We educate and advocate for disability equity and inclusion in healthcare, education, and recreation to preserve civil and human rights.
Why It’s Important
The COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 & 2021 emphasized gross inequities in the ability for the disability community to access healthcare, education, and recreation. The Play Brigade broadened our offerings beyond recreation to address and keep pace with the most pressing issues in the the disability community. We recognized that although ADA and FAPE and other federal and state laws are designed to protect this community, there is a lack of advocacy and watchdog efforts to ensure this community has access to the services and supports needed. We saw children who require 1:1 nursing in school excluded from education; we saw access to nursing and other medically necessary home health services disappear beyond reach, and we are seeing that as the Covid restrictions are lifting, Boston is scaling back on restaurant patio seating that accommodated diners with disabilities for the first time as a positive unintended consequence. There is also still a dearth of recreation location and programs that are truly inclusive.
What We’re Doing About It
The Play Brigade has a strategic plan to effectively address each of these issues, with the goal of Boston improving outcomes for this community that has been largely underserved and unrecognized. There are several contributing factors that we have been working to address through our advocacy work: a need for appropriate alternative services, better understanding and collaboration between governmental agencies and departments, an increase in knowledge of resources among families, and better compliance with disability law by city agencies and municipalities. Currently there are over 1000 children in Boston who need nursing services so that they can simply attend school. Unless these deficits can be addressed, that number will most likely increase. More parents and community members must be equipped to provide the same kind of watchdog advocacy that The Play Brigade has provided since 2014. No one has done what we’ve done or is currently doing what we are doing which makes us well-positioned to lead the charge to address the dire needs of these children and their families across all three pillars of healthcare, education, and recreation.
What’s the Plan?
The starting point of our efforts is our pending launch of “Include U” – an information
clearinghouse that people can access through the Play Brigade website. The focus of Include U will be to equip families and community members with advocacy skills which will multiply the efforts of our organization to address our priority areas of healthcare, education, and recreation/community participation. Through documents, how-to guides, stories of advocacy success, and videos, anyone accessing Include U will have the tools they need to make a difference for themselves and others.
Secondly, we will use our track record of advocating with municipalities over the last eight years to bring DESE, OLTSS, and other community organizations and governmental agencies to the table to find common ground in the willingness to meet the needs of the families of children with disabilities. The baseline goal will be to create a situation where children can receive the services that the state has determined are medically necessary for them to live at home and attend their community school. While we may not be able to address the shortage of nurses that compounds the issue here, we can work with these various offices and organizations to come up with alternative solutions such as the use of paramedics with school settings since paramedics are trained in the basic life-saving procedures that are most needed for a child with a disability to be in school.
Lastly, we will utilize social media and print marketing to produce signage, guides, and stories that will equip and encourage sports and entertainment venues, theaters, and restaurants to continue their efforts to provide accessible seating for their patrons. This initiative was made necessary by Covid restrictions that limited seating to outdoor patios. The city of Boston participated in the revitalizing of the dining scene for families of children with disabilities in Boston (perhaps unknowingly) by giving up city parking spaces and providing ramps and other resources for restaurants to expand their outdoor seating into those spaces. Our fear is that as Covid restrictions are removed that things will go back to “normal” since many restaurants and the city are unaware of the universal benefit they provided. We will work to make those changes permanent and even encourage restaurants to expand what they’ve done outdoors to make their entire eating spaces accessible.