Council in the Community

The Ohio DD Council is always actively advocating for our mission to create change that improves independence, productivity and inclusion for people with developmental disabilities and their families in community life in Ohio. Below are some examples of ways that Council and it's members are active in their communities.




"In Focus" Highlights DD Council in a Video Interview

December 27, 2020: The year 2020 was the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Mike Kallmeyer of the Spectrum News program, In Focus, interviewed  Executive Director Carolyn Knight about how the Ohio DD Council works to achieve the goals of the ADA. This short video provides a great overview of who Council is and what we do.

View the interview here: Americans with Disabilities Act Celebrates 30 Years 

Ohio Disability Blog features DD Council's Executive Director, Carolyn Knight

December 21, 2020: The Ohio DD Council's executive director, Carolyn Knight, was recently interviewed for the Ohio Disability Blog. The three-part interview was done by Bill Darling, director of Assistive Technology of Ohio (AT Ohio) in the College of Engineering at The Ohio State University. Darling is also a former member and past chairperson of the Ohio DD Council.

During the video interviews, Knight shares information about the Ohio DD Council's mission, vision and work: 

The Ohio Disability Blog is a new venture of AT Ohio. "We aim to become Ohio's online home for disability-related content," said Darling. "We will be covering timely topics that affect Ohioans with disabilities and keeping everyone up to date on the latest developments in the field of assistive technology." The blog features interviews with Ohio's disability leaders on important projects and initiatives that affect the disability community.  

Be sure to check out and subscribe to the Ohio Disability Blog.

Council supports DRO's effort to ensure equality of care for people with disabilities

April 2020: On Friday, April 3, 2020, the Ohio DD Council signed onto a letter to Governor Mike DeWine and Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton asking the state to provide guidance to healthcare providers to not make decisions about the availability of care or equipment that is based on a person’s disability. The letter identifies other states that have rules in place that allow ventilators and other care to be redirected away from people with disabilities to provide care for those without disabilities. The letter states, in part, “These protocols fail to recognize the humanity and dignity of people with disabilities by devaluing their lives. They also violate, among other laws, the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (“Section 504”), and Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”).” The letter, drafted by Disability Rights Ohio and signed by DRO, DD Council, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital UCEDD, OSILC, National MS Society, and Ohio Association of Area Agencies on Aging can be read here: DRO's Letter to the Governor

Stay up-to-date with public policy by subscribing to DD Council's This Week in Public Policy.

Rep. Erica Crawley Visits Ohio DD Council

March 2020: Representative Erica Crawley (D - 26th District) visited the Ohio DD Council at its March council meeting on Thursday, March 5, 2020 in Worthington. A freshman, or first time lawmaker, Crawley was elected into the state legislature in the 2018 midterm elections.

“I thought that I had lived an experience that gave me a different perspective on policies, and I could possibly fill a void that was in the legislature,” said Crawley, the lawyer and veteran, on her decision to run when Heather Bishop resigned from the Ohio Statehouse.

Crawley spoke before Council members at the March Five-Year Planning Meeting. She began by talking about the challenges she faced while growing up and how they shaped her into the leader she is now. As she continues her work in the state legislature, she aims to expand her work with the disability community across her district and Ohio. She has been involved with the Franklin CGroup picture of Council members with Rep. Erica Crawleyounty Board on Developmental Disabilities, and then one of her constituents, Eric Duffy, invited her to a chapter meeting for the National Federation of the Blind.

“I was hearing stories about parents who were experiencing having their children taken away out of their custody or taken because they weren't even able to bring their baby home because somebody made the determination that they weren't a fit parent due to their blindness,” recalls Crawley. Through her research she found that other states were looking at or implementing the same legislation.

“We saw the same things happen with people who are quadriplegic, who might have been in a car accident, as a fit parent prior to their accident but then something happened. And they met with a disability and then had their rights challenged and have had children taken away. Even people who have developmental disabilities or have IQ challenges have had their rights challenged just because of something that is no fault of their own,” she said.

Crawley’s mission is also to always be in touch with her constituents, or as she calls them, her neighbors. She reminded DD Council members that it's important for people to be involved in government — to have their voice be heard.

“I was elected by a group of individuals who sent me to the Statehouse, and I like to believe in their best interest. I don't know what their interests are if they don't tell me. This piece of legislation came to my attention because someone in my district has seen other people be impacted. And so, this is his legislation. We do it together. And if there's nobody knocking on the doors of my colleagues, then my colleagues don't necessarily take me seriously or they don't see it as a real problem,” said Crawley.

Council in The Community: Rochelle Hall-Rollins

Pictures of participants of the panel discussionMarch 2020: Ohio DD Council member Rochelle Hall-Rollins recently participated as a panelist on the “Change Makers Forum” panel discussion. This was a part of the Ohio Statewide Founders Day celebration activities hosted by the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., Akron Alumnae Chapter.

A primary goal of the organization is to encourage social actions in communities across the nation. For the panel discussion, the planning committee wanted to make women across the state of Ohio aware of how important it is to get involved and commit to elected political and appointed governor positions.

Hall-Rollins was chosen for the panel because of her appointment to Council by former Governor Kasich. She spoke on how important it is to be at the table and not just in the room to help make a difference to help people who might not ever get services that one rightfully deserves.

Learn more about Rochelle by watching a video of her as she talks about the importance of being a member of the Ohio DD Council.

Council partners with Nisonger Center to bring “Heart of Glass” to Columbus

Hearts of Glass logoFebruary 2020: The Ohio DD Council is proud to partner with The Ohio State University Nisonger Center and Gateway Film Center to bring Hearts of Glass to Columbus, Ohio on Wednesday, April 15th from 5-8 pm. The event includes a reception, film screening and panel discussion.

Hearts of Glass follows the first 15 months of the start-up operation of Vertical Harvest (VH), located in Jackson, Wyoming. VH is a multi-story, state-of-the-art hydroponic greenhouse that grows crops while providing meaningful, competitively-paid jobs for people with disabilities. The film weaves the story of VH’s launch with the personal journeys of several employees with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The film is described as "an intimate portrait of social entrepreneurship at the intersection of disability rights and sustainable, local food production."

Check out the film trailer here: Hearts of Glass Movie Trailer

Council wraps up 2019 with retreat

Picture of a room with large number of Council members listening to a presentationDecember 2019: In early December, the Ohio Developmental Disabilities Council held its annual retreat meeting, a time for Council members to hear from advocates, experts and others about emerging issues, future plans and accomplishments related to improving services and supports to people with developmental disabilities. All presentations were highly informative and provided an opportunity for Council members to voice their opinions and share their own stories and ideas.

Guest speakers included people with developmental disabilities, Council members, representatives from the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities (DODD), Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities (OOD), the Ohio Provider Resource Association (OPRA) and the National Association of Council on Developmental Disabilities (NACDD).

Picture of Council members meeting with Jeff Davis, Director of DODDDay one was filled with several presentations packed with information. The retreat opened with Christopher Milo, an internationally renowned concert pianist, motivational speaker, performer and entrepreneur who shared his life story and how that shaped his presentation about “13 messages.” The purpose of his messages are to help create real life solutions to help others find their voice to advocate for change. During a break, he entertained the audience with a short piano recital.

The council members also shared about their trip to Washington, DC. Paul Jarvis, Ohio DD Council Public Policy Liaison, shared that the Council members met with both senators and all representatives.

“There was DD council member and SILC members in each meeting. It was very valuable for them to see people with disabilities in the hallways there and ready to advocate,” said Jarvis.

Picture of panel of speakers at the Council meetingOther presentations throughout the first day included:

  • Viewing and discussion of a training video about the Americans with Disabilities Act and how it relates to interacting with state employees with disabilities. All State of Ohio employees are required to watch this training. Shannon Komiserak, Assistant Deputy Director, OOD was the presenter.
  • An ethics training required by all Council members and staff that was an entertaining and interactive presentation, thanks to the presenter, Susan Willeke, Education and Communications Administrator from the Ohio Ethics Commission.
  • Information about the National Association of Council on Developmental Disabilities (NACDD) presented by Erin Prangley, Policy Director, including what’s going on with NACDD from a federal perspective. 
  • An interactive discussion to help provide input for the development of a blueprint for adult and employment services for DODD. Jacqueline Romer-Sensky and Stacy Collins from DODD were the presenters.
  • Information about the Ohio Provider Resource Association (OPRA) from Pete Moore and how OPRA and Council may be able to work together.

The director of DODD, Jeff Davis, opened up the retreat on the second day, giving a review of his first year “on the job” at the Department. Director Davis also asked to hear from the Council members on personal successes they had throughout 2019 which led to a lively discussion among the audience.

A hot topic of conversation and discussion also centered around independence and the high demand of remote supports for people with disabilities.

“The demand is high because people enjoy their freedom and independence, but providers cannot ramp up fast enough,” said Director Davis. He said his focus is on the professionals in the field so they are empowered to get the resources to the people and their families.

“It’s all about people and relationships,” he said. “And it can only get better.”Picture of outgoing Council members with DODD Director Jeff Davis

Other presentations throughout the day included:

  • Update on the progress of DODD’s single plan process by Kelly Mosely-Miller, Deputy Director, DODD.
  • Information and discussion about multi-systems youth and early intervention programs through DODD by Tina Evans and Nathan Dedino of DODD.
  • Report of findings and recommendations from representatives of the Task Force for Advocacy, a grant that is funded by the Ohio DD Council to the Ohio Statewide Independent Living Centers (OSILC).

The retreat ended with a brief business meeting, including the recognition of several Council members whose terms end this year.

Ohio DD Council Members Go to Washington!

Picture of Council members with Sherrod BrownSeptember 2019: Ohio DD Council Member Michael Denlinger was one of almost a dozen Council Members who traveled to Washington DC this past September to participate in federal briefings on disability policy and to meet with members of Congress. Denlinger, serving as a DD Council Member from Hamilton County, was able to meet with his Congressman Steve Chabot and with U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown.

The trip, planned by the Ohio DD Council, and also by the Ohio Association of County Boards of Developmental Disabilities and the Ohio Statewide Independent Living Council, provided members of all three organizations an opportunity to learn, network and advocate. The program included a day where members learned about Medicaid block-grants, the Disability Integration Act, and efforts to eliminate healthcare discrimination against people with disabilities.

Picture of Council members at Washington DCDenlinger has been a vocal advocate with his federal policymakers for years, but he said this was the first time he was able to meet face-to-face with his Congressman.

“It was only a few minutes with Chabot, but I’m glad he saw that we were there and had a chance to say hi to us,” said Denlinger. “Sherrod Brown spent a considerable amount of time with us and I feel like he really heard us when we spoke up.”

Jo Spargo, Chairwoman of the DD Council, said this trip was the best one she’s participated in as a member of the Council.

“Our meetings with legislators went very well, and having folks representing county boards and independent living centers in each meeting made the conversation with each of the policymakers flow very smoothly,” said Spargo. “I know this was a lot of work to plan, but it was definitely worth it in the end.”

Council members were armed with two Fact Sheets to share with legislators or their staff: a sheet highlighting DD Council project outcomes from 2018 and a sheet identifying federal policy barriers to employment for people with disabilities. Each member participated in three meetings on Capitol Hill.

Speakers during the Wednesday afternoon briefings included Andy Schneider, Research Professor of the Practice at the Georgetown University McCourt School of Public Policy; Sheryl Grossman, Community Living Advocate for the National Council on Independent Living; Roger Severino, Director of Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; and Erin Prangley, Director of Policy for the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities.

Cartoon image of an African American woman with a chef's hat on her head and stirring something in a pot.Marci Straughter “Keeps It Cookin'” with new blog

July 2019: Ohio DD Council Member and self-advocate Marci Straughter has launched her very own blog to share cooking recipes and self-advocacy tips for other self-advocates like her. Marci’s “Keep It Cookin’” Cookbook Facebook page allows the young leader to share her day, her progress in culinary skills, and tips and discussion on working with direct support professionals and advocating for yourself.

According to Marci, she created this blog to share with people with disabilities ways to find a good provider and be a self-advocate. The blog has already reached 140 likes and continues to grow everyday.

Follow Marci’s Keep It Cookin’ Cookbook page on Facebook!

Picture of a man in a wheelchair and the words Public Transit and AccessibilityAccess to Transportation for the Disability Community

July 2019: On July 18, All Sides with Ann Fisher on WOSU Public Media brought on experts, including Ohio DD Council's former Chair Mark Seifarth, to discuss access to transportation for people with disabilities. Citing Transportation Challenges for Ohioans with Disabilities, a 2017 survey and study done by Ohio DD Council, Seifarth shared why access to transportation also means access to jobs, friends, and living in the community.

The interview also shared that a majority of individuals with intellectual disabilities struggled to read or understand a bus schedule. It discussed the differences between transportation access between rural and urban areas; financial barriers; and how ride-share services like Uber and Lyft are impacting transportation.

Listen to the interview

Pictured are Katherine Foley, Karen Kerr, Fatica Ayers, and Jim Pietrzycki as Fatica hold the award given to DD Council from the Center for Independent LivingPictured L to R: Katherine Foley, SIL Executive Director; Karen Kerr, Council Member; Fatica Ayers, Council Staff; and Jim Pietrzycki, SIL Board Chair

SIL Presents Award to Ohio DD Council

May 2019: The Ohio Developmental Disabilities Council was awarded the Inclusion Award from the Services for Independent Living (SIL). This award is given to an individual, group or agency that actively promotes community inclusion for persons with disabilities.

According to SIL’s Executive Director Katherine Foley, “This is the third such award our agency has given out in the past six years and one that is not given lightly! The Ohio DD Council is often thought of as a funding source, however they are so much more. The Council and its members are the agents of change, encouraging innovation and creativity to address barriers faced by persons with disabilities and their families. They are active participants at systems-change tables. They are cheerleaders, bringing like-minded people together to brainstorm possibilities. They are active partners with their grantees. And they are an agency with a huge heart and absolutely deserving of this award.”

The Ohio DD Council thanks the SIL for this prestigious award.

Council's Executive Director interviewed on Spectrum News

May 2019: Ohio DD Council Executive Director Carolyn Knight recently visited Spectrum News to discuss what the Council does and how it continues support and increase inclusion and integration for people with developmental disabilities in Ohio. She also spoke about the Five Year Plan, the driving force for the Council’s work across Ohio. Through the plan, the Council provides grants to various organizations for work on its goals.

Watch her interview on Spectrum News

Picture of Marc Tasse presenting an award to Dr. Paula RabidouxMarc Tasse, Director of Nisonger Center presents Paula Rabidoux with her award.

Dr. Paula Rabidoux receives award

May 2019: Council member Paula Rabidoux, Ph.D, CCC-SLP was recently awarded The Nisonger Champion Award, an honor given by The Ohio State University’s Nisonger Center to an individual who has made significant contributions to improving the quality of life of people with developmental disabilities and their families. The recipient demonstrates a strong commitment to the advancement of science and/or care and displays a sincere interest in the well-being of people with developmental disabilities.

“Paula has always been thoughtful, committed, and steady when pursuing an initiative, making a decision, and being a team player as well as an individual thinker,” said Kenneth Latham, policy analyst for Ohio DD Council’s Outreach Committee.

Rabidoux has served on the Ohio DD Council since January 2003 as the representative of one of Ohio’s University Centers of Excellence in Developmental Disabilities. She is a member of several of Council’s issues committees, including being the Chair of the Outreach committee. At the Nisonger Center, she is a practicing speech language pathologist and the associate director and co-director of the Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND) program.

Rachel Rice appointed to Ohio DD Council

Photo of new Ohio DD Council Member, Rachel RiceRachel Rice is the newest member appointed to the Ohio DD Council

March 2019: Rachel Rice was appointed to the Ohio Developmental Disability Council (Ohio DD Council) by former Governor John Kasich to serve a three-year term on the 30-person board that advocates for people with developmental disabilities across Ohio.

An advocacy assistant with the Warren County Board of Developmental Disabilities, Rice defines her advocacy goal as helping those who cannot speak for themselves and helping who can to learn how to advocate.

As an Ohio DD Council member, she plans to focus on transportation issues and insurance and provider care options for those with disabilities.  “These are the areas that I know people with disabilities are having issues with,” Rice said.

A resident of Franklin, OH, Rice is active with the Human Rights Committee for Warren County and the University of Cincinnati University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UC UCEDD).

Outside of work and her advocacy efforts, Rice participates in the Special Olympics of Greater Dayton (Springboro), CHEERS (a social group for adults with special needs) and enjoys computer games and traveling.

New Year, New Council Members!

January 2019: Picture of new DD Council member Pamela GreenPamela Green (pictured to the right), CEO of Easterseals serving greater Cincinnati (Easterseals GC), was appointed to the Ohio Developmental Disabilities Council by former Governor John Kasich before his tenure ended earlier this month.

Green joins the Council as an agency leader of a private, non-profit organization that works on behalf of individuals with developmental disabilities. Employment and economic opportunities have always been a passion for Green. She started her career leading temporary employment services, and her employment journey brought her to work for Easterseals GC.

“I came to Easterseals because of its mission of connecting individuals to employment,” said Green, who has been with the organization since 2003. “Through my work, I became an advocate and have been proud to make positive changes for community employment for people with disabilities.” She was appointed CEO in 2011.

In her role, she managed 14 different Project SEARCH sites. Project SEARCH is a nationwide high school transition program that prepares students with disabilities to be gainfully employed after high school through competitive internships.

Her work also sought to transition three sheltered workshops to more community-integrated models. She opened a social enterprise which hired the individuals who previously participated in the sheltered workshop program, as well as participants from other Easterseals programs serving veterans and low income families. The enterprise focuses on assembling specimen collection kits for clinical trials across North America.

Another integrated program is Work and Grow, which allows individuals with disabilities to work for competitive wages, and then move into community employment.

And now, as an Ohio DD Council member, she hopes to bring more attention to employment.

“Easterseals serves people with disabilities and those affected by poverty,” said Green. “And the Council is such a unique and important avenue that I hope to be able to bring attention to the intersection of disability and poverty.”

Green was appointed November 16, 2018 to the Ohio DD Council, and will serve a three-year term.

“We welcome Pamela with her extensive knowledge of the needs and abilities of those with disabilities,” said Ohio DD Council Chairperson Joanna Spargo. “Her professional experience as well as her strong advocacy for people with developmental disabilities is invaluable as the Council continues to foster full community inclusion of those with developmental disabilities in Ohio.”

Other Member Appointments and Reappointments

In addition, on December 18, 2018, Gov. Kasich made the following additional appointments and reappointments:

Rachel A. Rice of Franklin (Warren Co.) was appointed to the Ohio Developmental Disabilities Council for a term beginning January 1, 2019, and ending December 31, 2021. More information about Rachel will be available in the February newsletter.

Blaine P. O’Leary of Sidney (Shelby Co.) and Dara D. Walburn of Athens (Athens Co.) have been reappointed to the Ohio Developmental Disabilities Council for terms beginning January 1, 2019, and ending December 31, 2021.

Mark Seifarth Receives Synergy Award

December 2018: Picture of Mark Seifarth receiving the Synergy Award from Dana Charlton.Mark Seifarth, former Ohio DD Council Chairperson, was in for more than he bargained for while presenting as part of a panel of speakers during DD Council’s December meeting. Much to his surprise, Dana Charlton, executive director of the Ohio Self Determination Association (OSDA) showed up at the end of the panel discussion to present Mark with this year’s Synergy Award. Those considered for the award are people or organizations who demonstrate a strong commitment to collaboration across systems and stakeholders.

“[Mark Seifarth] is someone who champions inclusion, and we are honored to present this award to Mark for his work for the disability community,” said Charlton.

Carolyn Knight, Ohio DD Council’s executive director said, “I’ve known Mark for many years and have seen the incredible work he has done advocating for the rights of people with developmental disabilities. Mark served on our Council for two terms and is our immediate-past chairperson. His leadership in that capacity helped to empower our members and further Council’s goals.”

Steve Oster, representing PAR, and Dana Charlton, representing OSDA decide and present the Synergy Award which is named after an annual conference, called the Synergy Conference. This conference is “a single conference recognizing that the power of one is multiplicative when people and organizations partner together to promote a common interest,” said Charlton. For more information about the Synergy Conference, go to

Congratulations, Mark!

Michael Denlinger Goes to Disability Cocoon Tech:Fest

October 2018: Ohio DD Council Member Michael Denlinger went to the very first Disability Cocoon Tech:Fest in Cincinnati at the American Sign Museum this month. And his experience couldn’t have been better.

The inaugural one-day technology festival focused on technology for people with disabilities and included several short presentations/demos, disability technology expert sessions, innovation-storming sessions, food trucks, games and much more.

Promoted as a “disability technology catalyst organization,” Disability Cocoon Tech:Festival focused on disability technology solutions and innovation that would support increased independence.

“I met so many people and learned so much about what technology is available to people with disabilities, that goes beyond tools like Alexa,” said Denlinger.

For example, Denlinger learned about the Lean On Me app that allows individuals to be in touch with families and caregivers, while still remaining independent. Additionally, he met with Scioto, a company in Ohio that helps people with disabilities get their own homes.

“Not only is there a lot of tech out there, but the conference allowed me to learn about all that we may not know about and how it could be helpful to the disability community,” he added. Supporting the Council’s mission, Denlinger hopes to introduce these companies to the Council in hopes that it could be beneficial to its members and also the community-at-large.

Founded by Dustin Wright, Disability Cocoon's goal is to be the resource where people come to learn, connect, explore, and collaborate around the national technology movement to support people with disabilities. For more information: Disability Cocoon

Doug Frank Finds His Voice

April 2018: The Ohio DD Council empowers and encourages its members to “find their voice.” In other words, to develop the skills they need to increase their ability to be effective self-advocates. This not only helps them to participate fully in DD Council meetings, but also increases their ability to participate in their communities as they advocate for their self and for other Ohioans with disabilities.

However, there are circumstances for some members where other supports are needed to help them find their voice and staff of the DD Council work to make sure that appropriate accommodations are available for Council members. Doug Frank, self-advocate and former DD Council member, is just one story of how the DD Council helped a member find and strengthen their voice.

Doug’s Service & Support Administrator (SSA) contacted DD Council in March of 2015. She was assisting Doug and his mother with scheduling a referral for an evaluation for him to receive an Augmentative & Alternative Communication (AAC) device or computer for communication.

She explained that he had been using a homemade alphabet board for years to spell out his sentences. Although that had worked in the past, she and others who assisted Doug knew that the advancements in technology would help Doug to communicate more quickly, easily and effectively. They received a referral from Doug’s doctor, but the closest place that could provide an assessment to where Doug lives in Cincinnati had a six-month wait. She wondered if there were other places for Doug to get an evaluation, even if it meant traveling to a different city.

At around the same time, the Assistive Technology (AT) Committee (now called the Technology & Communication Committee) was a newly established standing committee within the Ohio DD Council. Council staff researched other options and made calls on Doug’s behalf. This led to a referral to the Assistive Technology Center at The Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center. By the summer of 2015, Doug had attended several appointments at the AT Center located in Columbus.

“Doug uses his head for voluntary movements, so he got fitted for the device and the software was pretty easy to use,” said Wylie Roberts, SSA. “But, through the process, we learned he needed a stronger wheelchair to support the weight of the device, which took quite some time to get.”

This led to a long delay due to the Medicaid approval process. Medicaid would only approve paying for repairs and adaptations on his most current chair, which is not the one he uses when he goes out in the community (the one the device needed to be on). After appealing two denials, Medicaid approved the request through his Medicaid waiver in mid-2016.

The whole process took a year and a half. During that time, Doug and his mother made several trips from Cincinnati to Columbus and back, which involved coordinating the trips with his support staff and Doug’s own schedule. Although there was a lot of time and effort spent by all involved, the end result was worth it. Doug finally received the communication device.

Now, Doug’s voice is being heard. “With this assistive technology device, it gave Doug a voice that has been instrumental for his growth, his job, his involvement in the community and his advocacy,” added Roberts.

Meet Doug and listen to what he has to say!

Watch a video of Doug and his SSA Wiley by clicking on the video below, or go to our YouTube Channel at

Doug’s experience inspires Council grant

During his term on Council, Doug was a member of the AT Committee. His experience inspired the Committee to consider funding a grant that would make it easier for people with disabilities to access assistive technology assessment services. In 2017, the Committee approved funding for a grant, Telehealth Services in Assistive Technology, to the AT Center at The Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center. The project is currently in progress.

The goal of the grant is to evaluate the effectiveness of providing assistive technology assessments utilizing telehealth technologies. This project will document an assistive technology service delivery program for up to 30 adults with developmental disabilities using a hybrid telehealth service delivery program (in-person and communicating remotely via technology, such as web-based meetings). The outcomes of this project will demonstrate and document the feasibility of obtaining Medicaid reimbursement for this service so that more adults with developmental disabilities have access to assistive technology.

Governor Kasich Appoints New Chair, New Members to Ohio DD Council

April 2018: Governor John Kasich has appointed Joanna Spargo as the new chairperson of the Ohio DD Council. Spargo, of North Canton, begins her service to promote equal opportunities for the statewide disability community.Picture of DD Council's Chair Joanna Spargo

The Malone University alumna started her work in the disability field right after college. As a social worker, she started helping people with developmental disabilities move into apartments in the local community. She built her career with REM Ohio, and now is the executive director of the statewide provider agency that offers an array of services for people with disabilities, job seekers facing employment challenges, and individuals with other complex needs.

Leading a provider agency, Spargo wants to bring attention to the Direct Support Provider (DSP) crisis in Ohio. Understanding and bringing value to DSPs is one of the many things she would like to achieve while on the Council. In addition, she hopes to continue to enhance collaboration and outreach to areas that are in need of services. She wants to use this platform to make sure underserved and unserved communities are also heard and represented well.

“We want to tap into our Council’s resources and reach across Ohio to those underserved and unserved areas,” said Spargo. “What connections do our members, advocates, or families have and how can we work together to make sure everyone’s voice is heard?”

Adding to her many roles, Spargo is also a mother of two children, one who has disabilities. Becoming a parent opened up a new world for Spargo, which empowers her advocacy even more for parents of children with disabilities.

Additionally, the Governor has appointed seven new members. Please welcome the following individuals to Ohio DD Council:

  • Brenda Brandon of Oak Harbor (Ottawa Co.)
  • Morgan E. Gattermeyer of Hamilton (Butler Co.)
  • Rhonda J. Rich of Troy (Miami Co.)
  • Michael E. Denlinger of Cincinnati (Hamilton Co.)
  • Matt A. Harrison of Greenville (Darke Co.)
  • Michael E. Richards of Greenfield (Highland Co.)
  • Benjamin Pesich (Delaware Co.)

Ohio DD Council Thanks Members for Their Service

The Ohio DD Council prides itself on the work done on behalf of people with developmental disabilities across Ohio. Driving this work, advocacy and energy are its dedicated Council members. The Governor-appointed members serve two three-year terms, where self-advocates have found their voice and been the catalyst for change.

We thank the members who recently completed their service with Ohio DD Council. While their terms are over, we know their passion, determination and dedication will continue to make Ohio a more inclusive and integrated state for people with developmental disabilities.


In the picture shown to the left, Executive Director Carolyn Knight and incoming Chair Joanna Spargo wish the best for the outgoing Council members. Pictured from left to right: Former Chair Mark Seifarth; Carolyn Knight; Linda Kunick, self-advocate; Doug Frank, self-advocate; Wiley Roberts, PCA; Chair Joanna Spargo. Not pictured: AnnMarie Denning, self-advocate; Kimberly Stults, parent/advocate; and Jeffrey Turner, self-advocate.

Part of being a Council member is to mentor and support one another. In the picture to the right, Linda Kunick, self-advocate (left), at her last meeting as a Council member, provides words of guidance to one of the newer members, Dara Walburn, self-advocate (right).

Ohio DD Council Goes to Washington!

May 2018: Each year, a small group of Council members are selected to participate in the national Disability Policy Seminar in Washington, DC. This two-day conference provides attendees with the latest information about efforts to change federal disability policy. The seminar ends with a full day on Capitol Hill where participants are given an opportunity to talk with legislators and staff.

This year, the Ohio DD Council sent nine members to attend the conference. Other attendees from Ohio included LEND Trainees from both of Ohio’s University Centers of Excellence on Developmental Disabilities (Nisonger Center, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital), and representatives of the Ohio Provider Resource Association, the Ohio Association of County Boards of Developmental Disabilities, and the Ohio Statewide Independent Living Council, along with a few other non-profit groups.

(Left to Right: Betsy O’Leary, Jean Jakovlic, Jo Spargo, Mark Davis (back), Dara Walburn, Blaine O’Leary (back), Lori Kershner, Congressman Jim Jordan)

Picture of Council members posing with Congressman Jim Jordan in his office.

The Disability Policy Seminar included sessions on how to advance a disability agenda, employment policy, community integration, education policy, Medicaid and Social Security, health care policy, and a variety of sessions on effective advocacy. The conference is planned and conducted by The Arc of the United States, the Association of University Centers on Disabilities, the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities, the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, Self Advocates Becoming Empowered, and United Cerebral Palsy.

Council Chairwoman Jo Spargo attended the conference and participated in a handful of meetings on Capitol Hill. Spargo has attended the conference for a few years and emphasizes the importance of meeting with legislators and sharing personal experiences.

“Capitol Hill meetings are the most valuable part of this trip,” Spargo said. “The legislators and staff we have met on Capitol Hill have been very welcoming and truly want to know what is important to people with disabilities and our families.”

Dara Walburn, newly appointed Chair of the Public Policy Committee, agreed. This year’s trip was her first time attending the conference and she was a little nervous about what to expect.

“It was awesome,” said Walburn. “I was a little sneaky and made my way into several of the other meetings. I can’t wait to go back next year.”

(Left to Right: Elly Walburn, Jean Jakovlic, Ellen Cook, Dara Walburn, Congressman Steve Stivers, Christine Brown, Katherine Ratino, Nicholas Kelly, Dana Kamara, and Mark Davis)

Picture of Council members posing with Congressman Steve Stivers.

Walburn was able to personally meet U.S. Senator Rob Portman, and Congressmen Jim Jordan and Steve Stivers during her time on Capitol Hill. She came prepared with a full page story of what life is like for her and for others with Williams Syndrome.

Blaine O’Leary also attended on behalf of Council and was not nervous at all to meet with his Congressman, Jim Jordan, and to tell him why Social Security needs to be increased for people with disabilities. O’Leary said he would definitely go back if given the opportunity.

For Jean Jakovlic, this was her first time attending the conference and she thought more time should be spent doing meetings with policymakers than sitting in conference sessions.

“I loved to see our Council members in action as they advocated for changes in current legislation,” said Jakovlic. “I wish that we would have had an additional day on the Hill to continue advocating.”

In addition to discussing current legislation, the members of Council provided federal policymakers with an update on Council outcomes and activities. The Ohio Developmental Disabilities Council is created by the federal Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act of 2000.

Michael Richards is Appointed to County Board on DD

June 2018: One of our new members, Michael Richards, was named as a board member to the Highland County Board of Developmental Disabilities. Richards becomes another self-advocate to be appointed to a board. What makes this even more special is that this appointment marks the first time someone with a developmental disability has served in this capacity on the Highland County Board.

“We always encourage our members to get involved in their local DD boards because most do not have a person with a disability sitting and representing the interests and advocating for issues that also affect people with disabilities in their county,” said Carolyn Knight, executive director of Ohio DD Council. “We are excited about Michael’s new appointment, and we know that he is a great addition to the county board and will bring a great wealth of knowledge to make Highland County more inclusive.”

Read an article about Michael's appointment from the Times Gazette here: Torch passed on at Highland County Board of DD

Former Council Chair Featured on Podcast on Disability and Employment

June 2018: Women In Government released a new podcast on disability and employment called  “Employer Perspectives for Improving Employment Outcomes for People with Disabilities”. The third in a series, the episode features Mark Seifarth, past chair of the Ohio Developmental Disabilities Council, Maryland Delegate Sheree Sample-Hughes, Tennessee Senator Becky Duncan Massey and Kathy Burris of CVS Health.

Moderator Sheree Sample-Hughes led the panel in talking about effective employer policies and practices for recruiting, hiring, retaining and advancing qualified individuals with disabilities.

One of the points Seifarth made was about the importance of having people with disabilities at the table when making policy recommendations and decisions on how to improve employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

“In the disability community, it’s nothing about us without us. And, you have all these folks that sit down and decide they’re going to figure out how to hire people with disabilities and nobody with a disability is sitting at the table,” said Seifarth. “There’s a problem with that. That’s like trying to build a building and not hiring and not having anyone at the table that knows how to build a building. So, we really need to look at all those ways you can include people with disabilities in all sections, in all functions as you’re going down the line.”

Listen to the entire podcast here:

Or read a transcript of the podcast here:

The podcasts are part of the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) State Exchange on Employment and Disability (SEED) initiative to help state legislators effectively address policy barriers that may hinder the employment of people with disabilities. Through these collaborations SEED is dedicated to ensuring that state policymakers have the tools and resources they need to develop policies related to disability-inclusive workforce development.

Renee Wood, DD Council Special Advisor – An Advocate in Action!

July 2018: Renee Wood is a former chairperson of the Ohio DD Council, and is currently a Special Advisor to the Ohio DD Council's Community Living Committee. Wood, of Lucas County, was recently appointed to the Ohio Statewide Independent Living Council (OSILC). OSILC is committed to promoting a philosophy of consumer control, peer support, self-help, self-determination, equal access, and individual and systems advocacy, in order to maximize leadership, empowerment, independence, productivity and to support full inclusion and integration of individuals with disabilities.

Additionally, Wood was featured in Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities’ Pipeline Weekly as an example of using Amazon’s Echo to navigate her home. In a video, she shares about her experience with this device that helps to promote greater independence for her and others. Watch her video here:

Finally, reminding us that voting is an important form of advocacy, Wood wrote a guest blog for Disability Rights Ohio on National Disability Voter Registration Week, and reminding self-advocates, advocates, families and the general community why it is important to have your voice heard at the polls. Read her thoughts here:

You can also check out Wood’s own personal blog, “Renee’s Ramblings,” here: