Inclusion Is Goal of Disability Awareness Training at Nutley Family Service Bureau

Nutley Family Service Bureau
March 5, 2024

Nutley Family Services Nutley Family Service Bureau (NFSB) was awarded an IHC grant in 2022 to help create a more inclusive, accessible community for people with disabilities. Initially, the program focused on a comprehensive needs assessment, the formation of a Community Advisory Committee, and identifying specific areas of need.

Now the program has entered a new phase with staff disability awareness training, which is informed in part by the findings of the needs assessment and our Community Advisory Committee. NFSB clinicians, non-clinicians, volunteers, and interns participated in the training program, which was presented by Shelley Samuels of SRS Strategic Associates, a health and human services consulting firm.

“In order to create disability awareness training for the community, we need to first make sure our team receives the same education,” said Noelle Walker, Inclusive Healthy Communities Coordinator at NFSB. “We consider this a 101-level training that covers a wide range of issues, like the independent living movement, disability etiquette, and defining inclusivity and accessibility. We also provided real-world examples of how communities can become more inclusive for people living with disabilities.”

NFSB has also introduced the community-based Inclusive Mental Health and Peer Support Training Center (the Center), which aims to create disability awareness in all facets of the community, improve visibility and acceptance, and enable full integration and inclusion. This will empower people living with disabilities to exert more control over their lives and fully participate in, and contribute to, their communities.

“Disabilities may not be physical or even visible,” said Yolanda Solis, Senior Administrative Supervisor at NFSB. “They could involve learning disabilities, chronic illnesses, or mental health disorders. People may not know how to talk about disability, or how to interact with someone who’s living with a disability. This training was extremely helpful.”

The next step will be to create a general training curriculum with more specific details about hurdles faced by people living with disabilities, such as lack of transportation and accessibility to social services and health facilities. This training will be geared towards case management and our community partners.

“When we roll out training to the community, we expect to open many eyes to the daily life experiences of people living with disabilities,” said Kelly Rivadeneyra, LCSW, Assistant Director of the Mental Health Center at NFSB. “Awareness is almost always the first step to achieving positive change. We look forward to building support for a more inclusive Nutley by increasing awareness and understanding.

Once training is complete, the program will move to the implementation of solutions that enable anyone living with a disability to visit or communicate with a facility and access services without worry.

“I’m excited to see the enthusiasm of our staff and the Community Advisory Committee,” said Katherine Carmichael, M.S.Ed, MSW, LSW, Executive Director of NFSB. “The Inclusive Healthy Communities initiative has been underway for more than a year and it will take time to move through each phase, but the benefits to our community will be truly life-changing. Taking disability training beyond our walls will be a big step.”

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