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Disability Action Center NW

Accessibility Matters: A toolkit for coping

  • By Mary Stone Inland 360

Editor’s note: Accessibility Matters highlights places, programs and events in the Inland 360 readership area that help meet the needs of all people living in our communities. If you have a suggestion, please shoot us an email at arts@inland360.com with “Accessibility Matters” in the subject line.

Production of a set of videos meant to help young people cope with stress and anxiety was thwarted by the stressful and anxiety-inducing events related to the pandemic, but the project now is complete, and the results are live on YouTube.

Disability Action Center NW recently released four “Mental Health Toolbox” videos that focus on the importance of self-care, maintaining healthy schedules, practicing mindfulness and creating a portable “sensory tool box.” Each video is designed to provide hands-on tips for immediately addressing stress and anxiety, something needed now more than ever, project coordinator Vicki Leeper said.

“We hoped to do it by December 2020, but the pandemic hit, and we couldn’t do any filming,” Leeper said during a recent phone interview.

“You couldn’t get in to see a counselor in 2020. It was like a six-month wait (in the Moscow-Pullman area),” she said, noting if access to funding was an issue, the wait often was even longer. “Everybody’s plunged into this added stress, especially for young people out there on their own.”

The project remained a priority for the nonprofit organization’s staff, and they were able to get the videos made this year.

“The past year and half with the pandemic has led to an increase in anxiety and depression, especially among young people,” Executive Director Mark Leeper said in a news release, “We are delighted that these videos are finished and can possibly help people.”

The sensory tool box segment is “meant to diffuse a situation where you’re spiraling,” Vicki Leeper said.

It is based on a concept of engaging the five senses to break out of the spiral, she explained. When stress and anxiety threaten to overwhelm a person, he or she engages the senses by naming, for example, five things that can be seen, four that can be heard, three that can be smelled, and so forth. A person using a sensory tool box doesn’t have to think of all that in the moment, but instead can turn to the portable kit to work through the exercise, which takes a maximum of 10 minutes.

The videos appear in two versions, one with both closed captioning and American Sign Language interpreting for the deaf and hard of hearing, and one with audio description for the visually impaired.

“This makes the videos accessible to everyone,” Vicki Leeper said. “We also used local actors with disabilities in the videos. They all did such a great job.”

Disability Action Center, with offices in Lewiston, Moscow and Post Falls, advocates for people with disabilities to help them lead fulfilling, independent lives. The videos offer tools that could help

both people with diagnoses and anyone else experiencing situational stress.

The idea for the videos came from a youth-led Disability Action Center project in Spokane, called INDEx, that offers monthly game nights and “Mental Health Mondays” for people with disabilities.

“We can use these videos for peer-to-peer workshops and combine meaningful Q&A sessions with them,” INDEx program manager Mels Felton said in the news release, noting workshops have been held virtually since the pandemic started.

Information about Independent Living Advocate-led workshops with the videos can be requested by emailing dac@dacnw.org.

Stone can be reached at mstone@inland360.com.