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

Demonstration Services by UCEDDs  Copy to Calendar
Wednesday, February 26, 2020

PacRim2020  Copy to Calendar
Monday, March 2, 2020 - Tuesday, March 3, 2020

More Events >





OHSU UCEDD Prioritizes Youth Health Care Transition

Four out of five Oregon youth who experience disabilities report that they did not receive adequate transition services during their healthcare visits according to the National Survey of Children with Special Health Care Needs in 2016.



Va-LEND Trainee Receives Champions of Accessibility Award

Submitted by Jennifer Drummond

Va-LEND Trainee, Lynne Fetter received the Champions of Accessibility Award from the Transforming Accessibility Initiative (TAI) at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). Fetter was one of thirteen honored at TAI's annual fall conference. This award aimed to honor individuals, departments, groups, or websites committed to advocating for accessibility in their community. Recipients show passion and drive for promoting access and are making a large impact on the VCU Community, according to TAI. Fetter won under the graduate category, as her Social Work internship at the Center on Transition Innovations (CTI) at VCU focused on supporting youths with disability transition from school to the workplace.



UConn UCEDD Molly Cole awarded the prestigious The ARC Connecticut Peg Dignoti Advocacy Award

The UConn Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities' (UConn UCEDD) Associate Director of Public Policy, Molly Cole, was awarded the prestigious The ARC Connecticut Peg Dignoti Advocacy Award.



Vanderbilt Kennedy Center (TN IDDRC, UCEDD, LEND) Hosts 2020 Educate to Advocate Public Policy Workshop

The Vanderbilt Kennedy Center (TN IDDRC, UCEDD, LEND) recently hosted its 2020 Educate to Advocate public policy workshop in preparation for Feb. 4's Tennessee Disability Day on the Hill, during which disability organizations, family members and caregivers, self-advocates, and more schedule appointments with their elected officials to discuss disability issues and upcoming legislation.



Vanderbilt Kennedy Center (TN IDDRC, UCEDD, LEND) Works to Create Advocacy Education Opportunities for Community

The Vanderbilt Kennedy Center (TN IDDRC, UCEDD, LEND) has been creating multiple ways in which the greater Vanderbilt and Nashville community can gain skills in advocacy. With a LEND group project geared towards developing an "Advocacy Toolkit" and the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center's recent 2020 Educate to Advocate public policy workshop, Vanderbilt students, staff, and faculty work to make advocacy skills both attainable and accessible.



WITH Foundation, AADMD, and Ability Central Awards More than $478,000 to Foster Supported Decision-making for AAC Users

The WITH Foundation, the American Academy of Developmental Medicine and Dentistry (AADMD) and Ability Central are pleased to announce that more than $478,000 will be awarded to five organizations as a result of their joint RFP. These grants will fund programs focused on the development of resources, programmatic models, and/or advocacy related to Supported Decision-Making (SDM) for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities who use Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC). Applicants were encouraged to develop new partnerships or significantly enhance existing partnerships between disability organizations, advocates, community organizations, and healthcare providers.

Cover of 2020 Exceptional Parent Guide: Navigating Special Needs Resources


Former NJLEND Family Fellows Partner with Family Voices NJ to Highlight Parent Professional - Partnerships in Training Programs in the Exceptional Parent Guide 2020: Navigating Special Needs Resources

Two former NJLEND Family Fellows partnered with Family Voices NJ recently to highlight parent-professional partnerships in training programs in the Exceptional Parent Guide 2020: Navigating Special Needs Resources. Their article on matching future healthcare professionals with families of children with special needs highlights the NJLEND Mentor Family Experience as well as other opportunities for parents to serve as educators of future health care professionals.



WIHD Staff Featured on Fox 5 New York

WIHD staff members, Naomi Brickel and Brendan Klein, were featured on Fox 5 New York with Ernie Anastos to speak about the vital social opportunities they create for people with disabilities through social groups. Naomi Brickel is the Director of the Community Support Network and Brendan Klein is the Youth Advocacy and Engagement Coordinator at WIHD.


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