STEP UP Continues Engagement Virtually

May 16, 2020

COVID-19 has dramatically impacted the ability to get together in person for socialization and community service . . .  no more recreational events, no going to the mall, no going to the movies, no going to the parks, no more monthly meet ups for different socialization opportunities, and no more community service events.  This has certainly affected our inclusive organization, STEP UP to Leadership Advisory Council, a leadership and service council for individuals with and without disabilities. As everyone has moved to social distancing, STEP UP members have expressed their need for social interactions with their peers, weekly routines, and community engagement. The Institute for Disability Studies (IDS) is offering something new that will keep the STEP UP members engaged and active in a different way.

STEP UP Members now have the opportunity to remain engaged thanks to the DISCORD application, a digital distribution platform that is both free and available on devices that support Windows, MacOS, Android, iOS, Linux, and in web browsers. Originally designed and released in 2015 to bring those in the gaming communities together, DISCORD is now being used to reach different groups worldwide. DISCORD operates by allowing a user to create various groups and within those groups create options for both text and voice channels. IDS' STEP UP Council is taking full advantage of this resource to reach out to its members by using these channels to host various social activities and events including a monthly movie night with live interactive chat, weekly trivia time, and live gaming opportunities.

STEP UP's Hattiesburg Advisor Scott Mullins noted that "This opportunity is new for all of us! We never had a need before to really push ourselves virtually other than using Facebook. Even though it's a difficult time for us, this virtual push is actually not negative. I believe it's through technology such as this that we can grow and expand as an organization to support our members through community engagement and service opportunities."

STEP UP's DISCORD utilizes audio, text, gifs, photos, and video messaging to keep its members engaged daily. Socialization mini groups are offered to discuss and share various interests such as movies, TV shows, video games, books, memes, community involvement, fashion, sports, and more. In addition to members being able to message each other, they can participate in interactive activities such as live streaming arts and crafts, movie nights, and show-and-tell based presentations.  In addition, there are inclusive gaming opportunities like a live Dungeons and Dragon role-playing game (RPG) text and voice stream, table-top simulator, trivia quiz games, and virtual scavenger hunts.

"I think that DISCORD is great for our members during this time of uncertainty. It's a new way that we can interact more with each other. We are not able to be together physically right now, but we are able to be there as a family digitally," said STEP UP member and IDS' Self-Advocacy Coordinator, Taylor Carley.

For over 40 years, IDS has maintained its mission to positively affect the lives of Mississippi citizens with developmental and other disabilities and their families across the lifespan and to work toward increasing their independence, productivity, and community inclusion. To meet this mission, IDS concentrates its work in four emphasis areas: Early Childhood Inclusion and Education, Housing, Transition to Adulthood and Wellness.

To learn more about IDS and the STEP UP to Leadership Council, visit, call 601.266.5163 or email [email protected]