The National Indian Council on Aging (NICOA) has released a toolkit dedicated to increasing awareness and knowledge of the needs of American Indian and Alaska Native persons living with disabilities. The toolkit — “Understanding Disabilities in American Indian & Alaska Native Communities” — contains information about disabilities, tribes and resources.
Gathering national technical experts, NICOA updated and expanded this valuable resource, first developed by the National Council on Disability in 2003, with the latest data and more recent resources. Thanks to funding from the Administration for Community Living / Administration on Aging, this wonderful new toolkit is now available to download.
The resource is divided into dedicated sections for healthy living, education, independent living, vocational rehabilitation and employment resources, assistive technology, housing and facilities, and transportation. You will find suggestions for improving services, providing protections, and utilizing resources in local tribal communities for people with disabilities. Additional information provides overviews on federal disabilities laws, initiatives, agencies, and organizations that support work with Native individuals with disabilities and communities.
The toolkit is of high quality in its description of the problems facing American Indian and Alaska Native students with disabilities. In the education section, the toolkit reviews individualized education programs (IEPs), outlines what each IEP should include, and provides tips for parents as they work with their child’s school to develop an IEP. The education section also lists organization contact information for supports and resources. While the other sections are not focused on educational issues, there are still valuable resources and contact information for anyone working with Native students with disabilities.
The most unique feature of this toolkit are the stories featuring people living with a disability. They reflect on their life, their relationship to the Native disability community, and how their disability has made life both more fulfilling and, at times, more challenging.
The trainings are focused on understanding the needs of American Indian and Alaska Native elders and best practices in Indian Country. Native elders and their communities can use these trainings to celebrate — through storytelling — the profound teachings of our elders.
The information within the toolkit addresses an urgent need of Native people today and has been formatted for easy accessibility. This resource has the potential to have a high impact on its target population through the dissemination of critical information to parents, community members, tribes, and schools.
This project is dedicated to building bridges between tribes and those in the Aging Network who want to help but are not sure how to begin. It is our hope that this guide assists tribes and their allies as they work together to make good decisions about our shared future.