More than ever, American Indians and Alaska Natives face some of the greatest challenges in the United States. Resources — including food, housing, medical care and family support services — have been inaccessible or nonexistent for years. During the COVID-19 pandemic, those resources have become even scarcer. According to researchers at the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, the COVID-19 crisis is “devastating tribes’ abilities to fund their governmental services and forcing tribes to make painful decisions to lay off employees, drop workers’ insurance coverage, deplete assets and/or take on more debt.” At the same time, some Native communities have experienced disproportionately high numbers of COVID-19 infections and deaths.
Last year 2,614 people contacted FHI 360’s National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities with urgent questions. What’s an IEP? What does it mean when a teacher says my child has AD/HD? Where can I find other parents of deaf children?
And those were only the calls and emails. Thousands of others came to the center’s website and scoured its online database.
The center, which goes by the acronym NICHCY (pronounced NEE-chee), now has a new way to get information to parents, teachers, and others whose lives are touched by children with disabilities: a smartphone app. With the touch of a finger on an iPhone or a Droid, users can now literally tap into NICHCY’s extensive database of hundreds state organizations and local parent centers.
“Some of the information requests are our job to answer. But a lot are really for other organizations,” explains Elaine Mulligan, NICHCY’s project director. “We’re referring parents out to local centers all the time. DisAbility Connect means they can now refer themselves.”
Amar Trivedi developed DisAbility Connect. He says NICHCY’s database translates perfectly into a mobile app because users need site-specific information and can be immediately connected to the organization’s email address, phone number, and website. And the best part, Trivedi says, is that when NICHCY updates its information online, the app will also automatically update — meaning that no parent rushing to an IEP meeting will be left with too little information too late.
For more information about NICHCY, visit their website here.