Our Impact Over Time

  • 1975The Council on Developmental Disabilities is established in TN by governor order after the creation of councils in the DD Act five years earlier.
  • 1985 Council launches first supported employment programs for Tennesseans with intellectual and developmental disabilities through a national employment grant.
  • 1989Begins supporting People First of Tennessee, a statewide self-advocacy group for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. This group goes on to lead major change, including the closing of state-run institutions for people with developmental disabilities. 
  • 1989 - Council funds the creation of the TN Disability Coalition, an alliance of disability organizations that advocates for Tennesseans with disabilities and still exists today. Read more about the start of the Coalition here.
  • 1993Launches Partners in Policymaking® Leadership Institute for Tennesseans with disabilities and family members. Nearly 600 people graduate from Partners and have a huge impact across our state. Partners graduates influence everything from national and state policy to more accessible local communities. The 2022 class is the Council’s 28th.
  • 1995 Launches “Home of Your Own” to increase home ownership for Tennesseans with developmental disabilities. Banks and lenders are educated on supporting home ownership for people with I/DD. During the project, 132 people buy their own homes, 73 move from institutions into the community, 185 units of affordable and accessible housing are made available, and 240 people with disabilities receive training on home ownership.
  • 1995Founds Childcare Resource and Referral Centers to increase quality childcare options for families of kids with disabilities. The 10 centers are now run by the Dept. of Human Services. They educate childcare providers about best practices and inclusion of children with disabilities, giving families more quality childcare options.
  • 1997Builds TN Disability Pathfinder, the state’s central source for disability information and referral. Pathfinder is operated by Vanderbilt Kennedy Center. It offers a website and multilingual hotline to search, find, and connect with disability services. A few years later, the Council launches a Spanish-language version of Pathfinder, called “Camino Seguro.” Today, the Departments of Health, Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities, Education, Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, and Human Services also help fund Pathfinder. 
  • 2003Holds the first TN Disability MegaConference. MegaConference continues annually and is the largest cross-disability, statewide conference. People from across the state learn about disability issues and resources and connect with each other.
  • 2004 – Began convening state agencies together every month to work on improving transition services for students with disabilities. This group is now called the TN Employment Roundtable and continues to meet monthly. The Roundtable is a partnership among 10+ agencies working together to identify gaps in services, to make sure programs are working in the best way, and to improve employment outcomes across the state for people with disabilities.
  • 2005Launches TN’s first Project SEARCH site at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital, which continues to operate today (in 2022, the 100th graduate completed the program). Project SEARCH is a nationally known internship program for young adults with disabilities. There are now 17+ Project SEARCH sites across TN, offered through a partnership of several state agencies. Dozens of young people are prepared for full-time employment through the program each year. 
  • 2006Funds TN’s first inclusive higher education program for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities, Next Steps at Vanderbilt. There are now 8 more college programs at Lipscomb, Union, UT Knoxville, ETSU, University of Memphis, Dyersburg State Community College, and TN State University, with more being developed each year (Chattanooga State Community College received a grant in 2023 to launch a new program). Graduates of these college programs have dramatically higher rates of employment than the general I/DD population. The programs are supported by the statewide Inclusive Higher Education Alliance, which the Council also participates in. Learn more with this video: https://youtu.be/KYkRdNQmAGg
  • 2006 – Started a “person-centered organizations” training program for the Dept. of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (DIDD). Person-centered thinking is a globally recognized best practice that makes sure that decision-making at every level of disability systems is guided by the goals of people getting services. Today, DIDD continues this work through its Person-Centered Practices office, which has been nationally recognized by the Council on Quality and Leadership. In 2020, we launched a similar effort to transform TN’s Vocational Rehabilitation system.
  • 2007Starts “TN Adult Brothers and Sisters” (TABS), a peer support network led by siblings of people with disabilities. Today, TABS continues to offer information, learning opportunities, and emotional support to siblings of all ages.
  • 2011 – Began supporting a self-advocacy training called “People Planning Together”, led by the Dept. of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities; it’s now known as “Advocates in Motion” (AIM). AIM develops a group of trainers, who are people with disabilities that use disability support services, to teach advocacy skills to their peers. The trainers help people speak up for what they want for their lives and learn how to lead their own support planning meetings. We helped TN’s health plans that run the Employment and Community First (ECF) CHOICES program start their own AIM training program for people who get ECF services
  • 2013 – Joined the national learning community for the Charting the LifeCourse framework, a set of principles and tools that help people with disabilities and families plan for the future and find supports. We continue to serve as the go-to resource in TN for training in using the LifeCourse framework and tools, and embed the principles in disability services across the lifespan.

This Page Last Updated: July 14, 2023 at 11:56 AM