DDC COVID Community Grant Recipients

June 29, 2020

In response to the hardship thatCOVID-19 has placed on people’s ability to stay connected and engaged, the Washington State DD Council invested $25,000 to help increase the ability of people with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic crisis.

Six grants were awarded to organizations across the state.

The following COVID-19 Community Grant recipients highlight areas of unmet needs and emerging challenges, which the Council will use to advocate for change at the systems level.

The Arc of King County

Description: Production of a video series about healthy living (“Getting Healthy with Eric”)designed by and for people with developmental disabilities, with interactive components (e.g. polls, quizzes, etc.)

Progress update:

Getting Healthy with Eric feels like visiting with a friend. He takes viewers into his kitchen, or to the neighborhood park, where he models independent living by cooking simple, healthy meals and ways to de-stress.

Eric [Matthes, series host] is exploring ways to empower people to make choices for themselves, showing possibilities by breaking them down into easy steps. It is a resource that families can share with their loved one and also introduces parents to self-determination in a natural setting and offers emerging advocates a role model.

The series has been a hit. The most popular has been a video on how to make a fruit parfait, followed by how (and why) to wear a face mask correctly. Plans are underway for at least seven more videos and the series will run at least through spring of 2021.

Partnering with Eric is Kyle Khachadurian, advocacy and communication specialist at The Arc of King County, who handles editing and distribution of the videos. Richard Mullen, Community Change Champions supervisor and African-American support coordinator, facilitates planning; and Ramona Hattendorf, director of advocacy, oversees the program.

Partnering with Eric is Kyle Khachadurian, advocacy and communication specialist at The Arc of King County, who handles editing and distribution of the videos. Richard Mullen, Community Change Champions supervisor and African-American support coordinator, facilitates planning; and Ramona Hattendorf, director of advocacy, oversees the program.

The series is shot by Eric using his phone, with help from an extender and stabilizing device and remote control. The series has also offered Eric and Kyle a great opportunity to learn videography. The Arc of King County hopes to continue capturing advocacy in action through video long after this project ends.

Asotin County Community Services

Description: Laptops and prepaid data cards for internet access to help ensure regular contact with those who are otherwise unable to connect due to lack of access to technology.

Progress update:

MT has quite a bit of baseball memorabilia in his room and he mentioned he would like to use the laptop to allow baseball content to be more accessible. MT already has an iPhone that was provided but he expressed that he was unsure of how to use it.

The phone will be easier to pick up for MT, using a voice command software built into it. The laptop will be a new skill for him, but once he learns how to use it will offer him better control and usage of the internet. The primary difference between the two is that the phone is very direct and reads back results based on what MT says whereas the laptop allows for greater control. The phone’s voice control is good for simple tasks (E.g.: Call someone for their weekly meetings), but can be troublesome doing more complicated things like searching the internet.

With the laptop, he will be using the built in screen reader provided by Microsoft to navigate his computer. It allows him to slow down the words as they are being read, repeat words he did not hear, skip to particular sections that he wants to read, and even look at individual letters in a word if he needs to.  MT will quickly be able to pick up the phone to continue connecting with services, but in the long run, the laptop will prove to be a great new skill to help him with his interests and services.

Community Colleges of Spokane Foundation—PACE Program

Description: Devices to loan out to students to participate in online classes and communicate with employment/community inclusion staff, peers, and teachers. Targeted to students who have indicated lack of access to technology as a barrier for registering for classes.

Progress update:

PACE (People Accessing Careers and Education) has been serving students with cognitive disabilities since 1984.  Never in our wildest dreams could we have envisioned how our world would be impacted overnight by a pandemic.  The program boasted robust offerings for students – exclusive instruction, inclusive education, summer internships and work-based training, mental health support and classes, and supported employment—but all of it was centered on face-to-face interaction.

In March 2020, we, along with everyone else, had to move to online interaction almost overnight.  Our staff and students reacted with the same professionalism and resilience that they have shown in so many other challenging situations: they rose to the challenge of this new environment.

Access to adequate technology, however, presented a problem. Many of our students were unable to attend classes online in Spring quarter because they lacked the hardware to do so.  Enter the COVID Community Grant!  With the successful award of this grant, we were able to purchase seven laptops dedicated to our students’ use.   They have been checked out on an as-needed basis and are allowing students from both our local community and some of our rural areas to attend class.

Student Jamie S. found that having a laptop made it easy for her to access her classes, as she had no other way to join.  She signed up for Geography and Reading 1.

Student Melanie B. lives in a group home in Chewelah, Washington which is 50 miles north of Spokane.  PACE used to offer face-to-face classes in nearby Colville, but we aren’t currently able to do so.  Melanie wanted to take more classes but didn’t have a computer.  She is current taking Microsoft Office 1 and Fit for Life 2: Dance online. Melanie said that she’ll use the information from her MS Office class to help her look for employment.

In order to make it to face-to-face classes on time, student Drew was having to leave his house very early in the morning to follow a complicated bus route.  Drew likes using the laptop because it allows him to join his “awesome” (his description) classes and to participate from home, which is a comfortable and safe environment. For many of our students, adding that level of comfort is key to reducing the anxiety they may feel in going out in public, especially during a pandemic.

A full list of PACE classes for each quarter can be found online.  Since we’re no longer bound by geography, students from anywhere can now access our classes.  Having these laptops for student use helps to remove that boundary.  PACE is thankful to the Washington Disabilities Council for providing this grant!

Easterseals Washington

Description: Addressing the challenge of people not having access to appropriate equipment to maintain health and wellness by helping people engage in virtual exercise classes.

Progress update:

Easterseals Washington offers two Adult Service Programs for people who experience developmental disabilities and disabilities due to aging—Gateway Adult Services in Bremerton and Eastside Adult Services in Bremerton. These programs are vitally important to our participants, providing social engagement, exercise, health monitoring, and caregiver support.

Due to COVID-19, we had to temporarily suspend these programs, but we immediately began looking for creative solutions to continue serving our participants and their families/caregivers. We quickly launched a telehealth program to give the people we serve (many of whom are in the high-risk category for COVID-19) better access to nursing consultations without needing to visit a doctor’s office as well as an online fitness program to help our participants stay active and establish healthy exercise routines at home.

After kicking off the fitness program, our activities director noticed that many participants had limited or no access to the appropriate equipment—making it difficult to do all of the exercises. Luckily, we learned about this funding opportunity from the Washington State Developmental Disabilities Council (DDC) and were able to apply quickly.  Today, our participants are staying happy, healthy and active thanks to this grant—something that is more important than ever!

“What I most like about the exercise class is strengthening my arms and legs, working out with my friends, and getting in shape. My favorite pieces of equipment are the ankle and arm weights.” –Andrew V., program participant

“This exercise class is very important to Joseph for his physical and mental conditions. He enjoys the exercise!” -Editha S., mother of Joseph, program participant

“Like a miracle, we heard Easterseals received an Exercise Equipment Grant. Andrea heard she would be getting free equipment to exercise with a group remotely. This was like sunshine to her life!“ -Idolina R., legal guardian


Description: Providing prepaid smart phones and one year of prepaid phone service (talk, text, data) to help people communicate with others in their community, stay connected with employers, use apps for health wellness, communicate during an emergency, etc.

Puyallup Tribe Adult Services Department

Description: Tablets for staff and clients to communicate with each other and teaching people to communicate virtually with family, friends, and healthcare providers.

DDC COVID Grants (pdf)

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