Breaking Ground 116

Download a PDF version of Breaking Ground 116 here.

Download a plain text version of Breaking Ground 116 with image descriptions here (Word document).

Click the links below to read individual articles. Further down on this page, see the introduction letter from our Deputy Director and short bonus content beneath the letter.

Introduction by Deputy Director Lynette Porter

With this issue of Breaking Ground, the Tennessee Council on Developmental Disabilities is celebrating 30 years of Partners in Policymaking® in Tennessee. Partners is a national, competency-based curriculum that was established by the Minnesota Council on Developmental Disabilities in 1987. Tennessee was proud to adopt the model as its flagship leadership training and begin its first cohort in fall of 1993. Since that first group, more than 600 individuals with disabilities and family members have completed the curriculum in Tennessee.

The Council’s guidepost, the Developmental Disabilities Act, says that our role is to empower individuals with developmental disabilities and their families to help shape the policies that impact their lives. We know of no better way to do this than to give people the tools they need to amplify their voices. Everywhere.

Partners graduates are leaders in the disability community across our state. They are running non-profit agencies, working on legislation to improve the lives of people with disabilities and families, conducting workshops, and serving on boards and councils that shape disability policy and services. They are also leaders of groups that don’t focus on disability. Partners graduates are represented on energy boards, PTAs, faith-based groups and art societies. They bring the disability voice and experience to the table in every corner of community life. This is the power of Partners in Policymaking.

Through the years, our Council has been honored to have 3 amazing leaders as director of the program. In these pages, you’ll find articles from Kevin Wright and Ned Andrew Solomon, our first 2 directors. Both had a foundational impact in developing and growing our program in Tennessee. Both leaders are still involved, in concrete ways, in improving policies and practices across the service system for people with disabilities and families.

Cathlyn Smith, our Director of Leadership Development, shares her vision for Partners. She looks at how the training can evolve to stay relevant and current to meet the needs of a more diverse community of self-advocates and families – for the next 30 years of Partners and beyond.

In its 30 year history, every person on the Council staff has played a vital role in supporting our Partners in Policymaking program. Former staff members Errol Elshtain and Jaye Deakin led the first 2 classes before we had a full-time director for the program. Since 2004, Mildred Sparkman on our team has kept the behind-the-scenes administrative pieces flowing. The Arc of Davidson County, The Arc TN, and United Cerebral Palsy of Middle Tennessee have helped us at various times through the years with logistical pieces. It truly takes a village, and we are thankful for the staff support and community collaborations that have made Partners possible.

We are grateful to every person who has completed our Partners in Policymaking program in the last 30 years. You have trusted us with your limited time and precious energy. The impact you have on the lives of people with disabilities and families is witnessed across this state, in tangible ways, every day. We are also excited to meet the future cohorts and to share tools and resources to assure your critical voices for change are heard in every community across Tennessee.

Cheers for the next 30 years!
Lynette Porter
Deputy Director

A white woman with shoulder-length brown hair, a Black man in a Mario shirt holding a certificate, and a white man with gray hair and beard and glasses smile at the camera.
Lynette and Partners Director Ned Andrew Solomon celebrate with 2013 Partners graduate Jerry McMullin.

Brief Bonus Content Featured in this Issue

Grants for adult-size changing tables extended
through June 2024

Have you been following Partners graduate and Council member Chrissy Hood’s work on adult-size changing tables? (See her video on page 8.) If so, you know that Tennessee’s legislature created a $1 million grant program to help businesses and local governments install adult-size changing tables. The program gives locations up to $5,000 per table to buy and install height-adjustable, adult-size changing tables in family restrooms across the state.

Now, that grant program has been extended for another year. We still need your help! Local residents have the best chance to encourage businesses and public buildings across TN to apply for the grant. Where do lots of families go in your community? That’s where tables are needed!

For more details and the link to the online grant application, visit the program’s page from the TN Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities:

New Video and Tool: Healthy Behavior Check-In