Call line seeks to help Utahns with disabilities

July 26, 2012
Author: By Julia Lyon | The Salt Lake Tribune
2-11 » Goal is to expand audience.

Utahns with a disability can now turn to one help line for questions on everything from food assistance to transportation needs.

The statewide service line, 2-11, has taken over calls for the Access Utah Network, which was formerly a separate call line for disabilities questions.

The 2-11 line is open 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. Callers can receive help with food, housing, disabilities and many other needs.

"It will allow them to have that one-stop shop to think about all sorts of needs they may have and to help us anticipate needs they may not be thinking of," said Amy Bosworth, the 2-11 director.

Run by United Way of Salt Lake, the 2-11 line receives more than 110,000 calls annually and plans to expand to 24 hours a day, seven days a week within the next year. Operators direct callers, who are often low-income Utahns, to resources for food, housing, clothing and more. Because many disabled residents also have low incomes, the line’s goal is to offer help with a broad array of needs in addition to answering disabilities questions. But people of all incomes are welcome to call with questions.

Access Utah Network formerly received several hundred calls per month. 2-1-1 hopes to see those numbers grow under its stewardship.

"We are dedicated to making sure the disabilities community feels comfortable with our services," Bosworth said.

To help make that happen, the former manager of the disabilities information referral line is helping to train 2-11 operators. Access Utah Network lost state funding, leading to the call line change.

People are often looking for information on accessible housing, how to remodel properties and financial assistance.

"2-11 might be one of the first calls after their significant other is disabled from an accident," said Mark Smith, the disability information specialist from Access Utah who is now helping with training.

Sometimes the unfortunate answer to a question is that there aren’t services available to help an individual, explained Smith, who has a spinal cord injury. But that’s still important news to relay, he said, so a hunt for alternative help can start.

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Jerilyn Stowe
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