Future of disability policy is focus of VKC Anniversary Kick-Off

Elise McMillan, Elisabeth Dykens, and AUCD Executive Director Andy Imparato celebrate VKC 50th Anniversary Kick-Off.

A visit and lecture on the future of disability policy from Andrew Imparato, executive director of the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD), informs and inspires as the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center (VKC) begins a year-long celebration of its 50th anniversary.

The VKC 50th anniversary kicked off the festivities with a highly anticipated lecture by Andrew Imparato, J.D., “The Future of Disability Policy,” which was the featured VKC Annual Martin Luther King, Jr., Commemorative Lecture. Imparato spent two days with a packed schedule of conversations with VKC and Vanderbilt leadership, faculty, staff, and community partners.

“Andy’s visit provided a wonderful opportunity for our community to look back over the past 50 years of accomplishments and leadership in translational research, model services, and vibrant training programs that have collectively opened new doors for people with developmental disabilities and their families,” said Elisabeth Dykens, Ph.D., VKC director. “At the same time, we were inspired by Andy’s visit to make even greater contributions in the 50 years ahead. Importantly, we were reminded that the work at our Center is joined by the collective wisdom, contributions, and passion of our network partners and talented leaders at AUCD. Together, we will open many new doors of opportunity for people with developmental disabilities of all types, including doors we once thought were out of our reach.”

The Future of Disability Policy

Imparato’s lecture focused on the opportunities and challenges our country faces as we seek to realize the goals of the Americans with Disabilities Act. He reminded attendees that the retirements of longstanding champions Iowa Senator Tom Harkin and Georgia Congressman George Miller provide an opportunity for the disability community to cultivate new Congressional leaders to advance a compelling policy agenda for children and adults with disabilities.

Imparato pointed to current federal legislative activity, including the recently authorized Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, as building blocks for future disability policy. He upheld the opportunity for leveraging the leadership of the Obama administration in a number of areas that, collectively, have the potential to positively impact key disability issues. With a tone of optimism and encouragement, Imparato reminded attendees that we are seeing some interesting leadership in the federal sector and that the time is ripe to have rich conversations with these new champions.

Click here to view the recorded lecture.

Photo of UCEDD and LEND Trainees and Faculty, VKC Community Advisory Council Members, and disability advocates joined AUCD Executive Director Andy Imparato at 50th Anniversary Kick-Off Community Forum.

UCEDD and LEND Trainees and Faculty, VKC Community Advisory Council Members, and disability advocates joined AUCD Executive Director Andy Imparato at 50th Anniversary Kick-Off Community Forum.

Touring the VKC

Imparato participated in a whirlwind, 2-day tour of the clinics, training programs, research labs, and collaborative partnerships of the VKC. His visit started with conversations with the Tennessee Governor’s Employment First Task Force, the Tennessee Alliance for Public Policy, and Disability Rights Tennessee attorneys.

“None of the work we do on key disability issues is done in a silo,” said Elise McMillan, J.D., VKC UCEDD co-director. “It was important to have time on his agenda for meetings with other key leadership and groups in Tennessee. By virtue of his visit, we were able to talk about better ways to further the strategies of employing people with disabilities, involving more self-advocates and families in our work, and to talk about the important expansion and improvement of health care options and long-term supports and services for people with disabilities in our state.”

Imparato also met with faculty, staff, trainees, and students to learn more about Tennessee Disability Pathfinder, the Multicultural Outreach Program, and Next Steps at Vanderbilt. He toured the VKC Reading Clinic, the Psychophysiology Lab, and learned about the research, training, and outreach projects of the Treatment and Research Institute for Autism Spectrum Disorder (TRIAD). In addition, one-on-one conversations took place with key faculty of the VKC UCEDD and LEND, as well as with key leadership of Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Imparato’s visit was informative, invigorating, and inspirational. His message of hope resonated with all who came into contact with him during his visit. It was the perfect way to celebrate both the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., and the VKC’s celebration of 50 years of discovery, training, and service.

Pictured top of page: Elise McMillan, Elisabeth Dykens, and AUCD Executive Director Andy Imparato celebrate VKC 50th Anniversary Kick-Off.

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