Socially Connected in a Virtual World – Supporting People with Disabilities to Stay Well During a Pandemic (Session 10E)
Main Topic: Flourishing, Well-being, and Social-Emotional Learning
Session Type: Talk Story
People with disabilities experience significant physical and mental health disparities compared to people without disabilities. According to the 2017 Oregon Behavior Risk Factor Surveillance System, people without disabilities in Oregon include:
- Approximately 3 times more people with disabilities are living with diabetes compared to people without disabilities.
- 17.5% of people with disabilities experience depression, compared to 6% of people without disabilities.
- 35% of people with disabilities are less likely to partake in physical activity, compared to 16.3% of people without disabilities.
- People with disabilities are five times more likely to see their quality of life as poor or fair than people without disabilities.
These disparities can be linked to a lack of access to wellness and social opportunities. The shut-downs in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic further isolated people with disabilities and led to even fewer opportunities for people with disabilities to engage in wellness opportunities. The University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities and the Oregon Office on Disability and Health, both housed at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, Oregon, saw a need for online and virtual health promotion activities to engage people with disabilities in wellness despite restrictions of the pandemic. We immediately developed new products and materials to support Oregonians with disabilities to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. We pivoted several of our ongoing programs to provide virtual classes to connect, engage, and promote health. This presentation with share examples from our services and programs and describe how we developed new content and/or made changes to each program in response to the pandemic. Examples include:
- Creating video resources to help people with disabilities understand COVID-19, provide suggestions for connecting socially while staying physically distanced, and utilizing mindfulness, breathwork, and yoga to help maintain emotional well-being and mental health.
- Providing a virtual version of Walk with Ease, a program developed by the National Arthritis Foundation, and adding time for social connection for participants to develop relationships with the group.
- Delivered a virtual version of the Friendships and Dating curriculum, a class for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to learn about how to have healthy relationships.
- Pivoted our advocacy and leadership programming to finish the program on line during the pandemic, revamped our program to be virtual or in-person in 2021, and added additional social engagement.
- Provided a virtual Healthy Lifestyles curriculum train-the-leader workshop in 2020 and are developing a virtual version of the curriculum to launch 2021.
Shifting to virtual programming created some challenges, but we also learned the many benefits of having a virtual component to our programs even beyond the pandemic. Through this experience, we have learned that virtual engagement provides many opportunities, such as:
- Offering programming to a wider audience, including participants in rural areas;
- Lowering the cost of programs so we can do more with our funding;
- Providing participants a way to interact online in a safe environment;
- Creating opportunities for people to connect with others when few other opportunities exist.
- Learn how to pivot from in-person to online learning to maintain wellness for people with disabilities.
- Utilize best practices for online health promotion curriculum delivery.
- Apply virtual techniques and lessons to their work after the pandemic.
- Learn and understand how virtual platforms can facilitate social connection and improve people’s emotional well-being.
Keywords: Social connection, mental health, virtual learning, health promotion, emotional well-being
Erin Taylor University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities and the Oregon Office on Disability at OHSU - Health Promotion CoordinatorErin TaylorUniversity Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities and the Oregon Office on Disability at OHSU - Health Promotion Coordinator
University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities and the Oregon Office on Disability at OHSU
Erin Taylor is the health promotion coordinator for the Oregon Health & Science University Oregon Office on Disability and Health and the University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD). Her work focuses on creating accessible, universal, and age-appropriate materials for training, workshops, and curricula for transition-age youth and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She is a certified lay leader on several evidence-based self-management programs. Taylor also sits on the board of Inclusion Inc., a brokerage in Portland, Oregon, and is the vice-chair for PHAME, a school of the arts and performance for people with disabilities. She is currently attending the City University New York (CUNY) School of Professional Studies for an M.A. in Disability Studies.
Lindsay Sauve University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities - Program and Evaluation ManagerLindsay SauveUniversity Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities - Program and Evaluation Manager
University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities
Lindsay Sauvé, M.P.H., is the program and evaluation manager for the University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities at Oregon Health & Science University. Lindsay leads the evaluation activities of the UCEDD’s core grant, oversees the Center’s 5-year work plan, and develops and manages outcome-based model programs for community members with disabilities, with a focus on health promotion for transition-age youth.