Contributor Andre Greene
At this time, all ConnectAbility support groups and events are virtual. We look forward to meeting in person again once it is safer to do so.
Prior to the COVID pandemic, ConnectAbility hosted over 20 support groups in our space. We provided a meeting place for several local organizations to facilitate groups that serve the disability community. In addition, we hosted our own events geared to support the disability community, which ranged from social groups to educational speaker presentations.
As we plan for individuals to physically return to groups and events in our space, ConnectAbility will be limiting the number of attendees to accommodate for social distancing and requiring all attendees to wear masks. Every group and event will require a registration or RSVP for those who wish to attend in person.
Those who wish to continue to access the groups and events virtually can simply join as they have during the pandemic. Executive director, Dawn Dixon, says, “This will allow people to attend however they feel most comfortable and will continue to provide the connections we have established with many during the pandemic.”
The virtual home meetings have allowed those from the disability community, who perhaps couldn’t attend group discussions previously, to become more involved, creating a sense of virtual community. Joseph Saucedo is a regular attendee of the various virtual groups that ConnectAbility facilitated during the pandemic. His mother Mary, stated, “At first, we were worried about not having access to resources because of the pandemic, but he has been involved in many different programs on a regular basis.” To ensure that continues, “the ConnectAbility strategy will be to offer groups both in person and virtually,” Dixon said.
The team at ConnectAbility will adhere to the recommended Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance so that attendees’ safety remains a priority. Tables will be sanitized between each group, all food and beverages will be individually prepackaged, and masks will be worn at all times. “Since we are housed in a rehabilitation hospital, we are following the protocols put in place by the hospital, which are somewhat more stringent than other types of businesses,” says Dixon.
Staff members of ConnectAbility will begin visiting people again in hospitals for care coordination, as hospitals allow visitors. Home visits will return as well if the client feels comfortable. Care Coordinators will conduct a COVID-19 screening prior to the going into any home and will be wearing masks at all times.
Lockdowns over the past 17 months have forced many from the ConnectAbility community to “home experiment,” as in person meetings came to a standstill. ConnectAbility will continue serving the entire San Antonio community by linking people with life-altering disabilities to the resources they need. Saucedo believes being able to make virtual meetings has allowed him to become more involved with the “virtual” community. Saucedo’s mother said it may be a bit of a physical challenge, but looks forward to joining in person ConnectAbility events as well.
Now as many places continue to open, while COVID-19 cases also increase, many organizations and institutions that serve the disability community are considering a “hybrid” model for the ability to continue making connections. This would allow for those who are ready and able to return to groups in person to physically attend, while also providing those who are unable or uncomfortable to attend in person the ability to still join virtually.