How to Start a Disability Support Group

Three Methods:Disability Support Group CommitteeDisability Support Group LogisticsDisability Support Group Advertising

A support group is created in order to give people resources to change their life in positive ways. Support groups are also commonly referred to as "self-help groups." They are used in society to deal with a variety of interpersonal, physical and mental problems. Disability support groups begin and function primarily on a voluntary basis, run by people who suffer from a chronic health problem or their friends and family. A support group can offer discussion, a way to advocate for social changes, physical activities, field trips and guest speakers. For many disabled people, going to a support group allows them to spend time with people who are faced with the same daily struggles. Learn how to start a disability support group.

Method 1
Disability Support Group Committee

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    Research support groups in your area to see if there is already a support group covering the needs of disabled people in your community. Search online, inquire at local hospitals and clinics and check community message boards for information on groups. Contact the people who run local disability groups to see what their goals and mission statements are.
    • If there is an existing disability support group that covers the needs you want to meet, consider becoming part of the group or volunteering to be part of the committee. Having more than 1 support group, especially in a small to medium-sized community, may not allow either group to achieve the numbers and helpful services required for a successful long-term program.
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    Decide upon the types of disabilities you will address in your disability support group. Some groups deal with general topics like chronic illness, physical disabilities or mental disabilities. Others are based on specific disabilities, such as fibromyalgia, autism, or parenting children with disabilities.
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    Make sure you have the time to devote to a disability support group. You will need to devote hours of your time to advertising, promoting, developing and meeting with your support group. Ask yourself if you have enough free time and energy to be the main motivator, especially at the start.
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    Invite other people with the same disability to discuss and start the group with you. Although you may not feel you need help, brainstorming with a group of people who want to be in the group will allow you to address more issues than if you organized the group by yourself. This committee can also split work associated with the group and meet regularly to expand the group's efforts.
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    Create a list of goals and a mission statement for your group. It is important to choose whether your group will have health, political, social or other goals. Choose 3 or 4 goals, instead of trying to address all the difficulties of disabilities at once.
    • Set ground rules after you have chosen your goals. These can expand with time, but it is a good idea to establish any time limits, exclusions and sensitive issues before you start meeting with the group.
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    Decide who will moderate your group meetings. It is a good idea to choose someone who has the disability and also has some experience with counseling, time management and public speaking. Leading the support group is an important job that will determine how helpful the group is to its attendees.

Method 2
Disability Support Group Logistics

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    Set up a system for budgeting and fundraising. Even the most basic support groups require some money to run. Meet with your committee to consider fundraisers, grants, sponsors, donations and costs associated with running your group.
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    Contact local hospitals, clinics, medical professionals, care workers, physical therapists and other professionals who treat people with disabilities. Ask for resources and donations. They may also be able to be involved as guest speakers in the future.
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    Schedule a regular date and time for meetings. Consistency is extremely important for disabled people who are looking for support. Decide whether it will be a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly group.
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    Choose an accessible location. Hospitals, clinics or support group members may be able offer space to conduct the support groups. Keep in mind that the place should have ramps, close parking, seating and be fairly central.
    • Certain meeting places, such as homes, may not be able to host a support group for liability reasons. You may want to contact your home insurance carrier to see if extra insurance is necessary.

Method 3
Disability Support Group Advertising

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    Create fliers and/or a website to advertise your group's mission statement, calendar and contact information. These can be very simple pieces of design with a photo and a few lines of text. Split the costs and work amongst your support group committee.
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    Advertise your support group. You will need to start posting information about your first meeting at least 1 month in advance, to give media and people time to disseminate your information. The following are ways that you can advertise:
    • Contact local hospitals, doctor's offices and clinics that treat people with applicable disabilities. Tell them about the support group and ask if you can bring fliers to be given to clients or made available in the office.
    • Post your meeting time on online events calendars. Ask local television and radio stations if they will create a free public service announcement and ongoing listing on their community calendar.
    • Post your meeting times on community message boards. You can do this online at or Facebook. You can also pin fliers up to bulletin boards around the community.
    • Call your local television and radio stations. Ask to be a guest on a broadcast to speak about the need for a disability support group, when your meetings are and what you hope to accomplish. Ask a health care professional to join you as an expert.
    • Create a press release. If someone in your committee has marketing acumen, they may be able to write a 1-page release on the need for a support group, how the group will help people with disabilities and when the meetings will be. Submit the release to local blogs, radio stations, TV stations, newspapers and magazines.
    • Attend local health fairs. If you are not offered a free table or booth, ask if a health care company or service will allow you to distribute information at their table for mutual benefit.
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    Start meeting with your group. The first meeting may be held to introduce the group and discuss goals. For subsequent groups, consider asking health care professionals to speak, asking companies to present new devices or technology for disabled people or scheduling a therapeutic activity.
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    Make plans for a fundraiser. You will need money in order to continue holding your support group, so schedule a fundraiser within the first few months. Fundraisers can bring your group closer together, garner attention for your cause and trigger community outreach efforts.

Things You'll Need

  • People with similar disabilities
  • Venue
  • Date and time
  • Fliers
  • Website
  • Contacts in the health profession
  • Fundraisers
  • Moderator

Article Info

Categories: Disability Issues