On a two-day visit to Tennessee, Julie Hocker, Commissioner of the U.S. Administration on Disability (AoD), met with Vanderbilt Kennedy Center (VKC) leadership, faculty, and trainees as well as with Tennessee Developmental Disabilities Network partners. Hocker visited at the suggestion of Lance Robertson, Assistant Secretary for Aging at the Administration for Community Living, who traveled to Tennessee in January and returned enthusiastic about the collaborative relationships within the state.
AoD oversees the Developmental Disabilities Networks across the country, which include University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD), State Councils on Developmental Disabilities, and State Protection and Advocacy Systems.
With a stated interest in learning about employment initiatives on her visit, Hocker heard firsthand about the experiences of students and graduates of Vanderbilt’s inclusive higher education program, Next Steps at Vanderbilt. The program has an 87% employment rate at graduation.
Hocker learned how TennesseeWorks, a collaboration of organizations working to improve employment outcomes for young people with disabilities, has sustained its impact long after its original funding through a Partnerships in Employment Systems Change grant from Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AIDD).
Putting Faith to Work, an employment model that taps into the personal network, creativity, and commitment existing within congregations, was of particular interest to Hocker. She also met with participants and leadership of Project SEARCH at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, and shared a meal with UCEDD and Vanderbilt Consortium LEND trainees from the VKC and the University of Tennessee Boling Center.
On her second day, Hocker met with Tennessee Developmental Disabilities Network partners to learn more about how the programs work collaboratively to impact the lives of Tennesseans with disabilities and their families. The Tennessee Council on Developmental Disabilities hosted the second day, inviting several Middle Tennessee legislators, self-advocates, and family members who came to discuss disability issues with the Commissioner. Additionally, leadership from The University of Tennessee Boling Center and Disability Rights Tennessee were in attendance to share more about programs related to policy, supported decision making, and more.
Courtney Taylor is director of VKC Communications.
Pictured at the top of the page: Commissioner Julie Hocker of the Administration on Disabilities visited with Elise McMillan, J.D., Wanda Willis, and Jeffrey Neul, M.D., Ph.D.