COVID-19 Stable Support for People With Disabilities
with Angela Williams of Easterseals
COVID-19 has created ripple effects across many fronts including employment, child care and services for people with disabilities.
Angela Williams, President and CEO of Easterseals, reveals how her organization has pivoted to stay connected with, and meet the needs of, those they serve.
June 24, 2020
Anderson: The COVID-19 pandemic has had a ripple effect, and it's disrupted many aspects of our daily lives. Its impacts are especially acute, though, for people who are living with disabilities, seniors, and veterans. Hello and welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers." I'm Tetiana Anderson. COVID-19 has also caused uncertainty, isolation, grief, and economic despair. Easterseals has been on the frontlines of dealing with some of the most vulnerable populations. Joining me now is Angela Williams. She is the CEO and president of Easterseals. Angela, thanks so much for being here.
Williams: Thanks. It's a pleasure to be with you.
Anderson: So, Angela, as a member -- board member, rather -- of Easterseals, I know how important it is to get the word out about the services and what Easterseals does. During COVID-19, what are some of the ways that the organization has been doing that?
Williams: As you know, people living with disabilities have an even more acute need for services, especially at a time where people are asked to stay at home and travel and opportunities are limited. We have been able to connect with our participants and with caregivers and family members using technology, which has been extremely helpful. And, of course, social media has been wonderful.
Anderson: So, Easterseals also has been using video messages, YouTube. I want to stop and just play a quick clip of one of those. Gold I'm at home, self-isolating. Woodburn: I'm at home, self-isolating. Brewer: I'm at home, self-isolating, Forrest: And I'm at home self-isolating. Novicki: We're doing our part to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Mitte: Just because you're not high-risk doesn't mean you can't pass it on to someone who is. Forrest: Like me. Jordan: Like me. Fowler: Like me.
Anderson: Angela, that video features actors who have disabilities, who are living with disabilities and working with disabilities. Why did you make that choice to showcase them?
Williams: We are so pleased to have the relationship with actors and filmmakers because what they're doing is normalizing disabilities. What we want to do is to make sure that people see themselves and know that a person with a disability is just like anybody else.
Anderson: So when coronavirus hit, it obviously impacted people all across the country. People still needed childcare. But when those stay-at-home orders were put in place, essential workers still had to go to work. So how did Easterseals step in to help fill that gap?
Williams: Some of our childcare centers were allowed to stay open during the pandemic just because we have the facilities and the skills to take care of all children, whether they are medically fragile or children that don't have any particular physical or developmental disabilities. We were there to support first responders that had to go to work. They could drop off their children and know that they were well taken care of. Additionally, those parents that have children with disabilities needed the support and continued care, so not only were we able to provide support in person, but we made sure that we used telehealth, we used technology to stay connected.
Anderson: And, you know, some of these individuals are so vulnerable that caregivers are often afraid to take them out of the house during this pandemic. How has Easterseals adapted to that, and what role has telehealth played?
Williams: What I'm really excited about is how our 68 affiliates across the country were able to pivot quickly to make sure that the people that we serve we stay connected with and still provide the services and therapies that we provide as nimbly as possible. So some of our affiliates, like our Southern California affiliate, created a YouTube video that showed parents how to access technology, how to use the iPad, how to talk to a child about how we're going to provide the therapies. We were, to the extent when we had access to personal protective equipment, able to make some home visits. But again, it's really tapping into technology, being creative. That's what helped us to provide support to our participants.
Anderson: And how concerned are you, and what is the organization doing to really prevent the idea that there could be more chronic conditions as a result of COVID-19? I mean, a lot of these people have issues that need to be dealt with very, very carefully.
Williams: One of the things that Easterseals has been doing for so many years is being an advocate for people with disabilities. We have participated in numerous collective groups. We've coordinated efforts with other disability groups, whether they are providers, to come up with solutions that meet the needs of people with disabilities. And most recently, we've been able to have conversations with key insurance providers to say, "How can we partner and come up with products and ways of doing business that support your covered lives and support the people that we serve?"
Anderson: Angela, if people want more information about Easterseals, where should they go online?
Williams: They can find Easterseals at easterseals.com. And on our website, there are tons of information. There's tons of activities and different videos and toolkits that people can access, whether it's serving seniors, whether it's serving children or other adults. So please visit our website at easterseals.com to find a great deal of information.
Anderson: Angela Williams from Easterseals. Thank you so much for being here.
Williams: Thank you. It's a pleasure to be with you.
Anderson: And thanks to our audience, as well, for joining us. For more great conversations with leaders in your own community and across the nation, be sure to visit ComcastNewsmakers.com. I'm Tetiana Anderson.