The Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine Changing Attitudes Towards People With Disabilities

The Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine Changing Attitudes Towards People With Disabilities

United States
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Breaking down attitudinal barriers through three-pronged multimedia (game/web/in-person) design by children with disabilities for able-bodied people.

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Plot your innovation within the mosaic of solutions
Which of these barriers is the primary focus of your work?

Dual Stigma

Which of the principles is the primary focus of your work?

Community Health

If you believe some other barrier or principle should be included in the mosaic, please describe it and how it would affect the positioning of your initiative in the mosaic:

We chose Community Health as primary because the integration of people with disabilities into the community is essential for the health of any community on multiple levels (social, medical, economical, etc). Emotional Health could certainly be added as a principle as we are very concerned with the attitudinal barriers facing people with disabilities which often leads to social isolation, depression and overall deterioration of health and wellbeing.

What is your signature innovation in one sentence?

Breaking down attitudinal barriers through three-pronged multimedia (game/web/in-person) design by children with disabilities for able-bodied people.

Describe your innovation. What makes your idea unique and different than others doing work in the field?

We have very specific requirements in terms of our patients being involved in this process. One of the driving philosophies of the Look What I Can Do! program is that the "products" are created with our children and adolescents serving as expert advisors. Our relationship with Color, Light & Shadow has introduced us to GraffitiWall, a unique technology that creates virtual community center and encourages interaction and creativity. As one of the best known rehabilitation institutes we have strong connections with a global community of health care providers and recipients.
This program, which started in 2002, addresses the problem of attitudinal barriers that people with disabilities experience – including the perceptions of the “abled” as well as self-perceptions of what a disabled person can and cannot do. There are three main components including the video game, the Rusk GraffitiWall and collaborative arts projects with the NYC Children’s Museum of the Arts.

What barriers exist that are creating the problem your innovation is hoping to address/change?

Even in NYC where many measures are taken to address physical barriers and improve access, people;s attitudes towards people with disabilities still affect full integration. Teen Advisory Group highlights some of the following attitudes as barriers-- the belief that they aren't happy, you're not intelligent, you can't fully participate in life. If you thought people felt this way about you...
Obviously this is not just a NYC issue and this program can reach children/families around the globe.

Delivery Model: How do you implement your innovation and apply it to the challenge/problem you are addressing.

Bringing children together through social activities- both in person and online provides opportunities for able-bodied children to nurture their understanding of and empathy with their disabled counterparts, while allowing disabled children the opportunity to share personal stories, chat with other children, and express themselves creatively. The gaming element provides further enhanced opportunities to be creative, competitive and playful all the while potentially learning more about their interrelationships.
The GraffitiWall is up and being used by children at Rusk. The collaborative arts project has had two cycles with two different community organizations and two museum exhibitions. The video game has a prototype for testing and a new plan for development.

How do you plan to scale your innovation?

The video game and Graffitiwall are/will be web based with potential for cellphones and other handheld devices. The collaborative arts project has evolved into an ingenious way of getting kids initially engaged. These community children will be our game testers.

Provide one sentence describing your impact.

Potential to connect ALL children through common language of an interactive game and GraffitiWall and effecting awareness, understanding and acceptanc

What impact has your innovation had to date? Exactly who are the beneficiaries of your innovation?

Our beneficiaries are both abled and disabled individuals. We have engaged both of these populations in the collaborative art projects and the GrafittiWall. Children and teens from Rusk have been involved in game concept development. The process itself has provided an expressive outlet.

How many people have you served directly?

Over 50 children have been involved in the creation and implementation so far.

How many people have you served indirectly?

Hard to say-- no census from museum exhibitions and GraffitiWall and game aren't "live" yet.

Please list any other measures reflective of the impact of your innovation

In addition to surveys, monitoring the activity on the website, voluntary responses/feedback from site visitors, focus groups--just one parent emaiing to say that when they went to a grocery store, restaurant, clothing store, video store, their child asked them how a person in a wheelchair would reach those items on the top shelf or how would a blind person read the menu would confirm that we have succeeded.

What are the main barriers to creating your impact?

The greatest barrier is financial. We have received several small grants which have gotten us to a certain point but it's a piecemeal production without a greater funding source.

How is your initiative financed?

The hospital supports this through in-kind services and we have received several grants through individuals and small foundations. We have currently raised over $150,000.

Provide information on your finances and organization: annual budget, annual revenue, number of staff:

The hospital 990 is available to the public online.

What is the potential demand for your innovation?

Rusk has a strong reputation in the community and we are constantly approached by schools and parents about the topic of handling the discussion of people with disabilities in the classroom and at home. Look What I Can Do! offers entertaining modalities to explore this topic, engage with people and have fun. Furthermore, the collaboration with the Children's Museum of the Arts provides access to children and families in a creative mode.

What are the main barriers to financial sustainability?

We have current funders invested in supporting the continuation and are constantly seeking additional funders. Our multidimensional approach offers us a wide array of donor potentials. It's the big chunk for the actual game that we need to push us over the edge!

The Story
What is the origin of this innovation? Tell us your story.

For people with disabilities – especially children and adolescents who strive to fit in with their peers – attitudinal barriers are often more powerful than the physical ones in terms of limiting their participation in meaningful activities with their families and in their communities. Sometimes it is society’s message of “you’re not welcome here” and sometimes it is the fear of rejection and embarrassment that keeps disabled people from venturing out. When we asked a group of teenagers at Rusk what they thought other people thought of them, the most common answers were that they sit home and do nothing and aren’t capable of being happy.
It has been through the work with children and families at the Rusk Institute that this project was conceived and has evolved. They are the experts.

Please provide a personal bio. Note this may be used in Changemakers marketing material

Have been in the health care field working with children and families for over 15 years. Worked in both hospitals and community organizations. Although my current job is administrative I still have extensive involvement in program development for clinical care. This is the most creative part of my job and the most rewarding. This project keeps growing--only bound by our imaginations!

How did you hear about this contest and what is your main incentive to participate? (this is confidential)

Have been in communication with Robert Wood Johnson for other projects so put on mailing list.