Ways CILs Can Sustain Engagement of Youth with Disabilities from Minority Backgrounds: Focus Group Findings
- Ensure programs and activities are free of judgment and discrimination. For example, CILs can engage young adults to co-create ground rules for engagement. This would build consensus on positive behaviors that foster a welcoming and inclusive environment and identify negative behaviors that the CIL or program will not tolerate in the group. CILs can also include a statement of confidentiality for participants’ contact information in the ground rules or code of conduct. CILs can display this code of conduct on the CIL’s website and include a link to this landing page in outreach materials. Facilitators can reference these ground rules at the beginning of meetings or activities.
- Specify expectations of participants in outreach materials. Such expectations might include costs associated with the program or activity or attire requirements.
We conducted three virtual focus groups with out-of-school youth (OSY) with disabilities who come from minority backgrounds to learn about how Centers for Independent Living (CILs) can improve their outreach and programs for this population. Conducted over Zoom in June 2022, each focus group included 7 to 10 participants who lived in Illinois, New York City, or South Carolina. Participants shared that CIL staff interested in connecting with youth from minority backgrounds might consider strengthening their strategies to sustain participant engagement. When deciding to stay involved in a new group or program, participants’ first impressions were key. Program staff can provide a warm welcome to the group by asking questions to learn more about attendees, thanking them for attending, and accepting them as they are, without judgment. CILs can reflect their dedication to creating environments that are authentic and free from discrimination by working with people who use their services to establish a code of conduct and actively enforcing it. These measures would help ensure all participants feel safe and welcomed.