Midwest Advocacy & Leadership Conference Draws Support from Four UCEDDs

July 8, 2019

SOAR Conference plenary session - Self advocates from four states (Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, and Kansas) welcome participants to the first time regional conference.
SOAR Conference plenary session - Self advocates from four states (Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, and Kansas) welcome participants to the first time regional conference.

UMKC Institute for Human Development (MO UCEDD) welcomed over 220 participants May 31 - June 2, 2019, as lead organizer and co-sponsor of the SOAR Regional Advocacy and Leadership Conference. SOAR, Seeking Opportunities for an Advocacy Revolution, invited people with disabilities, their family members, and disability system professionals from Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa, and Kansas to lead the  change they wish to see.  Events included a variety of opportunities to gain new leadership and personal skills. Attendees heard from:

  • National Disability Leader and self-advocate, Ollie Cantos, Esq.
  • MMA fighter, fitness champion, and self-advocate, Garrett Holeve
  • Comedian and self-advocate, Michael Beers
  • leadership expert Ed O'Malley, President and CEO of the Kansas Leadership Center
  • 10 breakout session choices, all featuring self-advocate presenters or co-presenters
  • Charting the LifeCourseTM principles and tools, created at UMKC IHD
  • Exhibitors from each of the four states, including university certificate programs for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities, UMKC Propel and UI REACH

While the Missouri UCEDD was the lead organizer, the conference was co-sponsored by three other UCEDDs from the Midwest:

  • University of Iowa, Center for Disabilities and Development (IA UCEDD, LEND)
  • University of Kansas, Center on Developmental Disabilities (KS UCEDD, LEND)
  • University of Nebraska, Munroe-Meyer Institute (NE UCEDD, LEND)

The SOAR Conference was an outgrowth of the Heartland Self-advocacy Resource Network, an AIDD-funded Self-Advocacy Project of National Significance that formed a regional partnership of state self-advocacy organizations including People First of Missouri, People First of Nebraska, Self Advocate Coalition of Kansas, and Voice of Iowa Disability and Aging Advocates. The grant was active from 2014-2017 but continues to generate ongoing dividends.

For more information about SOAR Conference or the Heartland Self-advocacy Resource Network, contact Danielle Underwood at underwooddm@umkc.edu.

Pictured here: Dr. George Gotto, MO UCEDD, and Dr. Evan Dean, KS UCEDD, LEND were on hand to support self advocates as they learned leadership skills.