During a 2020 Vanderbilt Kennedy Center (VKC) Community Advisory Council (CAC) meeting, VKC director Jeffrey Neul, M.D., Ph.D., asked the group to help come up with a plan to increase the diversity of the VKC in a manner to better reflect the communities it serves.
The CAC moved Neul’s charge forward and formed a Diversity Workgroup, chaired by CAC member Shana Crispin and comprised of CAC members (individuals with disabilities, parents, disability agencies) and VKC UCEDD leadership and staff.
With the goals of crafting a VKC equity statement and drafting a series of recommendations for VKC leadership, the workgroup brought in facilitator Ingrid Cockhren, professor of Psychology at Tennessee State University (and a Vanderbilt Peabody graduate). Cockhren guided the group through a series of five workshops.
“Working with our facilitator was extremely helpful as we came together as a CAC to outline our commitments in the area of diversity and equity,” said Elise McMillan, J.D., co-director of the VKC UCEDD. “She truly laid the groundwork and gave us context for our work. She led us through engaging and often intense conversations about the mechanisms of historical trauma, institutional racism, and race and disability. These conversations illuminated blind spots and allowed us to reflect upon some of the ways racism and inequity have impacted our fields, created barriers to access to care, and influenced how we all conduct research and offer training and services.”
Taking current mission statements for the CAC and VKC UCEDD into account, Cockhren assisted the group in developing a proposed equity statement. After a review process and several iterations, the CAC unanimously voted to approve the VKC equity statement on June 25.
Vanderbilt Kennedy Center EQUITY STATEMENT
The Vanderbilt Kennedy Center Community Advisory Council is a collective of individuals with and without disabilities who believe in the broadest definition of equity and access for all people living with disabilities and their families.
- We honor the individuality, talents, resilience, and strengths of all people with disabilities.
- We are committed to working together with people with disabilities and their families to ensure that all people with disabilities can live and thrive with dignity.
- We acknowledge that ableism (discrimination or prejudice against individuals with disabilities), institutional racism (the ways in which policies and practices create different outcomes for different racial groups), poverty, implicit bias (an unconscious association, belief, or attitude toward a group of people), and gender/sexual identity bias are root causes of unequal quality of care and access to resources and services.
- We value lived experiences and strive to truly engage and empower all people with disabilities and their families.
- We advocate for radically inclusive and restorative practices.
“We are grateful for the work of this CAC workgroup in developing an equity statement to essentially guide us in the work we do to improve the lives of people with disabilities and their families, “said Jeff Neul. “I was also provided with a list of recommendations from the group that addresses some of the ways we might change or evolve how we go about doing our work at the VKC. As leadership, we are taking everything under consideration and recognize now more than ever that this is just a first step. We have much more work to do to increase the diversity of the VKC in a manner to better reflect the communities we serve. We are grateful that the CAC is willing to help us as we do this work.”
Top photo by Getty Images