In the early 2010s, we had a wonderful problem: too many resources and events from the NIDILRR grantee community and not enough ways to get them into the hands of people who could use them! We needed a way to get them out in a format that was engaging, easy to read, and ready to be shared. Subscribers to our REHABDATA Connection service had been enjoying brief email digests of our latest library additions for more than 15 years. Could we do the same to highlight all the great things the grantee community was doing? We created a new digest, News and Notes from the NIDILRR Community and Beyond, featuring upcoming events, ready-to-use consumer and professional resources, opportunities to participate in studies and surveys, and grantees in the news, and emailed it out to the world. It was a hit right away: people opened it, read it, clicked the links, and shared it with their community!
NARIC Director Mark Odum reflected that News and Notes has become an important channel for the grantees want to connect with their stakeholders. “Over the years News and Notes as grown organically from a weekly collection of grantee achievements and events to a key resource in promoting the accomplishments and products of the NIDILRR community. At first, we spent considerable effort in gathering stories from various sources. Now a majority of the articles come directly from grantees submitting their own stories to be promoted. It is a ‘go to’ resource for a quick, informative snapshot of NIDILRR weekly happenings.”
So much has happened since that first issue debuted. Here are just a few examples of the changes we’ve seen in the intervening decade.
- Within the disability and rehabilitation community:
- Laws like the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act increased access to employment and economic opportunity.
- Unemployment rates for people with disabilities in the US fell from almost 17% to under 8% in 2020 and are still trending low during the pandemic.
- Within the NIDILRR community:
- As part of WIOA, NIDRR became NIDILRR, adding Independent Living to its name, and moved from the Department of Education to the newly formed Administration for Community Living at the Department of Health and Human Services.
- More than 700 projects have joined the NIDILRR community since 2012, from emerging scholars to five-year research centers, including more than 140 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants developing high- and low-tech solutions for independence.
- NIDILRR celebrated its 40th anniversary, which included demonstrations of innovative technology and groundbreaking research in stroke, mental health, spinal cord injury, community participation, and much more.
- NIDILRR grantees met the challenges of COVID-19 head on, creating hundreds of resources and research papers to support the continuing independence and participation of people with disabilities, even during a pandemic.
- Here at NARIC:
- Our readership grew to more than 4,800 subscribers for News and Notes, plus thousands more reading it through our social media channels.
- We introduced Research In Focus and This Just In…, highlighting some of the exciting peer-reviewed research from the grantees, presented in reader-friendly summaries.
- We published hundreds of articles and database entries in Spanish to support people with disabilities in Spanish-speaking regions.
- We added international research to the REHABDATA database, expanding the global reach of the NARIC collection.
It’s been an incredible 10 years, and we’re looking forward to the next 10!