Disability Outreach 


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AmeriCorps Disability Outreach in Illinois

Disability OutreachAmeriCorps is a national service program that involves people in "getting things done" in communities. AmeriCorps members develop an ethic of service while strengthening local communities. Illinois has 30 AmeriCorps*State programs in operation and more than 1,200 members committing to a year of service.

The Serve Illinois Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service administers the AmeriCorps*State programs. The mission of the Serve Illinois commission is "To improve Illinois communities by supporting and enhancing volunteerism and community service." The Commission launched a new website, www.serve.illinois.gov, in 2008 to help link interested persons with volunteer opportunities throughout Illinois.

The Illinois AmeriCorps Disability Outreach Program is a special project of the Illinois Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service. Our goal is to promote the inclusion of people with disabilities as members of AmeriCorps programs in this state. We work toward achieving this goal by promoting the service opportunities available through AmeriCorps to persons with disabilities and agencies that provide services to them.

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Guide to Creating Inclusive Volunteer Programs

This guide discusses the importance, and the basics, of a service environment that promotes actions and attitudes that keep ability and acceptance in the forefront. It will provide you with tools to use when speaking to, recruiting, interviewing, employing and working with people of all abilities. In addition, it will be an aid in training staff about inclusion and accommodations. Applying the principles within will be one more step toward developing an inclusive society where all people are recognized as having value and deserving of respect.

Creating an inclusive service environment does not have to be seen as challenging, as much as it is exciting, thought-provoking, and rewarding. It is a continuous process, one that evolves and responds to changes in the environment and in policies. From kick-offs to celebrations, recruitment to retention, policy to practice, it becomes an integral part of all that you do. It impacts team-building and participant development, and is an integral part of strategic and meeting planning. It benefits individuals with disabilities and those without. It guides those who are served and those who serve, those who direct and advise and those who lead.

AN INCLUSIVE SERVICE ENVIRONMENT STARTS WITH THE ACTIONS AND ATTITUDES OF THE INDIVIDUALS ALREADY IN THAT ENVIRONMENT. A program manager who thinks first about a person’s abilities is sure to be more inclusive and is already aware that members and volunteers with disabilities are people first. A program manager who leads by example, who provides training in disability awareness and sensitivity, and who works to ensure equal expectations and contributions will be more successful in creating an inclusive service environment than one who does not.

Resources are listed at the end of each section to assist you in learning more about each topic. There is also a glossary of terms and expansive resource list at the end of this document.

View the full guide at Guide to Creating Inclusive Volunteer Programs.

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Disability Outreach Coordinator

Lois Barnhart accepted the position of the Disability Outreach Coordinator in October, 2009. Lois has 28 years of experience working in the field of Human Services: eighteen years with The Illinois Department of Human Services working with persons who have developmental disabilities. Many of these individuals experienced sensory and/or physical disabilities as well.

During her years of service Lois acquired training from the Helen Keller National Center, Department of Human Services and Illinois State Board of Education Department of Adult Vocational and Technical Education in the areas of sign, tactile and object communication, mobility training and accommodations.

Lois has six years experience working with youth who experienced emotional and behavioral health issues. In addition, Lois has four years experience working with senior citizens, utilizing accommodations and networking with senior support systems.

Lois' goal has been to improve the quality of life for those she serves. She remains committed to that goal and looks forward to being of service as Disability Outreach Coordinator for Serve Illinois.

Contact Information

Lois Barnhart
500 Anchor Rd.
Dixon, IL 61021
Phone: 815-288-6691 ext. 282
TTY: 815-288-5931
E-mail Lois Barnhart

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Services Offered

  • Education/training: The Disability Outreach Coordinator is available to present information about AmeriCorps, volunteerism, and inclusion at conferences, teleconferences, schools, and other venues. You can learn much more with our Guide to Creating Inclusive Volunteer Programs.
  • Outreach: Information about Illinois AmeriCorps inclusion for persons with disabilities that includes pamphlets, an online newsletter, and a 10-minute DVD is distributed through presentations given, conferences and exhibits attended, through informational mailings, and by request.
  • Assessment & funding for accommodations: When an opportunity to serve in AmeriCorps may require an accommodation for a person with a disability, the Outreach Coordinator will work with the AmeriCorps Program Manager to assess the situation and provide recommendations and funding for the accommodation.
  • Service Day Activities Inclusion Planning: The Disability Outreach Coordinator is available as a resource for developing inclusive service day activities. You may download Effective Practices Guide to Creating Inclusive and Accessible Days of Service. You may view the quarterly newsletter, "Illinois Inroads to Inclusion."

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Featured Stories

The Serve Illinois Commission continues to promote inclusion of people of all abilities in National Service Programs. The Illinois Inclusion Team is actively working to bring Illinois forward into the future through building awareness, strengthening programs and providing the tools needed to better embrace and support inclusive efforts.

"Abilities" Video Produced by RSVP of Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois

Member Success stories will be an added feature of the Illinois Inroads to Inclusion articles. These stories will highlight how programs are benefitting from including people of all abilities in service.

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Related Links


About Volunteerism

Volunteer Opportunities

Disaster Preparedness

Disability Services and Resources in Illinois

Resources for AmeriCorps programs

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Adobe's Acrobat Reader is required to view documents provided in PDF format. To request these documents in an alternative format (e.g., text-only, large print, Braille, etc.), please e-mail Serve Illinois or phone 800-592-9896 or TTY 888-261-2713.

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