Work & Education

The World Got Smaller: highlighting why people with intellectual disabilities shouldn’t be underestimated

The Guild for Human Services aims to educate, encourage and empower people with intellectual disabilities, both young and old, to achieve their full potential.

Based in Massachusetts, The Guild wants to tell the story of its community during the Covid-19 pandemic to the world through an original film, highlighting why people with intellectual disabilities shouldn’t be underestimated and should be included.

Set up in 1952 as The Protestant Guild for the Blind, our non-profit organisation initially provided religious instruction and reading services to young people with visual impairments in the Boston area. Through the years, we have evolved to expand our services to meet the needs of more disabled people.

We offer year-round, community-based programmes for individuals with intellectual disabilities who have complex needs, including autism, mental health diagnoses and maladaptive behaviors.

We have youth and adult services, with a special-education school that serves 85 students aged 6 to 22, nine group homes for 65 young people and 12 residential homes for 60 adults.

We have always championed our community and their ability to become the best they can be. They are resilient, thoughtful and intelligent in their own ways.

The Covid-19 pandemic made the world smaller for a lot of people, but particularly those already isolated. That’s why we decided to showcase our communities’ talents and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on real lives.

Residential Manager Reggie Surpris with student TJ Sheppard with a graduation cap on at The Guild for Human Services

The World Got Smaller film

The World Got Smaller: The Spirit of The Guild during COVID-19 is a short film that provides a first-hand look at how the pandemic curtailed the community life of individuals with intellectual disabilities.

The film interviews with Guild staff, students, residents, and community partners. Individuals with intellectual disabilities are vastly underestimated – we want this film to show why they shouldn’t be.

Self-determination and giving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities the opportunity and ability to make their own choices are central to our mission. The pandemic forced a reduction in choice, and we all must keep fighting for inclusion and community life in the post-pandemic era.

The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in March of 2020 brought life as we knew it to a standstill. Mandates left healthcare providers scrambling to create a blueprint for the unknown.

Almost overnight, The Guild for Human Services school and residential staff pivoted to move classrooms to students’ residences, create supplemental day programming for adults, and live with those they served during quarantine.

Janice and Jessica Goodwin at The Guild for Human Services

Residents were isolated and separated from their loved ones for months on end, all the while navigating the ever-changing state mandates and policies. Through it all, The Guild’s community adapted and grew stronger.

We are releasing the film on the second anniversary of the State of Emergency declared in Massachusetts and the subsequent closing of schools in 2020.

Our film also has a message in future public health crises, state agencies must incorporate the perspective of parents, students, and staff into the planning of guidelines and recommendations. Those closest to the people we serve often know what is best for them.

All human services staff made substantial sacrifices to keep vulnerable students and residents safe and engaged.

“During this pandemic, we had to make the world of the people we serve smaller,” said Amy Sousa, our CEO. “Their community life was curtailed and their choices reduced.

I hope this film will show how individuals with intellectual disabilities are underestimated and how vital it is that we all work to create inclusive communities where people can achieve their full potential and lead high-quality lives.”

FREE online screening Wednesday, 16th March, 1pm EST

The Guild will host a FREE online screening event open to the general public on Wednesday, 16th March via Zoom. It will be screened at 1pm Eastern Standard Time (1pm in the USA and 6pm in the UK).

Following the screening of the 25-minute film, a Q&A discussion will be moderated and will include the people in the film.

To view the trailer and register for the event, go to

Film reviews

“The World Got Smaller eloquently tells the inside story of a disability agency and school, which had to pivot like others during the pandemic.

Seeing how the pandemic stole the day-to-day choices of the residents and students should galvanize us all to keep fighting for inclusion and community life in the post-pandemic era” Leo Sarkissian, Executive Director, The Arc of Massachusetts.

Teacher Raji Ravichandran with a The Guild for Human Services student sat at a table

 “This film captures how changing protocols, visitation restrictions and staffing shortages at human services agencies limited daily life for people with disabilities during the pandemic.

It also tells the story of some of the incredible workers in the human services sector, and the great lengths they went to in keeping those they cared for safe during a challenging time.

The World Got Smaller demonstrates how crucial it is, now more than ever, to invest in human services and ensure people with disabilities and others needing support receive the essential care they need.” Michael Weekes, President/CEO, Providers’ Council.

You can find out more about the film, The Guild for Human Services and its community, including those in the film, on its website. You can also follow The Guild on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.

By The Guild for Human Services

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