May Council Meeting Wrap-Up

2018 May Council Meeting

The Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities (TCDD) held its quarterly Council and Committee Meetings from May 2 to May 4 in Austin. During the meetings, the Council funded new innovative projects, learned about current disability-related issues, and welcomed new members.

Grants and Stipends

The Council awarded TCDD Policy Fellows grants to Easterseals of Central Texas and Family to Family Network. With these grants, each organization will hire and support a full-time TCDD Policy Fellow. The Fellows will develop a deep understanding of disability policy and build skills to promote self-determination so they can engage in policy activities that lead to systems change. The following organizations have also received TCDD Policy Fellow grants:

  • Coalition of Texans with Disabilities
  • Disability Rights Texas
  • EveryChild, Inc.
  • The Arc of Texas

TCDD provides stipends to increase access to disability-related information and advocacy skills. Event Stipends help people with developmental disabilities (DD) and family members attend informational conferences or advocacy skills training events. Disability-Related Speaker Stipends support presentations on disability-related issues at conferences and workshops in Texas. In the past quarter, TCDD awarded stipends to the following organizations (related events in parentheses):

  • American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Texas Chapter (43rd AAIDD-TX Convention)
  • Coalition of Texans with Disabilities (Lantinx Annual Conference)
  • Down Syndrome Diagnosis Association of South Texas (National Down Syndrome Congress National Convention)
  • Green Oaks Education and Support, Inc. (National Down Syndrome Congress National Convention)
  • Texas Advocates (2018 Texas Advocates Annual Convention)
  • Texas Parent to Parent (14th Annual Texas Parent to Parent Conference)
  • The Arc of Greater Houston (Good Decisions for a Better Future)
  • The Arc of Texas (Pathways to Justice)

Information about TCDD’s funding opportunities, including Event Stipends and Disability-Related Speaker Stipends, is available on our Funding Available webpage.

Guest Presentations

One of the Council’s goals is to serve as a resource to others — people with disabilities, advocates, legislators, etc. To accomplish this goal, the Council works to stay up-to-date and informed on topics and issues that could affect people with DD. Over the course of the May Council Meeting, several guest presenters shared information about employment-related policies, programs, and services. In addition to hearing from state and national experts, the Council also participated in discussions that will help Texans with disabilities access employment-related resources and supports. Below is a list of presentations from the May Council Meeting:

  • Financial Empowerment: Elizabeth Jennings from the National Disability Institute (NDI) updated the Council about NDI’s TCDD-funded project to develop tools that promote employment and financial empowerment that enhance self-determination and self-sufficiency.

  • VR in Texas: Jennifer Kaut-Hines from the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) provided an overview of Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Services in Texas. Jennifer talked about the purpose of VR, how to apply for services, and the importance of early employment for individuals with disabilities.

  • Employment Story: Kimberly Blackmon, TCDD Council Member, spoke about how she landed her community-integrated job. Kimberly talked about how she took classes to learn office skills, and then received help from TWC and UCP to get connected with her current employer.

  • Understanding ABLE: Elizabeth Jennings from NDI covered Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) accounts. Elizabeth talked about the history of the ABLE Act, how ABLE accounts impact benefits, and what changes are being implemented in 2018.

  • GCPD Policy Initiatives: Ron Lucey and Fran Robertson from the Texas Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities (GCPD) presented at TCDD’s Public Policy Committee Meeting. Ron and Fran talked about some of GCPD’s policy recommendations and their 2016 Study on Accessible Parking and Disabled Placard Abuse.

  • Inclusive Education in Texas: Tiffany Williams, TCDD Policy Fellow housed at the Coalition for Texans with Disabilities, provided a presentation on inclusive education in Texas. Tiffany discussed what the research says about how inclusion impacts student outcomes, how Texas compares to the rest of the country, and potential policy solutions to increase inclusion in Texas.

Students from the Postsecondary Access and Training in Human Services (PATHS) Program also spoke at the Council Meeting. The students talked about how the PATHS Program has helped them reach their education and employment goals, and they thanked the Council for supporting the program. The program, which is offered by the Center on Disability and Development at Texas A&M University, prepares individuals for jobs as Direct Support Professionals and Child Care Professionals.

New Members

The TCDD Council is comprised of 27 Governor-appointed members. By law, 60% of the members must be people with DD or family members of people with DD. Some of the remaining 40% of members are decision-makers from state government agencies that administer certain federal programs that serve or impact people with DD.

This dynamic represents one of the goals of the DD Act — to allow people with DD and decision-makers to engage in discussions and develop solutions together. During Council Meetings, state agency representatives get to hear directly from people with DD and their family members who have experience with the programs and services that the state agencies oversee. The state agency representatives can then consider their discussions with Council members when implementing or modifying the programs and services that are utilized by people across the state.

Recently, the following state agency representatives were appointed to the Council:

  • Katlyn Le, Director of Children with Special Health Care Needs (CSHCN), Texas Department of State Health Services (Title V Maternal and Child Health Services)

  • Stephanie Muth, State Director of Medicaid, Texas Health and Human Services (Title XIX Medicaid programs)

  • Dana Williamson; Director, Program Policy Support; Texas Health and Human Services (Title XIX Medicaid programs alternate)

  • Justin Porter; Executive Director, Special Populations; Texas Education Agency (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act programs)

  • Keith Swink, Manager of Dispute Resolution Division of Special Education; Texas Education Agency (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act programs alternate)

TCDD is currently seeking new Council members. If you would like to learn more, visit our Become a Council Member webpage.

Next Council Meeting

TCDD’s next quarterly Council and Committee Meetings will be held August 1 to August 3, 2018, at the Crowne Plaza, Austin. To receive updates about future Council Meetings, visit the Get Involved with TCDD webpage for ways to follow us.