Community outreach is a subject that is actually one of the four primary areas RSA asked the OIB TAC to address in technical assistance and training. Many states list community outreach as a major challenge and an area that they feel they need help with on the annual 7ob form. I know community outreach is also an area that often gets pushed to the bottom of the long list of things to do, as everyone is very busy serving clients. However, community outreach is essential, and I know that all of you believe this as well-as we get many requests for “how to” on this topic.
To help address this topic, the OIB TAC developed two courses on Community Outreach, which can be found at www.oib-tac.org
I hope you will take the time to visit the website and take the 1 hour courses and recommend them to your staff. I know they are full of valuable and helpful information-as I myself have taken them and in my prior position as the CEO of a Lighthouse had staff take these courses on community outreach.
There are really two types of community outreach facing state OIB programs.
First, outreach to the community to access referrals of individuals who need services through the OIB programs. Second, community outreach to enhance advocacy and awareness of visual impairment and community integration of individuals who are visually impaired. Depending on the situation and setting, both types of community outreach can be provided at the same time.
Community outreach to access referrals should include:
• Eye care providers (ophthalmologists and optometrists)
• Area Aging on Aging and senior centers
• Local senior services networking groups
• Social workers in local senior service and social service providers
• Health fairs
Having a good brochure and website that explains your services is important. In addition, staff who answer the telephone in your office should be familiar with your programs, referral and eligibility policies and procedures, and be able to answer some basic questions about the training to be provided. Having a basic referral form that can be provided to the community contacts, such as eye care providers and social services organizations, can often facilitate ease of referrals.
Community outreach that promotes greater advocacy and awareness requires a “presentation.”
The individual designated to do a community outreach presentation should be trained, be knowledgeable, and be a good speaker. Visual aids, such as simulator glasses (which can be easily hand made), bump dots, talking devices, and other interesting items that promote accessibility in daily living can really add to a presentation. The goal of this community outreach presentation is to help individuals access your services, and then upon completion be able to integrate back into the community. If you can help a senior center understand how a person with a visual impairment can continue to play cards (large print playing cards), get around safely and independently (using a long cane and having an orientation), and fully participate this will be a big win for all.
Here are a few questions to consider in advance of the April 10 OIB program managers monthly conference call.
What is the most innovative strategy you have used to find referrals to your OIB program?
What is the most innovative thing you have done to promote awareness and advocacy in your state?
Feel free to start discussing…. And we will have a few provide more clarification on the April 10 call via email.
In addition, let us know if you have specific questions regarding community outreach you’d like us to discuss.