Outreach - Reaching the Unserved and Underserved

Picture of members of the Outreach Committee smiling and reaching their arms out forward

The Ohio Developmental Disabilities Council conducts outreach activities to identify individuals with developmental disabilities and their families who otherwise might not come to the attention of the Council and enable individuals and families to obtain services, individualized supports and other forms of assistance including access to special adaptation of generic community or specialized services. 

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Why is outreach important?

Collage of pictures of people with different types of disabilities and from different ethic and racial groups.The purpose of outreach is reaching out to unserved and underserved populations. It is important to reach out to these populations because it is an expectation of programs designed to serve people with developmental disabilities, such as the Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act of 2000 (DD Act). The DD Act requires each state DD Council to engage in advocacy, capacity building, and systemic change activities. These activities must be culturally competent, inclusive and include the unserved and underserved.

Read the DD Assistive and Bill of Rights Act and its outreach requirement: DD Act (Public Law 106-402)

Besides being required by the DD Act, the Ohio DD Council considers outreach important for reasons of equity. Despite all of our best efforts, certain populations continue to fall between the cracks. It is simply not fair for some people to have all the services they need - and sometimes more - and others to have nothing.  

Council’s overall goal with outreach is to bring unserved and underserved people with developmental disabilities to the table to participate in advocacy initiatives in the disability community. If we do not reach out to unserved and underserved populations, their numbers will increase, as will the gravity of their situation.

Finally, when we reach out to populations who are unserved and underserved, we often find that there are barriers - some of which may be cultural, some of which may have other roots - that can be easily overcome. But if we never reach out, we will never find out how easy it is to include another segment of our population. And that's what the DD Act is all about - inclusion. 

Learn more about the the importance and responsibility of DD Council to conduct outreach activities to the unserved and underserved groups within the developmental disabilities population from Sheryl Mattney, the technical assistance director of the National Association of Council on Developmental Disabilities (NACDD). In the video below, Sheryl talks about the importance of Council’s work including diversity through outreach activities and stresses how diversity enhances Council’s mission to make the state more inclusive for people with developmental disabilities by not only having a diverse group of members, but also by seeking diverse organizations to apply for grants. Watch Sheryl's video on DD Council's YouTube Channel at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fR43ZH2-0sg or click on the video below. You can also see what Ohio and other state DD Council's are doing in a report from the NACDD, From Outreach to Engagement: Culturally and Linguistically Competent Engagement of Members and Communities

Who are the “unserved” and “underserved”?

Picture of people with different types of disabilities and from different ethic and racial populations.The DD Act states that the unserved and underserved includes, but is not limited to, populations from racial and ethnic minority backgrounds, disadvantaged individuals with limited English proficiency, individuals from underserved geographic areas (rural or Urban), and specific groups of individuals within the population of individuals with developmental disabilities, including individuals who require assistive technology in order to participate in and contribute to community life.

In addition, the Ohio DD Council considers other ways to view this classification of unserved and underserved:

  • Ethnic, cultural, and disability groups that typically do not receive services and supports because of language or cultural barriers.
  • People whose voices are not heard because they don’t ask.
  • People who are not “heard” because they make up such a small percentage of the population.
  • People who are isolated from the mainstream.

DD Council's Outreach Committee

Logo of two arms and the words Community OutreachThe Ohio DD Council's Outreach Committee began in 2002 as a sub-committee charged with focusing on people with disabilities who are unserved or underserved, overlooked or excluded from needed services. The sub-committee reported to the executive committee and offered recommendations, but could not make final decisions. Gradually the sub-committee's approach to awarding grant funds for this work became fine-tuned. At that time, the group was ready to become a standing committee and the change was approved by DD Council in 2012. 

Currently, the Outreach Committee continues to focus on the niches within the developmental disabilities population that need assistance. For example, the Amish community is one that has many individuals in need of services, and represents certain cultural differences that must be understood in the process of offering services. Appalachian areas is another, along with many more.

In March 2017, the Outcomes Management Group, Ltd. conducted an evaluation of the Ohio DD Council's outreach outcomes achieved from 2002 to 2016 as a result of Council's focus on outreach to unserved/underserved individuals with developmental disabilities and their families in Ohio. The report highlights ten targeted grants, defines operational best practices, details benchmarks for other state councils; and determines how best to move forward. You can read the report here, which can serve as a guide for other DD Council's to follow in their work: Unserved/Underserved Populations Outreach Outcomes Evaluation Report

Ensuring our grants include outreach objectives

One of the primary purposes of the Ohio Developmental Disabilities Council is to offer grant opportunities. As part of the application process, applicants are required to include specific objectives and activities related to their strategy to incorporate and include unserved and underserved communities. The Ohio DD Council places great emphasis on this and applicants and grantees who do not take proactive steps to ensure that project activities contain active efforts to include unserved and underserved populations will not succeed. It is not enough to classify people with disabilities as disadvantaged individuals. Grantees must be more targeted in their efforts. 

The following questions are included in the grant application.

  • Who are the unserved/underserved population(s) in your project area?
  • Identify the unserved/underserved population(s) you plan to serve.
  • Describe their needs and any barriers to service.
  • Describe the affirmative or proactive outreach activities you will perform. What are the expected outcomes?
  • List key community people/organizations you will work with to serve the unserved/underserved population(s).
  • What are your plans to sustain outreach activities?
  • How will you measure progress towards your outreach goals?
  • What process will you use to address unforeseen barriers?
  • To the extent possible, describe how this project will identify and report disparities among the population(s) you plan to serve, including, but not limited to, culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. 

The purpose of the questions is to provoke applicants to do critical thinking on which population is considered unserved or underserved in the project area and how best to collaborate with and include those individuals in project activities and outcomes.

Reach-Out e-Diversity News and other publications

Logo for the ReachOut e-Diversity NewsletterReachOut e-Diversity News: This is a bi-monthly newsletter, funded by a grant through the Outreach Committee, providing information on the need to promote more interagency collaboration and coordination that results in agencies providing culturally competent services to the unserved and underserved populations in Ohio. 

DD Council's Outreach Publications: The Ohio DD Council offers several online and print publications that detail the work of the Outreach initiatives and booklets about specific projects. 

Questions? Contact us for more information

Picture of Ohio DD Council staff person Ken Latham

Do you have questions or comments about Ohio DD Council's Outreach Initiatives? Contact Ken Latham, program staff person over the Outreach Initiatives. 

By phone: 614-644-5546

By email: kenneth.latham@dodd.ohio.gov