College of Education Center on Disability Studies (CDS) faculty members, Sara Kaʻimipono Banks, Chin Lee, Kiriko Takahashi, and Jennifer Tarnay, were funded nearly $5,000,000 in combined grant awards for projects focused on improving Native Hawaiian student success, creating opportunities for individuals with disabilities to achieve self-sufficiency, and broadening vaccine access for hard to reach individuals and those with disabilities.
Ulu A‘e Transitions is a Native Hawaiian Education grant program that will provide engaging strategies proven to improve academic achievement for Native Hawaiian students through experiential, relevant curricula as well as hands-on video production. CDS Junior Specialist Banks is the director of the three-year program, which will receive $850,000 each year and serve an estimated 1,800 students, 300 parents, and 50 educators mainly in the Hawaiʻi Department of Education (HIDOE) Windward District.
“This program supports students to strengthen their sense of belonging as they transition from one school to another,” Banks stated. “A sense of belonging and personal resiliency is essential for the academic achievement, character, physical, and social-emotional well-being of all our students to achieve their fullest potential.”
CDS Junior Specialist Lee is the director of two recently funded projects. Hawaiʻi WIPA (Work Incentives Planning and Assistance) is a six-year Social Security Administration funded program that provides in-depth counseling to individuals receiving Social Security Disability Insurance and/or Supplemental Security Income. The goal of the program, which will receive $155,000 per year, is to enable individuals with these disability benefits to make informed choices about work and to support working beneficiaries to make a successful transition to self-sufficiency.
“This award makes it possible for us to serve more people and a larger region,” Lee shared. “We will be providing free benefits counseling on all Hawaiian Islands, Guam, Northern Marianas, and American Sāmoa.”
DVR Transition Education & Benefits Planning, also under the direction of Lee, is a three-year program that will be awarded $348,000 per year by the Hawaiʻi Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR). The three components of the program – Transition Education, Disability Benefits Planning, and Outreach – were designed to enable people with disabilities to make informed choices and a successful transition to self-sufficiency.
Lee said, “This is an important service for those considering work for the first time or returning to work. Our team demystifies the Social Security processes and labyrinth of rules and regulations.”
CDS Interim Director Kiriko Takahashi is the director of two UCEDD (University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities Education, Research, and Service) grant projects: Expanding Disabilities Network’s (UCEDDs) Access to COVID-19 Vaccines and Access to COVID-19 Vaccines. Both programs aim to increase vaccine access for people with disabilities and for those who are hard to reach because of accessibility to transportation, information, communication, scheduling, or other issues. Each will receive $59,701 from UCEDD and Pacific Basin UCEDD.
“This project is a supplemental fund to our UCEDD funds in support of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to ensure vaccines are equally accessible to the disability population,” said Takahashi. “It is critical that we reach this population as people with disabilities may be at higher risk of severe illness due to COVID-19.”
Listen to the UCEDD “Sleeve Up at this link: http://go.hawaii.edu/sRP
AUCD Dissemination Innovators Mini-grant is a $15,000 Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) and CDC grant project led by CDS Junior Specialist Jennifer Tarnay. Addressing COVID-19 vaccine access and confidence among people with disabilities, the project will make information accessible with ASL, captions, and voiceover for the Deaf, hard-of-hearing, and deaf-blind communities. It will also provide the same information in a variety of languages used in Hawaiʻi and across the Pacific.
Tarnay stated, “This award has allowed us the opportunity to not only improve access of valuable CDC information related to COVID-19 and to vaccines for our communities, but to increase awareness across the board on the importance of ensuring critical information is provided in an accessible format for all.”