and students can drag and drop symbols or words into each slide to complete the day’s schedule, weather, or date or can use paper materials to do the same.
  • Teacher read alouds: Use online videos or livestream of storytellers, have teacher audio, or video record stories and mail on flash drive or disc.
  • Manipulatives: Virtual manipulatives, using common household alternatives to count, sort, etc.
  • Field trips: Explore virtual tours, experiences, and outdoor activities around the home/community.
  • Hands-on science: Explore science videos, science TV programs, outdoor exploration, etc.
  • Interventions and therapies: Offer 1:1 conference times, teletherapy, schedule a time watch week, email an outline of task and materials needed for each week, or offer to create and send materials, as needed. 
  • Assistive technology (AT): Exchange the use of high-tech tools for low-tech access. Contact libraries or companies for loaner equipment, mail student-specific AT tools home for use. There are many types of AT that may be used by students on a daily basis.

How can we help families and students maintain emotional and physical health at home?

For Educators

  • Try to connect students with other students, if possible. 
  • Try to connect students with other staff members, if possible.
  • Check in and maintain as much or as few communications as requested by the family.
  • Offer families access to contact information that they can use in their time of need.

For Families

  • Loosen the reins on expectations. Be kind to yourself and your child by not being so rigid or strict with activities, schedules, etc. Flexibility is key.
  • Movement during daily activities are important, and scheduling twice as many breaks/recesses as usual is a good idea. Movement can be everyday tasks around the home, which also support functional skill development, such as: sweeping, dusting, yard work, laundry, dishes, cooking, taking a shower/bath, walking the dog, cleaning out animal stall or pet cage/tank, etc.
  • Don’t forget the arts. Music, dancing, singing, playing games, puppet shows, mini-plays, arts and craft, making sensory materials like playdough or glitter jars, coloring pages, movement activities, stretching, play homemade or real instruments, play piano, make mud pies, go on a nature walk and make art, baggie books or wind chimes with found objects, etc.

Increasing Financial Security and Independence through STABLE Accounts

Ohio State Treasurer - Robert Sprague
Guest Article By: Ohio Treasurer Robert Sprague

Last month, we celebrated the 30th anniversary of President George H.W. Bush’s signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The bill’s enactment was a defining moment for our country, and the ADA has drastically improved equality of opportunity for people with disabilities. July also marked the fifth anniversary of Ohio House Bill 155, which authorized the creation of the STABLE Account program.

Now is the time to build on the legacy of those important pieces of legislation. August is #ABLEtoSave Month, which is dedicated to increasing the awareness and usage of ABLE accounts nationwide.

Following passage of the federal Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act, Ohio’s STABLE Account program became the nation’s first ABLE program. During this month of advocacy and outreach, I want to reiterate our commitment to growing the STABLE program and working to further establish specialized investment accounts as a mainstream financial tool.

STABLE accounts are an incredibly powerful tool for increasing financial security and greater independence for people with disabilities. Before, people living with disabilities could only save a total of $2,000 before losing their benefits. However, that’s no longer the case. Earnings on a STABLE account grow tax-free and are not subject to federal income tax, so long as they are spent on Qualified Disability Expenses. Qualified Disability Expenses include education, housing, transportation, healthcare, assistive technology, basic living expenses, and many other items.

Our team started off 2020 by venturing to every corner of the state to share the benefits of STABLE accounts. While COVID-19 required a quick pivot to virtual outreach, it didn’t slow down our efforts. Since May, we have seen a record-breaking day, a record-breaking week, and two consecutive record-breaking months, adding 839 new accounts in June alone.

We are proud to now serve nearly 18,000 STABLE account-holders who have made over $150 million in total contributions. Today, our program accounts for 25 percent of account-holders nationally – proving that Ohio leads the way in creating opportunities for people with disabilities.

Opening a STABLE account is easy – it only takes about 20 minutes and can be done from the safety and comfort of home. For more information, or to sign-up, please visit the STABLE Account website at https://www.stableaccount.com, or call our team directly at 1-800-439-1653.

The Buckeye State is fortunate to have an ever-growing advocacy network that does a tremendous job of ensuring people with disabilities have every opportunity to thrive, and I’m proud of the work our STABLE team does every day to support that goal. Together, we’re breaking down barriers to build a more inclusive state that benefits from the talents of all Ohioans.

What’s New at OCALI

OCALICONLINE 2020

Introducing … OCALICONLINE 2020!
The nation’s premier autism and disabilities conference is back! OCALICONLINE is November 11-13 – available through a laptop, tablet or smartphone near you. 

It’s everything you know and love about OCALICON, now in an online format.

Featuring over 100 world-class sessions on important topics and issues across the lifespan – plus inspiring keynotes each day. Numerous networking opportunities will be offered throughout the conference – and a chance to connect with exhibitors, too. More details and information will be announced in the coming weeks.

Welcome to the community. There’s a place for you here. Registration is now OPEN!

FREE Training: Assistive Technology Academy: Starts September 10

This multi-session, interactive and technology-based training program is designed to build foundational competencies in order to deliver Assistive Technology (AT) services to individuals with an array of disabilities and age groups. Learn more about this free training for county boards of developmental disabilities at https://ataem.org/at-special-projects-and-grants/AT

New Module: Responding to Trauma and Supporting Resilience

This module focuses on understanding trauma and how it impacts and influences children. Professionals will learn to recognize possible signs of trauma and identify practical strategies to build resilience along with connecting and engaging families with resources and supports. Explore now. https://cycsuite.org/m/210

New Podcast Episode!

Reflections on the 30th Anniversary of the ADA

July 2020 marks the 30-year anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, signed into law by the first President Bush in 1990. We talk to D’Arcee Neal, Diana Mairose, and Mark Seifarth – three people from three different generations – about what the ADA means to them, what it does for them, where it misses the mark, and their recommendations going forward as the journey continues. Listen now.

Happy 30th Anniversary, ADA!

OCALI Now – July 2020

ADA 30  - Celebrate the ADA July 26, 2020

On July 26, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) will celebrate its 30th anniversary. Signed into law by President George H.W. Bush, the ADA is a landmark piece of civil rights legislation that works to increase the inclusion of people with disabilities in all aspects of community life, including employment.

Over time, the Americans with Disabilities Act has worked to break down barriers to opportunities for millions of American workers. Increasing access has been an important component of ensuring American workers have the opportunity to contribute their talents, skills, and services.

Access is probably not something the average person thinks about. But, for the more than 42 million Americans with disabilities (more than 10% of Ohioans), access is front and center in their daily lives. Unfortunately, access is often silent and unintentional discrimination.

At OCALI, our mission is to inspire change and promote access to opportunities for people with disabilities. Over the years, we have been committed to working hard to promote access—among our staff and with those we serve around Ohio. While we have made significant progress, we have more work to do and we continue to explore and learn new ways of listening, understanding, and modeling.

Centered around the theme, Increasing Access and Opportunity, commemoration activities around the country will include events, speeches, and new compliance assistance resources. The ADA’s anniversary will serve as a key component of the National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) observance in October.

The ADA Network has put together various resources to help celebrate, learn, and share information about the anniversary. To learn more, visit https://www.adaanniversary.org/. Consider using the following hashtags in your social media posts: #ThanksToTheADA and #ADA30.

Inspiring Change Pod Celebrates ADA 30

OCALI Now – July 2020

Inspiring Change  vodcast - webinar screenshot featuring four people talking

Coming later in July! Don’t miss a special podcast episode of Inspiring Change focused on the 30-year anniversary of the ADA! We’ll talk to 3 people from 3 different generations about their thoughts and personal experiences with the ADA. Mark Seifarth from Columbus has worked on public policy issues at the local, state, and federal level for over 40 years. Diana Mairose is an advocate, artist, and aunt from Cincinnati. D’Arcee Neal is a recent transplant to Columbus (welcome!) via Washington DC, and is an activist and academic who does a lot of work in the intersection of race theory and disability through the lens of popular culture.

Rev Up the Vote

OCALI Now – July 2020

AAPD RevUp the Vote - Make the Disability Vote Count

July 13-17, 2020 is National Disability Voter Registration Week

Coordinated by the REV UP Campaign, National Disability Voter Registration Week (NDVRW) is a concerted effort to get people with disabilities registered to vote, educated about this year’s election, and prepared to cast a ballot in November. NDVRW is held annually the third week of July, just before the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The REV UP Campaign, launched by the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) in 2016, is a nonpartisan initiative that coordinates with national, state, and local disability organizations to increase the political power of the disability community while also engaging candidates and the media on disability issues. The Campaign focuses on voter registration, education, access, and engagement.

OCALI has created a one-page overview that includes facts and other resources that you can use to help spread the word.

What’s New at OCALI?

OCALI Now – July 2020

Earn graduate credit with these great courses via Ashland University

ATIM - Assistive Technology Internet Modules

AT for Life Skills
Learn information about assistive technology (AT) assessment and implementation to support students’ access to employment, independent living, and post-secondary education. Understand how to use AT to support personal organization, daily living skills, environmental access, recreation and leisure, and more!

AT for Academics
Learn how to use assistive technology to support access to math, reading, and writing accessible educational materials (AEM).

Learn how to use assistive technology to support access to math, reading, and writing accessible educational materials (AEM).

ASD Strategies in Action - Autism Certification Center

Behavior Assessment and Planning with Evidence-Based Interventions (BAP)
Learn how to use functional behavior assessment and positive behavioral intervention planning to decrease interfering behaviors and teach new skills. These courses are designed to meet the 40-hour training requirement for the RBT credential from the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB).

Choose the age range that best fits your needs:
Toddler and Preschool Age, School Age, or Transition Age

OCALI Autism Center

Social Narratives: Now Available in Spanish!
To help people with disabilities and those that support them, the OCALI Autism Center has created examples of social narratives to use at home during the COVID-19 crisis. Social narratives teach the individual appropriate social practices that can also help regulate behavior. The Autism Center’s social narratives — now available in Spanish — can help teach safe practices and socially appropriate behavior during the COVID-19 crisis.

Med-Ed Connections Resource Guides
These free resource guides are designed to support families as they manage, access, and share medical and educational information concerning their children—at all ages—who are blind, visually impaired, deaf, or hard of hearing. The guides build understanding and connect important medical and educational information to make more informed decisions, so that their children can grow and live their best lives.

OCALICON 2020: Get a Front Row Seat: We’re Going Virtual

OCALICON 2020 Featuring Inclusive Education Leadership Institute

OCALI Now – June 2020

Change, uncertainty, and flexibility.

These are all words we are very familiar with these days—quickly adapting our professional, personal, and home lives during the COVID-19 pandemic. These are also words our OCALICON team has been grappling with as we continue to plan for OCALICON 2020.

Throughout the planning process, your health and safety have remained our first priority.

In light of this and with the ever-changing federal and state-issued guidelines, we do not have complete confidence we will be able to safely gather 3,000+ people in a face-to-face environment. 

This doesn’t mean we’re canceling OCALICON. 

If you haven’t heard the news, we’re excited to announce that we are transitioning OCALICON to a completely virtual experience this year.

While there are still many details to work out, our team is excited at turning the planning upside down and thinking completely outside of the box on how to deliver a ‘best in class’ professional learning event. And, as everyone has come to expect from us, this event will no doubt include our creative, fun, and unexpected flair.

We know you will have questions.

We welcome them. We ask you to give us some time to work out the details, and we will continue to keep you informed as decisions are made. In addition to informing you by email, we will also be sharing updates on our conference website and social media platforms. 

In this time of transition, we want to hear from you. Send us an email with questions, ideas, or concerns. We value your input and your voice.  

Thank you for your patience and understanding as we navigate these changes together.

Searching for Summer Professional Development? We’ve Got You Covered.

OCALI Now – June 2020

That’s a wrap for school year 2019-2020. And what a year it has been. Like many of you, the unexpected and rapid transition to working from home, remote learning, and social distancing caught us by surprise. As we made the transition with our own staff, there were a lot of bumps and learning along the way. From trying to sort out how to connect staff remotely, how to support collaboration between project teams, how to use new technology, how to deliver and present content in an online format, and the list goes on and on. We’re sure that many of these things are all too familiar to many of you, too.

While we were all learning together (or flying by the seat of our pants, in most cases), our commitment to supporting our collective community has remained at the heart of everything we do. We are here to support you with accessible materials, online learning, and other resources to ensure that people with disabilities and those who live with, love, and care for them have what they need.

You might be taking a mental health break, planning your next vacation, or just getting ready to enjoy a more relaxed schedule—but we want to remind you that we are here to support your professional learning and have a variety of resources available—many of which are free and several that offer the opportunity to earn graduate or continuing education credit. You can access these resources any time, in your own home, and at your own pace.

For people with disabilities and those supporting them—families, educators, caregivers, service providers, and others—it is essential to have the latest knowledge, skills, resources, and tools to ensure they can live their best lives for their whole lives. For more than 14 years, OCALI has been a trusted source of providing high quality research, resources, and training.

As you consider your professional learning plans—for yourself or your teams—OCALI staff members have compiled some of our newest resources to get you started.

The Outreach Center for Deafness and Blindness

Promoting Access

Access—it’s not something the average person thinks about. But, for our students with disabilities, access is front and center in their daily lives. Unfortunately, access is often silent and unintentional discrimination. Promoting Access for People Who are Deaf, Hard of Hearing, Blind, or Visually Impaired is a free, self-paced training module designed to build confidence and comfort for anyone communicating or connecting with people who are deaf, hard of hearing, blind, or visually impaired. By completing this module, users can earn up to 2.5 hours of Continuing Education Credit.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

OCALI’s statement on racial justice and inequality

In the coming weeks and months we will be working to create and share accessible resources to support continued conversations and actions about race, disability, and the ongoing fight for equality. Here are a few you can access today:

Ruderman Family Foundation – White Paper Media coverage of law enforcement use of force and disability

Systemic Racism Explained via ACT.TV

Black, Disabled, and Proud – College Students with Disabilities – The HBCU Disability Consortium

Black Deaf Culture Through the Lens of Black Deaf History

They Work For Us: A Self-Advocate’s Guide to Getting Through to your Elected Officials (Plain Language Edition)

All the Weight of Our Dreams: On Living Racialized Autism LYDIA X. Z. Brown and the Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network

So You Want to Talk About Race (Paperback, Hardcover, Audiobook) Ijeoma Oluo

March (Books 1 and 2) John Lewis

Read our full statement at OCALI.org

The Center for the Young Child

Early Childhood

If you’re an early childhood professional who needs hours toward your credential, or you want to build your knowledge about early childhood topics, the Center for the Young Child’s new suite of resources are a great place to start. These modules have received the Ohio Approved (OA) designation and are also eligible for Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities continuing professional development (CPD) unit in the area of developmental specialist/supervisor, EI service coordinator/supervisor. 

If you’re a developmental specialist who needs hours toward your credential or you are an early care or education professional who wants to build their knowledge around child growth and development, check out the new Early Care and Education Seminars.

Need Graduate Credit?

Check out these online resources that offer the opportunity to earn graduate credit.

Autism Internet Modules (AIM)

Assistive Technology Internet Modules (ATIM)

ASD Strategies in Action – Foundations

ASD Strategies in Action – Behavior Assessment and Planning (BAP)

Family and Community Outreach Center

Family Resources

The Family Center Resource Gallery provides a variety of resources in different formats to support families with a loved one with autism. Resources include a basic introduction to autism, guide to Ohio resources, building social skills, and learning from others.

Universal Design for Learning Center

UDL Webinars

Check out the schedule of upcoming webinars from the UDL Center! Topics include: Designing for the Least Restrictive Environment in General Education, Inclusive Practices That Support Learners With Significant Cognitive Disabilities, and many more!

Lifespan Transitions Center

Case Studies to Support Transition

Need support in using Age-Appropriate Transition Assessment methods to assist your team in better understanding a student’s current and future skills and knowledge?

The Lifespan Transition Center has a great collection of case studies you can use to guide your team’s planning process!

Voices, Visions & Victories

OCALI Now – May 2020

Voices-Visions-and-Victories-Podcast

In April, OCALI’s Inspiring Change podcast launched a new series of episodes to capture the thoughts, reactions, and stories from parents, OCALI staff, educators, and other professionals during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“We’re trying to capture these moments as they happen, as people are reacting and adapting and processing and trying to figure things out,” said host Simon Buehrer. “There’s a lot of trial and error and DIY-ing going on right now in almost every aspect of our lives, and we wanted to share what’s happening, how people are juggling and managing these complexities and disruptions, and also champion their personal victories – those moments of triumph and success during unprecedented times. These bright spots help us connect and inspire us to keep going during an era of uncertainty and social distancing.”

You can check out the “Voices, Visions & Victories” series at ocali.org/podcasts. Or wherever you get your podcasts.

IWGA Survey: We Need YOUR Feedback!

OCALI Now – May 2020

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Each year, Ohio’s Interagency Work Group on Autism (IWGA) conducts a survey to hear from families who have a loved one with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and/or other disabilities. This year’s survey, which will go live on May 20–June 5, will focus on family experiences related to COVID-19. Sharing your experiences and feedback can help ensure resources are accessible, especially where they will do the most good.

Complete the survey by clicking this link: https://bit.ly/IWGAFamilySurvey

The IWGA represents multiple state agencies who meet regularly to review policies, learn from current research and data, and identify opportunities to better communicate and coordinate Ohio’s autism efforts.

Watch for more details by following OCALI’s Office of Policy on Twitter at @OCALIPolicy or visiting https://iwg-autism.org/.

A Message from Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities Director Kevin Miller

OCALI Now – May 2020

 

img-subsribeOODThis was a school year like no other. When schools and colleges transitioned from an in-school to a distance learning environment in mid-March, many of our lives were turned upside down. For some, like my son Connor, who is a college student on the autism spectrum, it was a challenge to adapt to the online environment. The good news: we made it. Let’s celebrate our students’ achievements and milestones during this unprecedented time and look forward to what’s next.

For youth with disabilities, the next steps might be unclear. With more time at home, we have an opportunity to prioritize discussions about how our young people will work and support themselves as adults. Ohioans with Disabilities (OOD) can provide services remotely to help them identify their strengths, weaknesses, interests, and career goals to help them build a foundation for future success. We can help provide a realistic understanding of the time, effort, and expense required to achieve their goals. 

OOD can assist youth with disabilities, beginning at age 14, through career exploration, skill development, and strategies to get a job after graduation (www.OODWorks.com). In-person meetings may not be possible right now due to COVID-19; however, OOD Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors stand ready to serve and are eager to work together with you and your young person remotely. We can help students explore their options, whether they are in the beginning stages of career exploration, desire to work right away, or launch their career after the pandemic subsides.

If you have a college student with a disability, make sure you connect with us. Our Ohio College2Careers program, at 15 public colleges and universities in Ohio, ensures students with disabilities have the support they need to complete their degree and/or credential, earn higher wages, and meet the demands of tomorrow’s labor market. If your student isn’t attending one of the participating colleges, OOD may still be able to provide support for attaining and maintaining employment.

OOD professionals have been creatively supporting individuals with disabilities during this time. Staff have supported students remotely through mock interviews, coordination of virtual job interviews, and connection to essential employment opportunities. Our Division of Employer and Innovation Services’ Urgent Jobs List and process is in place to connect job seekers to essential businesses with urgent hiring needs. Despite these challenging times, in the first six weeks of coronavirus in Ohio, OOD placed a total of 319 Ohioans with disabilities into a broad range of jobs.

Parents, caregivers, teachers, and mentors all play an important role in setting the expectation of work. Have you had a conversation about employment with your young person? It’s a great time to start talking. I encourage you to reach out to get connected with OOD for support and assistance with these conversations.