We have successfully helped businesses expand their client base by
welcoming, accommodating, and including people of all abilities.
The City of Greensboro received an introductory presentation regarding living with a disability and social inclusion in the community from InFocus Advocacy (IFA), during their “Disability Awareness Training” on December 14, 2022. Along with four other rotating activity stations, IFA provided these services to leaders of the City of Greensboro, including the City Council, City Manager’s Office, and Department Heads. In support of an inclusive community, by utilizing trained self-advocates as consultants on the IFA team, we heightened their awareness of citizens with disabilities by helping them understand their needs and preferences, and how the city could become more welcoming, accessible, and accommodating. Four IFA self-advocates provided real-life experiences of the barriers they face on a daily basis and solutions that could benefit and affect marginalized members of the community.
Over the course of 2 months in 2018, our team trained over 120 Greensboro Bound Literary Festival volunteers on the value of creating an inclusive, accessible event held in Greensboro, NC. Inspired by their own interest in literature and community festivals, our consultants educated volunteers about participation barriers, accommodations, signage, people-first language, and communication styles during 8 independent sessions selected to accommodate festival volunteer schedules. With over 3,000 festival attendees, organizers expressed appreciation for the meaningful insight shared by our consultants, noting the increase in skills and confidence of volunteers serving a diverse audience.
In 2015, the FJC, in partnership with InFocus Advocacy and the University of North Carolina Greensboro, Department of Community & Therapeutic Recreation began a comprehensive study of 6 of their existing summer camps over 3 years. A top-down/bottom-up study of these camps helped us identify and implement camp leadership strategies as well as best practices for counselors and activity specialists in support of camp inclusion. Additionally, effective marketing strategies and communication with campers’ family members were addressed. During the course of this collaboration, the cohort of 6 camps were able to build upon lessons learned, which contributed to their movement along the continuum of inclusion, where camps became socially inclusive and models for other camps under the agency’s umbrella.
As a large workplace with over ten thousand employees, Cone Health also serves to provide on-the-job training for students with a disability during their last year of high school. Not all employees have the confidence or skillset to support a coworker with a disability. In 2019, our team provided training for a select group of Cone Health employees to educate and encourage engagement between coworkers of varying abilities. With our IFA consultants discussing their own interests, skills, and support needs, they quickly established rapport with the attendees. The carryover from understanding coworkers of varying abilities to patient care will be a natural outcome.
“The training inspired everyone. The feedback was all great!” Tammy Maddox, Project SEARCH Instructor for Guilford County Schools at Cone Health Moses Cone Hospital.
NCFolkFest (est. 2018) hosted a symposium in Greensboro, NC in 2021 to provide experiential learning opportunities for staff and event planners of large outdoor arts events, just as the festival prepared to begin. As a funded grant project for Majestic Collaborations, symposium participants joined us from across NC. The symposium addressed safety, accessibility, sustainability, and community engagement. IFA consultants provided a walking and rolling tour of multiple city blocks on the festival grounds, while teaching best practices for serving patrons with both visible and invisible disabilities. Topics included marketing, transportation, physical access, integrated seating, universal design of location and programming, language processing disorders, and sensory processing disorders.
Habitat for Humanity International is a US non-governmental and nonprofit organization that builds homes and seeks to build communities. In the fall of 2021, Habitat partnered with IFA to provide their staff with a virtual lunch-and-learn session following their organization’s self-assessment of disability awareness, and in recognition of National Disability Awareness Month. Habitat’s DiversAbility team realized the need to gain additional insight on ways they could welcome and accommodate coworkers with diverse abilities. Habitat staff across the country participated with our team in an interactive presentation, gleaning valuable information from the first hand experiences of our self-advocate consultants. Topics included language, physical access, and overcoming attitudinal barriers.
InFocus Advocacy Executive Directors & IFA consultants worked together with museum leaders to design a training session which built competence, comfort, and rapport between docents and museum patrons. Utilizing a current exhibit, different perspectives were shared regarding the desires and needs of people of varying abilities. Consultants participated in docent led exhibit tours and museum community conversations in order to recommend necessary adaptations and modifications for inclusion. Approximately 25 docents were trained to provide appropriate inclusive services in 2018, with training for an additional group of docents in 2019. The Weatherspoon reported that docents expressed profound gratitude for this experience and for the depth of new knowledge and understanding following their training.
In 2020, we were asked to expand the knowledge base of 30 Cape Fear Vocational Services supported employment professionals who serve as a bridge between individuals with a disability and potential employers. Our team provided an overview of working with businesses who have little to no experience in hiring an employee with a disability. Four IFA consultants shared personal insight that provided CFVS staff with new, creative approaches to job matching. Better matches foster sustainable employment. “The InFocus team explained how these benefits are not limited to individuals with disabilities, but also influence the bottom line of businesses who profit from more inclusive environments for their customers.” Kevin Cook, Regional Director of Vocational Services, Cape Fear Vocational Services.
Increasing interest and demand for postsecondary education opportunities has led to a need for support staff on many college campuses. In 2019, InFocus Advocacy® hired self-advocate consultants who prepared Monarch College Support Service staff for the provision of person-centered support for students with varying abilities. As recent graduates themselves, these consultants enriched the InFocus Advocacy team's training by sharing their own college experience in the Beyond Academics postsecondary education program at UNC Greensboro.
Junior Achievement is a non-profit organization that works to inspire and prepare young people to succeed in a global economy. They work to give youth tools they need to make decisions about their education and career path, by providing opportunities for community volunteers to share personal experiences and critical life skills. InFocus Advocacy received an invitation to partner with Junior Achievement in their Career Speaker Series, speaking to students across the Triad. InFocus Advocacy consultants each shared their career journey through an online recorded panel discussion, “Celebrating Different Abilities in the Workforce.” The IFA team discussed what they hope employers and coworkers will do to support and celebrate differences in providing a more welcoming, accommodating, and inclusive community.
In 2016, leadership at Proehlific Park desired to improve customer service for patrons with a disability and their families. IFA consultants provided feedback on access, customer service, and an untapped consumer market. Recommendations on signage, interactions with those using a wheelchair, communication when there are expressive language deficits, and adaptations to gym policies were included in our training. In a pre- and post- training evaluation, staff identified improvement in their ability to welcome and include people with disabilities, identify needs, make necessary adaptations to accommodate customers’ needs, and encourage an environment of social inclusion between clientele.
With the rise in numbers of individuals impacted by a disability, GDPI requested an assessment of their planned family movie night to be held in center city. A site visit was made by the InFocus Advocacy team to review physical and logistical plans for serving a broad community that included those with sensory challenges, altered mobility, and intellectual disability, as well as their friends and family members. Four IFA consultants participated in the assessment and subsequent training of GDPI staff and 40 park volunteers who sought to increase event accessibility for every family. An audience survey conducted by GDPI revealed that over half of the attendees, in fact, participated in the movie night because it was promoted and structured as an inclusive event.
Triad Stage is a southeast regional professional theater in Greensboro, NC known to be welcoming and inclusive of its diverse community. In recognition of individuals with sensory processing concerns, and the limits that imposes on families, we were retained to guide in the development of sensory-friendly theater performances. This included an assessment of physical space, lighting, sound, and the establishment of a “chill zone” where an individual could freely move about during a performance, yet remain in the audience with family members, all enjoying the performance together. Four IFA consultants with a passion for live theater led the way in training Triad Stage staff from the box office to executive leadership. The inaugural sensory-friendly performance was enjoyed by over 150 guests. Bravo!
Keshet is an organization that brings classroom experiences, camps, sports, social and vocational activities, and residential opportunities to 600 people with disabilities and special needs each year. The IFA process provided a unique tool for participants and staff to reflect upon and share goals for greater community access and richer lives. A combination of facilitated photography and group discussion provided an avenue for collecting responses to questions about participants’ community experiences and barriers encountered. Comprehensive IFA analyses helped interpret unique perspectives of Keshet participants, adding to staff insights, supporting friendships, and educating the broader community about social inclusion. IFA provided guidance and suggestions on sharing this work through public exhibitions.