August 27, 2015
This past February, The Arc of Minnesota partnered with the University of Minnesota and DirectCourse to make four online curricula available to Minnesota families and people with disabilities absolutely free.
The Arc of Minnesota is a private, non-profit statewide voluntary organization that provides advocacy work and education that will further the efforts of inclusion and integration for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families.
“We were approached by U of M about our interest in partnering with them to make the College of Direct Support available to families,” says Don Lavin, Executive Director of The Arc of Minnesota. “I think we were chosen because we have a statewide network of affiliated chapters who have direct and intimate relationships with families and people with disabilities in Minnesota. We have some reach throughout the state, and we have partnerships with many disability advocacy organizations.”
Both the State of Minnesota and the University of Minnesota have been interested in trying to make the DirectCourse online training available to families and people with disabilities who self-direct their services. The Arc is offering all four of DirectCourse’s online curricula: The College of Direct Support (CDS), The College of Employment Services (CES), The College of Personal Assistance and Caregiving (CPAC), and The College of Recovery and Community Inclusion(CRCI).
By having access to these convenient, self paced online training courses, people receiving services and supports, and their substitute decision makers (friends and family members) are able to educate themselves on topics such as; such as cultural competence person centered planning, and personal care.
“For instance, there are families and people with disabilities who are often in a position to hire a direct support professional (DSP),” notes Lavin. “By accessing these online courses, families will have access to knowledge with research and best practices, and it puts them in a good position to hire more competent individuals or to help them evaluate the services they’re receiving.”
Lavin adds, “For families shopping for services, it gives them the tools to ask good questions and help them assess whether the service providers are in a position to deliver what their sons or daughters need.”
Arc Minnesota is working diligently to get the word out across the state, and encourage people to take advantage of this great opportunity. “Right now we’re helping with outreach, marketing and enrollment,” Lavin says. “We’re also following up to make sure that people taking the courses understand what they’re learning. And also providing feedback to the University on ways to make these courses better and even more accessible.”
Lavin remembers a family member discussing how challenging it is to get training, especially when a person has to work full time and help care for their family member—with myriad chores to do in any given day, finding time and getting away for training is difficult. “The online training allows them to take these courses when it’s convenient,”
Lavin says. “You can learn on weekends or evenings, start and stop the training as it is self-paced, and it even gives people a chance to measure their learning. It’s an exciting opportunity.”
Offering this training for free is also a big help, Lavin notes. “For families of people with disabilities, life gets kind of expensive. Access to high quality information and training that is no cost is a great proposition.”
Empowering families and people with disabilities through training is extremely important. “We can’t just be training service providers,” Lavin states. “We need to train people in the general community. If we’re going to get anywhere in promoting inclusive communities, we need to have better public education about living with a disability and how people can be helpful.”
Lavin also announced that the Arc Minnesota will be holding its Annual Conference on the themed “A Working Life” on October 24, 2015 at the Shoreview Community Center in Shoreview, Minnesota.
Arc Minnesota anticipates an audience of 300 family members, people with disabilities, and disability support professionals. He said the Annual Conference will feature a variety of timely topics to encourage families and self-advocates to consider the possibilities and benefits of integrated competitive employment. A session will be dedicated to online training opportunities available through DirectCourse, which will include course demos, learner success stories, and one-on-one enrollment assistance.
If you are a person with a disability or a substitute decision maker in the state of Minnesota and would like more information on this program, please visit the Arc’s website and consider attending the 2015 State Conference on October 24th – click here for more information!