A Brief Introduction to Planning Virtual or Hybrid Events
July 2023 DETAC-2023-GEN-3
Centers for Independent Living (CIL) are often a community hub where people with disabilities come to build social connections with peers, learn new skills, discover resources to assist them in living in the communities of their choice, and advocate for policies and supports that ensure that community means everyone. Across the country, the recent COVID-19 pandemic tested CILs’ ability to serve as a community center for those with all types of disabilities. CILs, like many organizations across the country, had to dip their toes into the virtual waters, and for some, it was the first time. Although communities are re-opening for many in person events, as a movement, Independent Living (IL) needs to continue to offer virtual options for their consumers. Individuals who are at the highest risk for COVID-19 can still participate in events with a virtual option without risking exposure. Also, especially in rural America, access to transportation and reliable personal care assistance creates barriers for those who want to attend community events in person. Another bonus of virtual connections is the unique opportunity it creates for expanding peer networks of those in rural areas. Whereas someone may have been the only person in their small community they know with a disability or with shared experiences, virtual options allow your organization to connect people from many rural areas together for more robust experiences, and for your benefit to have more individuals attending your event.
Of course, we understand that there are barriers to virtual events as well; we know that the internet can be unpredictable, there are different access and accommodations that need to be sorted out, and the learning curve for getting consumers to adapt to new technology can sometimes be slow going. However, the disability community is no stranger to trying new things, even if it is hard, and getting a little creative when it comes to involving our community. We hope this brief will help your organization to work out some of the virtual kinks in your events.