Creative Corner

COVID-19 has shown us all unique challenges allowing people to step up and think of new ways to do what is important to them. From daytime activities to visits with family and friends, we are seeing people be creative and make things work. We’re excited to showcase these stories. Thank you all for sharing your talents and stories with us.

Do you have a creative program or a story to feature on this page? Please download the submission form and send the completed form with your video links, photos (with appropriate photo release forms) and any other details to

Michael Long’s story is one of hope and advocacy. Born with an intellectual disability and cerebral palsy, Michael has gone on to achieve exceptional milestones in his life and found ways to help others.

He founded a self-advocacy movement called People First and set up chapters across California and abroad. In 1992, Governor Pete Wilson hired Michael as a Consumer Coordinator at the Department of Developmental Services, making him the first person with an intellectual and developmental disability to be officially hired by the State of California.

Michael continues to work as an activist and calls for inclusion, education and acceptance for all.

Image of Michael Long

Helping others is Diana Ugalde’s passion. “Although my disability holds me back greatly, it doesn’t stop me from attaining my goals…” Due to COVID-19, Diana has found herself at home with the opportunity and skills to reach out & educate her community by sharing her knowledge & experiences. She is bilingual and knows her way around a computer and the internet, so she’s been publishing videos (in both Spanish and English) online. In this video, Diana defines a powerful tool – Advocacy – an explains how advocacy can open doors for people.


Santa Barbara Art Works studio-gallery empowers 20 artists with developmental disabilities to show and sell their work, learn how to run a retail business, and most importantly, earn a meaningful income. To keep its students engaged and earning an income during the global pandemic, Santa Barbara Art Works made immediate modifications so that art instructors could safely teach art classes to students in a virtual format, and they moved their art exhibitions online. Check out their online shop to “meet” the artists and view items available for purchase.

Art exhibition poster

Empowering people through work. The United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) WORK Inc. Mentor Alliance is a community-based initiative to match business owners, experts, and artists with active job seekers with disabilities, during the global pandemic. This new program helps build rewarding connections and empowers people with disabilities, by sharing vital knowledge and experience of a mentor’s industry or line of work. A person is matched with a mentor based on their career goals and interests. For more information, visit the website.

UCP Work poster

Maximizing opportunities for remote learning. UCP WORK, Inc. has modified their new Applied Abilities day-service programs to give individuals the personal, social, and vocational supports they need. They have designed a variety of interactive classes to support their participants by offering classes on Zoom like: cooking, chair yoga, Spanish, storytelling, dance. “Ideally, we plan to encourage participants to conduct their own Zoom classes soon,” shares Matt Dursum, Director of Applied Abilities. Access Applied Abilities library of Zoom Class Videos.

UCP Work

The value of community is one that Compass holds near and dear. As you can imagine, this year threw a wrench into the planning for their usual retreats, parties and gatherings. This has not stopped Compass from coming up with creative ways to have fun while staying safe. This includes enjoying an outdoor movie, a stroll on the marina, a lunch outing for 3 and a Geo-caching adventure. The best part about community is there are so many ways to enjoy it!

Community members Community members Community members

PDS is all about “community,” and right now their community is online. During COVID-19, PDS is keeping people socially connected, entertained and supported through Zoom classes, WhatsApp and video chats for all kinds of activities like cooking, gardening, dance, art, exercise, social media, virtual reality tours, celebrations and special events. Activities are scheduled to lend structure and purpose in their consumers’ daily lives. Check out this short video that illustrates the variety of online activities they offer:

Andrew is 30 years old and loves to sing and dance. Andrew’s father started a special needs “pop-up” party caravan when he noticed Andrew was feeling unhappy and bored from staying home due to the pandemic. Andrew’s dad and a group of volunteers get together every Saturday morning to make the “pop -up” parties happen. They set up on driveways with everyone socially distancing and wearing masks. Each party lasts 15 minutes—they visit 7 “friends” every Saturday across LA County. Andrew now looks forward to Saturday mornings—as he gets to sing and dance and meet new people.

Cedars is partnering with The Marine Mammal Center in their latest online & in-person exhibition, Our Earth, Our Home, which celebrates connections to the natural world and highlights concerns for our ecosystems. Through this collaboration, Cedars artists express a deep awareness of environmental issues in the form of drawing, paintings, and the use of recycled materials in creating works of art. Our Earth, Our Home is a notable example of one of the many ways Cedars adapted to Shelter in Place guidelines, using technology to build community and expand their reach to a larger audience.

Art Exhibition poster

It’s the little things that count. That’s the case with Dashan Parks, a consumer of Inclusion Services, LLC Supportive Living Services Program. As a sports fanatic, when beloved basketball player Kobe Bryant passed away earlier this year, Dashan took the news very hard. To lift his spirits, Dashan’s personal attendant took him out on weekends to locate various murals in Los Angeles that fans created in honor of Kobe Bryant. This was a great community outing for Dashan and he loved every minute of it.

Artwork Artwork

No, thank you, KASEC! Your dedication to providing services for individuals within the Korean American community with developmental disabilities and mental health issues is greatly appreciated. With personal protective equipment provided by DDS, KASEC has distributed over 40,000 masks, 150+ hand sanitizers and some face shields to their community members who need it the most.

KASEC donations

The Autism Society Inland Empire has created a great way to bring people together by hosting several “Mask Up” events to safely distribute personal protective equipment (PPE) to their community. Through collaboration with DDS, The Autism Society Inland Empire has successfully provided more than 225,000 masks to at-risk families. Check out their thank you video below. And in turn, we can’t thank all of our community partners enough for their help getting PPE to people in need.

Teamwork makes the dream work, and this is community partnership worth highlighting! In partnership with the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank and Guadalupe Community Center, Creative Minds Adult Day Program (ADP) has started a food pantry to help families and individuals impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. They have provided food to over 190 homes in need. Creative Minds ADP has continued to provide services and supports online to their consumers and they are even making masks for those who need them.

Creative Minds event Creative Minds event

Stephanie is staying at home, but is continuing to receive day/employment services from CEL. CEL has continued to provide direct services, including helping Stephanie sew masks to help keep people safe from COVID-19.


The Direct Support Professional (DSP) team at PathPoint developed a series of online cooking classes for the people they support. These videos show step-by-step instructions for making different meals while at home. Below are the videos:

PathPoint has created an entire series of remote learning including art, music, science and job skills on their website.

Due to the Shelter-In-Place order, many of the 300+ children/adults FCSN serves on a daily basis are not able to maintain their pre-COVID-19 daily routines. So FCSN is providing remote services to promote learning, staying connected and remaining healthy both physically and mentally. In this video, you will see what FCSN is doing for their community.

In addition to day services, employment, and independent living, Options for All offers an innovative Film & Media Program that’s adjusted how people work together since they can’t be together in person. Here is a video clip of how self-advocates can learn from each other through Zoom about film production, grahpic desing and more.

Avenues Supported Living Services is providing consumers innovative with creative supports during the pandemic. At quarterly zoom meetings, each consumer shares slides of what they are doing, since they are unable to meet face-to-face. This includes writing letters, painting, reading the newspaper online, being an essential worker at Target and much more. Check out their slides below.

La Familia from East Bay Regional Center (RCEB) have been giving back by distributing personal protective equipment (PPE) to more than 250 consumers and their families in multiple counties in the area. Check out the pictures and their Facebook Live video from the event.

COVID-19 is not stopping The Adult Skills Center (TASC) in the Greater San Fernando Valley from providing services to their consumers! TASC hosts interactive Zoom classes daily. Classes vary from mindfulness & meditation to cooking and even American Sign Language (ASL), just to name a few. Enjoy highlights from their virtual open house.

Virtual learning is the future. Take if from the Real Options for Adults with Disabilities (ROAD) day program in Oceanside. They officially became a virtual program in March and meet Monday through Friday. Activities include exercising, cooking, science and art among other things.

Way to stay active ROAD day program!

Virtual learning

Level Up NorCal has been re-packaging gallon-sized hand sanitizer into spray bottles for multiple families. They have also been providing a refill bottle and a box of face masks pre-packed into brown bags. They’re also driving to remote areas in their region to distribute more personal protective equipment.


The College of Adaptive Arts is working hard to make education happen by providing the best possible learning opportunities for their students. They have been developing and utilizing distance learning to provide all their courses online. Spring and Summer enrollments increased and the College has expanded their online courses, offering over 70 distinct classes each week.

Virtual learning

Take a thrilling ride to soar with an online art exhibition, Roller Coaster! This is Cedars’ first online art show and they’re featuring art made by artists in their own homes with the remote encouragement and assistance of Cedars staff. This is a great example of using technology to build community and innovative ways to reach a larger audience. This inaugural art show is filled with pieces that capture the spirit, courage and imagination of Cedars’ artists during their shelter in place. Art pieces can be viewed and purchased online, directly supporting the artists.


Artwork Artwork


Support for Families of Children with Disabilities (SFCD) did an amazing job partnering with a food distribution site to help their local community. Together they handed out 500 bags with personal protective equipment and other materials in English, Spanish and Chinese. Materials included a book of sensory activities for children, tips for caring for yourself and coping with stress, and other resources.

Bags of food Bags of food

Social Vocational Services (SVS) is offering hundreds of daily sessions across the state supporting critical social connections, meaningful activity and fun! SVS has created over 2000 videos accessible on YouTube and Facebook ranging from step-by-step arts and cooking tutorials to motivational messages, musical content, and just plain entertainment.

In addition to continuing to provide employment and living skills services throughout the pandemic, Integrated Community Services (ICS) has developed opportunities for people with disabilities to connect, stay informed and continue to build skills. Virtual activities include a voting campaign, emergency support, and a Zoom workshop series to teach people to use technology. ICS also added 3 new groups to their line-up: a fantasy football league, a mindfulness group and a book club. Watch a thank you video by one of the individuals served by ICS below.

Autistry Studios focuses on the support of individuals with autism. Amazingly, Autistry staff had all of their clients online within two days of the Shelter-in-Place order so individuals could access group activities and stay engaged. By mid-June, the COVID-19 restrictions had lifted slightly, so the paid internship crews returned to work at Cadence Farm, grooming and exercising horses, cleaning stalls and polishing tack. They even found a way to provide remote equestrian tutorials via Zoom.

Check out Autistry Studios’ newsletters below:

March 2020:

August 2020:

Person and horse

DDS is proud to present a web series brought to you by partners throughout the state to showcase real-world examples of innovative services in action to meet individual consumer needs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020 In partnership with the California Disability Services Association and Special Guests – The Campbell Center, PathPoint and Becoming Independent

Wednesday, October 28, 2020 In partnership with the Autism Society of Inland Empire

Wednesday, November 4, 2020 3:00-4:00 pm In partnership with Friends of Children with Special Needs

Thursday, November 12, 2020 3:00-4:00 pm In partnership with State Council on Developmental Disabilities and Special Guests – United Cerebral Palsy of San Diego County, Creativity Explored and Progressive Emplopment Concepts


Last modified: April 29, 2023