Council on Leadership in Advocacy (COLA)



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The purpose of the Council on Leadership and Advocacy (COLA) is to enhance the Association of University Centers on Disabilities by fostering current and new leaders with lived experience of disability, including their family members, to promote leadership in their programs and communities. Council membership will expand to include directors, faculty, staff, and advisers at center programs, and CAC members.


How COLA Relates to AUCD and Its Work

COLA works to enhance AUCD by fostering and supporting current and new leaders with lived experience of disability, including their family members in order to promote this same leadership in their programs, communities, and regions, and to serve in liaison roles with local disability leadership. The Council helps the association to:

  • Build effective partnerships with other AUCD Councils and Committees, federal agencies, and other national disability groups.
  • Build the capacity of UCEDD Consumer Advisory Committees.
  • Develop leaders and mentors that build the capacity of the network to affect change at the local, state, and national levels.
  • Assist in the development of standards for participation of people with disabilities and family members in AUCD network centers and programs
  • People with disabilities and family members participate in program planning, research, and evaluation.



The Council on Leadership in Advocacy, also known as COLA, is made up of individuals with disabilities and family members from each AUCD network center and program. COLA members are involved in Community Advisory Councils at UCEDDs, AUCD Councils and Committees, AUCD Special Interest Groups, and other advocacy opportunities. Membership is open to anyone in the AUCD network. However, each center will designate an individual representative who will cast one vote when a matter before the Council requires such action.


2018 Focus Areas

The 2018 COLA annual plan has been drafted to align with the AUCD 2018 Strategic Map.


  • Diversity & Equity: Utilize network resources to support COLA membership.
  • Leadership: COLA membership champions and model diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  • Research: 1) Increase visibility of COLA within AUCD network; 2) COLA is an integral partner to strengthen network engagement and collaboration; 3) People with I/DD &/or family members lead or direct research within AUCD network.
  • Policy: COLA contributes to AUCD network policy, practices, and research.

COLA Leadership


Upcoming Events
of Interest to
COCA Members

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AUCD Conference to Feature Verizon Media/Getty Images Photography Project

AUCD is excited to feature information about the "The Disability Collection", a growing collection of stock photography created by Getty Images, Verizon Media and the National Disability Leadership Alliance, that authentically portrays disability in everyday life. A display and information about the project will be available at the conference on Monday, November 18th in the registration area for attendees to learn more.



The Arc Minnesota's GetSet! Online Interest Tool

The thought of leaving school for the adult world is intimidating to most young adults, including those with disabilities. Making decisions about post-secondary opportunities, career paths, and living arrangements can be overwhelming. That's why The Arc Minnesota developed GetSet! This tool helps young people stay focused during challenges and decision-making. GetSet! is a quiz based on person-centered principles.

Image from River Journal


WIHD Employee Brendan Klein Receives Three Awards (NY UCEDDD/LEND)

Brendan Klein who works for the Westchester Institute for Human Development to expand community service opportunities for young adults with disabilities has won three distinguished awards for his work in the community.



Tuesdays with Liz: The DD Act in Alabama with Linda Russo and James Tucker

Liz visited Alabama to see what these three groups look like in that state. Linda Russo is from the Alabama UCEDD which is at the Civitan International Research Center & Sparks Clinics. James Tucker is from the Alabama Disabilities Advocacies Program which is the P&A in Alabama.



MNLEND Fellow Becomes a Special Education Director at Minneapolis Public Schools Organization: Institute on Community Integration (MN UCEDD/LEND)

The Minneapolis Public Schools have chosen Deeqaifrah ("Deeqa") Hussein (MNLEND Fellow, 2017-18) as a Special Education Director. She credits many people and organizations for helping her get the position, including her husband Abdi Hussein (MNLEND Fellow, 2016-17) and family (she has two children with autism); the University of St. Thomas where she is earning her doctorate in Educational Leadership and Learning; her internship at the Minneapolis Public Schools with Rochelle Cox, Executive Director of Special Education and Health (and Hussein's new supervisor); and the student/family advocacy skills she learned as a MNLEND Fellow. Hussein spent the past two years as an Autism Itinerant Teacher, and for two years before that she was a High School Special Education Resource Teacher



Tuesdsays with Liz: AUCD's Council on Leadership in Advocacy (COLA) with Jack Brandt and Angela Martin

People with disabilities and their family members are valued leaders and advocates on AUCD's Council on Leadership in Advocacy (COLA). Liz interviews 2019 Co-Chairs Jack Brandt (Partnership for People with Disabilities) and Angela Martin (Michigan Developmental Disabilities Institute), and they debunk some of the myths surrounding who can be a part of COLA.



Local Partnership Leads to International Connections (MT UCEDD)

In the fall of 2018, the Rural Institute for Inclusive Communities at the University of Montana (UM) and Summit Independent Living Center hosted Ms. Nguyen Thi Van, from Hanoi, Vietnam, who was visiting Missoula, MT as a Mansfield Center Professional Fellow. Van represents two organizations that provide vocational training and independent living skills for people with disabilities in Vietnam.



OHSU UCEDD CAC Awards Community Grants for Good (OR UCEDD)

The UCEDD in the Institute on Development and Disability at OHSU Community Advisory Committee, also known as the Community Partners Council (CPC), has been awarding small grants to the community for seven years now and has funded 32 community projects. At their most recent quarterly meeting, they voted to fund six projects this fiscal year through their Community Engagement Grant program.



Step Up Program Helps High School Students with Autism Prepare for College (ME UCEDD)

The pilot program focused on high school juniors or seniors with an autism spectrum diagnosis who are also transition clients being served by the Maine Department of Labor's Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. It was designed to help them gain skills and experience in a number of areas that are associated with postsecondary education success for students with disabilities. These areas included learning social skills, practicing self-determination, attending a college-level class, campus living, and paid employment.



Vermont LEND Alumni and Staff's Refugee Stories Featured in New Book "Suddenly You Are Nobody"

This book features 30 former refugee individuals from 17 different countries of the world who made State of Vermont as their second home after being evicted from their original homelands.

From his desk at Vanderbilt, Jeff Hine, Ph.D., uses telemedicine to perform an evaluation for autism with a patient in another city via videoconference, reducing travel burdens for the family. Photo by John Russell.


System Set Through Vanderbilt Kennedy Center (IDDRC, UCEDD, LEND) to Help Coordinate Autism Care

Author: Kelsey Herbers

Researchers from the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center (IDDRC, UCEDD, LEND) Treatment and Research Institute for Autism Spectrum Disorders (VKC TRIAD) hope to close this gap by establishing a learning and family navigation system to improve care coordination for children with ASD, particularly those in medically underserved areas.



Vanderbilt Kennedy Center (IDDRC, UCEDD, LEND) U54 Research Project Finalists Generating Multidisciplinary and Innovative Research in Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

Three pilot studies led by Vanderbilt Kennedy Center (VKC IDDRC, UCEDD, LEND) researchers are competing to serve as the signature project of the VKC Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center (IDDRC). The VKC's IDDRC grant is up for renewal in 2019, and a major component of the grant is the requirement of a research project. A successful grant proposal with acceptance from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute for Child Health and Human Development will provide five years of funding, continuing the promise and commitments of the VKC and springboarding the research agenda of the innovative competition winner.


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