SIRS awarded grant to provide connectivity


Southern Indiana Resource Solutions’ plan to help lessen the isolation of Dubois County residents who have disabilities via technology will go forward.

Dubois County, which is working with SIRS on the plan, was awarded $127,743 in federal funding from the Community Connections for People with Disabilities grant program. Indiana Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch made the announcement Thursday.

“We are just extremely excited and beyond happy,” Kelly Mitchell, CEO/president of SIRS, said Thursday. “I’ve seen the impact of isolation on people with disabilities. And then I’ve seen the wondrous benefits when people are truly connected to others in their community and they start to develop relationships. That’s when they soar. All of us are better because of our networks.”

SIRS is working in conjunction with Dubois County to install hot spots in different areas of the county, in particular remote areas where Wi-Fi accessibility is very limited; those would be available for anyone in the community to use. A work station will be at SIRS’ Jasper site that will be accessible to people who have communication or mobility difficulties; it would have features like a touch screen and remote access. Tablets will be purchased and will be lent out to individuals with disabilities. SIRS is looking to create a social network in which people with a need could state that need on the network, so that someone in the community could volunteer to help with the need.

Mitchell added that the services will be for anyone with ability challenges, not just the clients served by SIRS.

The Dubois County Commissioners agreed to apply for the grant, which was submitted last month, and to be active in implementing the different parts of the plan. Mitchell said she is glad the county is active in this effort. “They are focused on building an inclusive community,” she said.

Grant funding comes through a partnership between the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs and the Indiana Division of Disability and Rehabilitative Services. Dubois County was one of 11 communities sharing $1.63 million dispensed through the program.

"I'm so proud to see these communities took innovative steps to partner with local organizations to provide assistance is a variety of ways to Hoosiers with disabilities," said Denny Spinner, executive director of OCRA. "These projects are the first step in ensuring no Hoosier is left isolated and partnering with DDRS to make it happen demonstrates the type of collaboration necessary to create a road to recovery."

According to the press release about the awards, the program's goal is to help develop innovative technology strategies and cultivate strong community partnerships to address the negative social, economic and health effects of COVID-19 on Hoosiers with disabilities and to increase community and workplace inclusion for this population.

"The pandemic has disrupted the life of every Hoosier," Crouch said. "These partnerships will reconnect Hoosiers with disabilities to their crucial support systems, while also creating new ways for these individuals to thrive and pursue their aspirations. This federal CARES Act funding will help quickly remove some of the social divide COVID-19 has caused."

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