Understanding and Creating Equity Around Disability

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(DC Studio/DC Studio -

Easterseals is leading the way to full equity, inclusion, and access through life-changing disability and community services

For more than 100 years, Easterseals has worked tirelessly with our partners to enhance quality of life and expand local access to healthcare, education, and employment opportunities.

Easterseals Southern California (ESSC) is the largest provider of disability services in California and one of the largest in the country. ESSC’s strength is in our diversity and inclusive culture. We are committed to making sure our leaders, staff, volunteers and partnerships are as diverse as the communities we serve.

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Kimberly Cohn is the Chief Markting Communications Officer at Easterseals Southern California.
(John Riedy)

Easterseals, in action and advocacy, prioritizes equity, respect and belonging. With a staff of 2,500 professionals, the organization provides services to more than 15,000 people and their families throughout Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Imperial, Kern, and Ventura counties.

Through programs and services tailored to meet the needs of individuals, ESSC supports full participation and inclusion within the local community. From early childhood programs for the critical first five years to autism services, daily and independent living services for adults, senior services, employment programs, veterans’ services, and more. Easterseals’ public education, policy and advocacy initiatives positively shape perceptions and address the urgent and evolving needs of the one-in-four Americans with disabilities today. Easterseals is empowering people with disabilities, families and communities to be full and equal participants in society.

ESSC’s bold Vision and Impact Plan - which addresses the needs of the disability community, diverse in race, gender, sexual orientation, age, religion and culture - defines how the organization supports people with disabilities now and in the future. The goal is to make Southern California the most inclusive place for people with disabilities to live, learn, work and play by 2030. In addition, ESSC has built a workplace and communities where everyone belongs. As a result, ESSC has developed two initiatives to support those goals:

RISE (Respect, Inclusion, Self-awareness and Equity) focuses on building a diverse and inclusive workplace. Through this program, staff training opportunities support inclusion within the workplace and inclusion affecting the participants who receive ESSC’s services. Trainings have included “Disability in the Black Community,” “Subtle Acts of Exclusion,”

“Understanding Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity” and “Awareness and Disability Training,” to list a few. Staff also participated in listening circles, sharing and learning from each other’s diverse experiences as individuals, and as direct-care professionals. RISE extends to the organization’s talent recruitment efforts with tailored outreach to hire staff representative of the populations the organization serves. IDEA (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access) ensures ESSC’s services are inclusive for the diverse populations the organization serves and advances health equity in our communities. In particular, IDEA addresses the disparity in access to early autism diagnosis in communities of color and underserved communities by reaching out and providing free diagnostic services and referrals to therapy providers, and by raising awareness in the community itself.

Long excluded and often overlooked, people with disabilities are supported by ESSC to thrive, be fully included, and have equity and access. ESSC continues on the path toward supporting staff, participants and their families to be partners in building a more inclusive community.