Council Projects Highlights

One of the primary purposes of the Ohio Developmental Disabilities Council is to offer grant opportunities to find ways to improve services and supports for individuals with developmental disabilites so they can live more independent and meaningful lives. We currently fund over 20 grants covering a wide-range of areas related to issues experienced by people with developmental disabilities.

This page provides articles and updates on selected Council-funded projects, such as the following:

Want to learn more about Council's projects? Visit our Current Projects page.

logo of dd council connection newsletter bannerDD Council Connection is a way for the Ohio Developmental Disabilities Council to introduce to you our Council members, provide updates on the work we do and the grant projects we manage, and inform you on the activities and initiatives of Ohio's community of self-advocates and others who work on behalf of people with disabilities and their families. We hope you enjoy this e-newsletter. Please share your thoughts, story ideas and event calendar submissions with us at

This month's articles include:

Supports Matter at this year's DD Awareness and Advocacy Day

Picture of Casper Shahan, Dara Walburn, Governor Mike DeWine, and Matt HarrisonCasper Shahan, Dara Walburn, Gov. Mike DeWine, and Matt Harrison
celebrate 2019 DD Advocacy & Awareness Day at the Ohio Statehouse

On March 5, disability advocates from across the state came to the Ohio Statehouse in Downtown Columbus to participate in the 2019 DD Awareness and Advocacy Day. The program, held every year in March, is a chance for advocates to bring public awareness about issues like transportation, employment, access to direct support providers, and health care. The event is also an opportunity for individuals with disabilities to meet with legislators and staff to share their story and to advocate for public policy change. More than 400 people packed the Statehouse Atrium this year.

This year’s theme was Supports Matter! Shari Cooper returned for her 7th year as Master of Ceremonies, and the event welcomed state officials Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, Lt. Governor Jon Husted and Treasurer Robert Sprague.

Governor DeWine, recently sworn in as the state’s new leader, welcomed the audience and reminded them that advocacy is an important part of the legislative process.

“I encourage you to talk to us. Send us letters and give us ideas,” said Governor DeWine. “There are still people with disabilities who want to do more, work more and participate more, but there are barriers. While change cannot happen overnight, I want you all to work with us over the next four years to have more and more people with disabilities to reach and live up to their potential.”

Sharing one of the tools that can reduce barriers for people with disabilities was Treasurer Robert Sprague. He spoke about the Ohio STABLE accounts, a financial tool that allows people with disabilities to save money and build assets while keeping Medicaid and SSI benefits.

Self-advocate Travis Desbach, from Circleville, shared that having a STABLE account has allowed him to work, save money and have funds to pay for doctors bills and medications.

Newly-appointed director of the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities, Jeff Davis; and Kevin Miller, director of Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities, also spoke to the crowd and encouraged advocates to keep working hard to build a better community.

Joining the list of speakers was also Ohio DD Council member and chair of the Council’s public policy committee Dara Walburn. “Advocacy is important because, with all of us, we can be the difference that spreads hope like wildfire,” said Walburn, who has advocated for herself since the age of four.

And, finally, Dustin Wright, one of the founders of Rest Assured®, and the founder of Disability Cocoon, spoke about how technology is increasing possibilities for people with disabilities. Last year, Ohio became a Technology First state, making it the first state in the country to place an emphasis on expanding access to technology for people with developmental disabilities.

The event was also streamed on the Ohio Channel. You can view the video of the event here: Ohio Channel Presents - 2019 Developmental Disability Awareness Day 

Pictures from the event were taken by Kyle McKay and can be found here: OPRA's Facebook Photo Album 

DD Awareness and Advocacy Day is hosted during Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, which is celebrated every March. It is funded and organized by the Ohio Developmental Disabilities Council and Ohio Provider Resource Association, in collaboration with the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities, the Ohio Association of County Boards of Developmental Disabilities, and the Ohio Self Determination Association.

Nisonger Receives Funding from DD Council for Remote Support Grants

Logo of The Ohio State University Nisonger CenterThe Ohio DD Council awarded a $100,000 grant to The Ohio State University Nisonger Center to increase the recipients of Nisonger's 2018 Remote Support Grant. With Council's funding, five additional Ohio county boards of developmental disabilities and Councils of Governments (COGs) were awarded $20,000 each to expand the use of remote support in their counties. The five projects, which began work in January 2019, are:

  • Ashland County Board of DD, in collaboration with Wayne County Board of DD
  • Knox County Board of DD, in collaboration with Coshocton County Board of DD
  • Medina County Board of DD
  • Richland County Board of DD*
  • Southern Ohio COG, in collaboration with Fayette, Highland, Jackson, Pickaway, and Ross county boards of DD

* Read an article from The Bellville Star about the Richland County Board of DD and their plans for the grant award at

According to Jordan Wagner, Coordinator of the Technology Project at the Nisonger Center, "The ongoing workforce crisis often leaves county boards of developmental disabilities and providers without sufficient staff to fill vacant positions. Ohio is now a Technology First state and the grants offer to advance this mandate by harnessing the benefits of technology to mitigate the workforce crisis and promote independence among individuals with developmental disabilities."

In September, the Nisonger Center, in collaboration with and funding support from the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities (DODD), awarded eight $20,000 grants to the following counties:

  • Clearwater COG, in collaboration with Crawford, Erie, Hancock, Huron, Marion, Morrow, Ottowa, Seneca, and Wyandot county boards of DD
  • Fairfield County Board of DD, in collaboration with Licking and Perry county boards of DD
  • Franklin County Board of DD
  • Mid-East Ohio Regional Council COG, in collaboration with Belmont, Harrison, Hocking, Holmes, and Noble county boards of DD
  • Portage County Board of DD
  • Southwestern Ohio COG, in collaboration with Butler, Clermont, and Hamilton County Boards of DD
  • West Central Ohio Network COG, in collaboration with Auglaize, Champaign, Darke, Hardin, Logan, Mercer, Miami, Preble, Shelby, and Union county boards of DD
  • Wood County Board of DD

With the addition of Council's funding, 44 of Ohio’s 88 counties will use this funding to improve and expand the use of remote support for Ohioans with developmental disabilities. The Ohio DD Council is pleased to be able to support Nisonger and DODD's efforts to increase remote support throughout the state of Ohio. Results of this project will be available in the summer of 2019.

Grantee Gathering Brings Together DD Council Initiatives

Picture of Dr. Hicks at DD Council's Grantee GatheringOn October 31, 2018, the Ohio DD Council hosted a Grantee Gathering in Columbus, bringing together organizations that partner with the DD Council to advance its mission for people with developmental disabilities in Ohio.

The meeting began with introductions where each grantee took five minutes to talk about their project. Of the many that attended, several presented a more detailed summary of their work, bringing a comprehensive understanding to the many initiatives that the Ohio DD Council funds across the State.

Picture of a presenter for Transportation Equity at the Grantee GatheringKatherine Foley spoke about her work on transportation equity, and Dr. Patricia Larkins-Hicks shared the insight her team has received from publishing the ReachOut e-Diversity Newsletter as a part of Council’s outreach efforts to the unserved and underserved populations.

Additionally, Dana Charlton spoke about the work being done by self-advocates through the grant, Empowering Self-Advocates.

In their work to identify and reach out to 50 African American women with disabilities in Ohio, Cassandra Archie shared about the Triple Jeopardy Project that supports women to participate in network activities to collectively inform policy, identify barriers to supports and services and demand action.

Staff from Council were on hand to answer questions and provide information about Council's grantee requirements, such as doing outreach to the unserved and underserved and conducting consumer satisfaction surveys. Grantees also learned about Council's annual external evaluations of projects. 

The attendees were given time to network with each other, staff, and Council's members. You can learn more about projects funded by the Ohio DD Council on our Current Projects page.

DD Council’s AT Grants Support Ohio’s Tech First Initiative

November 2018: The Ohio DD Council released two reports with recommendations to help increase awareness of and access to assistive technology for Ohioans with disabilities. The Ohio Center for Autism and Low Incidence (OCALI), with funding from the Ohio DD Council, used its expertise and resources through OCALI’s Assistive Technology & Accessible Educational Materials Center (AT & AEM) to conduct the work on the grants that provided the information for the reports.

Covers of the reports from OCALIAssessing Ohio’s County Boards of Developmental Disabilities

OCALI’s charge for this project was to find best practices and solutions when providing support for assistive technology within Ohio’s county boards of developmental disabilities system. The intent was to identify barriers and find ways to improve the identification, assessment, funding and ongoing training processes of the county board system when providing assistive technology supports to people with developmental disabilities.

OCALI surveyed all 88 county boards on how each currently provides assistive technology supports, and then interviewed five select county boards to assess what each saw as barriers and supports for their ability to provide assistive technology. OCALI assessed the data collected and made recommendations for changes in assistive technology policies. Read the final report here: Assessing Assistive Technology Service Delivery in the Ohio County Board of Developmental Disabilities System

Surveying Ohio’s Assistive Technology Lending Programs

In its second project, OCALI identified assistive technology lending programs throughout Ohio. The purpose of the project was to gather the information and then develop a comprehensive list of assistive technology lending programs/libraries, including details about the services each provides. OCALI’s final report provided a list of the programs in many different formats, including an online interactive map. The report also provided recommendations on how to publicize this information to make it easier for Ohioans with developmental disabilities explore assistive technology options. Read the final report here: Identification of Assistive Technology Lending Programs in Ohio

Ohio’s Technology First Initiative

The reports and findings by OCALI were reported to the newly established Ohio Technology First Council. The Technology First Council was created under an executive order signed by Gov. John Kasich in May 2018. Under the executive order, the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities (DODD) is charged with working through the Technology First Council and with county boards of developmental disabilities to ensure technology is considered as part of all service and support plans for people with developmental disabilities.

Ohio's Technology First Council began meeting in the summer of 2018 and will complete its work in December 2018. At that time, it will make recommendations to develop state policy encouraging the use of supportive technology and will identify best practices, effective partnerships and additional options needed to assist people in gaining access to technology.

In addition, a new Assistive Technology rule from DODD will become effective in early 2019 that will require county boards to cover the cost and maintenance of equipment used for remote supports and assistive technology service delivery.

Carolyn Knight, Ohio DD Council’s executive director, is a member of the Technology First Council. As the Ohio DD Council moves forward with funding new technology-related grants, it will continue to work collaboratively with the Technology First Council and the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities to support the improvement of assistive technology services to Ohioans with developmental disabilities.

You can learn more about the Ohio Technology First Council, and other DODD technology initiatives here:

Transportation Equity: Working Together to Address Barriers

By Katherine Foley, Director, Services for Independent Living

Matthew Horwitz, Deputy Civil Chief, U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of OhioMatthew Horwitz, Deputy Civil Chief, U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Ohio

November 2018: Individuals with disabilities, their family members and service providers know first-hand that access to affordable, reliable, accessible and safe transportation is key to community inclusion. If you don’t drive, this means that you may not be able to keep a job, go to the doctor, shop for yourself, attend family functions or do any of the community things many people take for granted.

Addressing barriers to transportation is a community issue. Indeed, most stakeholders in the human services field, surveys and discussion groups have consistently identified lack of transportation options as a paramount issue to be addressed. It is clear that while people talk about transportation barriers in groups of like-minded individuals, they do not make any efforts to reach out to others who were also interested in transportation but held different perspectives. What they do not realize is that a transportation win for one group is a win for multiple groups.

Transportation issues on the system change level are best addressed collectively rather than individually. For example, if one part of the state increases the service area for accessible mainline transportation, that action not only helps a person who uses a wheelchair but also  benefits a senior who has difficulty navigating steps and a mother with a young child using a stroller.

Panel of people at the Transportation ForumRep. Doug Green; Ryan McManus, SHARE; Alyssa Chenault, Smart Columbus; Olivia Hook, ODOT speak during a panel session

With this in mind, an Ohio Transportation Equity Forum was held on October 23, 2018 in Columbus, Ohio.  The Ohio Developmental Disabilities Council supported this work through a grant to Services for Independent Living. The Forum brought together public and private transportation providers; riders with disabilities and their family members; agencies serving the aging and disability populations; state government representatives; college students, legislators; systems change/policy advocates; and others to discuss promising programs, policy and strategies which will make the issue of transportation move forward in a positive direction in Ohio.

Kicking off the day was Matthew Horwitz, Deputy Civil Chief, U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Ohio. He discussed transportation accessibility and barriers from the perspective of the U.S. Department of Justice. A key take-away from his presentation is that the U.S. Department of Justice rarely hears complaints from riders with disabilities.

Horwitz encourages people to contact the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, if they feel there is an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) complaint. The contact information is found at or call 1-800-514-0301.

The Ohio Disability Transportation Coalition was the planning committee for this event.  The coalition meets quarterly to discuss strategies to increase transportation options for persons with disabilities.  For more information on the coalition, contact Kathy Foley at or 216-731-1529.

Resources for Finding Assistive Tech Lending Libraries in Ohio

Map of Ohio with color coded counties organized by six different regions.September 21, 2018: Through a grant with the Ohio Center for Autism and Low Incidence (OCALI), the Ohio DD Council has published a list of lending libraries across the State of Ohio. These libraries provide access to assistive technology, medical equipment and adaptive toys to support people with developmental disabilities.

The list of Ohio Lending Libraries is available online as an interactive online Google map and other downloadable formats. People can use the map to search lending library programs statewide or in specific regions, based on their needs.

OCALI assessed and compiled this information through an Ohio DD Council grant that concluded earlier this year called "Identification of Assistive Technology Loan Programs in Ohio." The goal of the grant was to develop a comprehensive list of assistive technology lending programs/libraries throughout Ohio and the services each provides so people with developmental disabilities can more easily explore assistive technology options.

Choose from the following to search for Assistive Technology Lending Libraries in Ohio.

Guide to Assistive Technology Lending Libraries in Ohio (2-page PDF document)

Assistive Technology Loan Programs in Ohio - Statewide and Regional (40-page PDF document)

Statewide and Regional Lending Libraries in Ohio (Excel spreadsheet) 

Online Interactive Map of Lending Library Locations (Google Map)

For more information about this project, including updates and how to suggest additions to the list, go to: Guide to Assistive Technology Programs in Ohio.

OCALI Supports Schools to Ensure Post-Secondary Success

Picture of the word Grants laying on top of a computer keyboardJuly 10, 2018: Through the Ohio DD Council, OCALI, or the Ohio Center for Autism and Low Incidence, received a grant titled “Realizing Employment First for Youth: Evidence Based Practices and Predictors of Adult Success.”

The pilot program called “What Works for Work”, studied how evidence-based practices and predictors that supported school-based teams help achieve post-secondary success – or life after high school - for students with developmental disabilities.

The grant support school-based teams, “find successful methods that would improve transitions into employment, independent living skills and community living,” said Madeline Rosenshein, OCALI consultant and grantee.

Through research focused on transition youth, it was found that certain evidence-based practices and predictors, if implemented during the school years, can improve adult outcomes, which includes employment.

The practices created structured processes for a student to find success. Methods such as chaining (linking steps towards an outcome); prompting; and using mobile technology were proving to be successful for the students.

From September to June, OCALI hosted four whole-day sessions for teachers to learn the curriculums to help their students succeed while in school, and how to achieve success after leaving high school.

“The curriculum provided tools for the school-based teams to see the needs of the student and how to define them, and also focus on the most important need first, which differs for each student,” added Rosenshein. “Additionally, this also empowers our students because we are focusing on their individual need and working with them directly to be successful.”

The curriculum also provided more ways and methods for interventions due to the evidence-based format.

Through this grant, OCALI has also been able to provide a broader understanding of how improved transition outcomes are an integral part of school improvement and positive behavior supports.

The Importance - and Problem - of Transportation for Ohioans with Disabilities

June 17, 2018: The Ohio DD Council is constantly revisiting the issues of transportation through research done by its grantees. The need for reliable and accessible transportation for Ohioans with disabilities is never ending. For example, the Ohio Colleges of Medicine Government Resource Center (GRC), through a grant from the Ohio DD Council, studied the question of access to transportation for Ohioans with disabilities. The GRC reported its findings in a report that was published in July 2017. Overall, the study found that obtaining safe, affordable, and appropriate transportation options can be very difficult for Ohioans with disabilities. For a quick look at the key findings, read the Ohio DD Council's Transportation Study Impact Sheet. The study’s results point to the need for further research, including an examination of the feasibility and effectiveness of proposed improvements and innovations. For more information, read the complete report here: Transportation Challenges for Ohioans with Disabilities. picture of the transportation impact sheet

Currently, the Ohio DD Council is funding a grant called, Sustaining & Expanding Accessible and Affordable Transportation for People with Disabilities Anytime. The grantee seeks to find ways to offer accessible and affordable transportation services for people with disabilities whenever needed, regardless of time of day or location. The grant also is researching solutions for what can be done when accessible and affordable transportation isn’t available. You can read more about the grant here:

What is your opinion about transportation?

As the Ohio DD Council continues to work through its grantees and partners on ways to improve transportation, we encourage Ohioans with disabilities to provide input whenever possible. What will transportation look like in the future? What are your needs? What do you think will be the needs of people with disabilities in the years to come?

Currently, the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) would like your input by taking a survey about the future of transportation. The responses from the survey will assist ODOT in updating Ohio's long-range transportation plan, called Access Ohio 2045.

Please take some time to complete ODOT's survey here so that they hear about the needs of Ohioans with disabilities:

Sustaining & Expanding Accessible and Affordable Transportation for People with Disabilities Anytime

October 2017: As a part of its Community Living goal in the Five Year Plan, Ohio DD Council awarded Hocking, Athens, Perry Community Action Program a grant that will provide people with disabilities and their families increased access to services and supports that promote: leadership, accessibility, respect, safety, independence, outreach, equality, inclusion, health, work opportunities and community.

By year two of the project, there will be accessible and affordable transportation services for people with disabilities whenever needed/wanted, regardless of time of day, and if accessible and affordable transportation isn’t available it will be created or expanded.

As the demand for public transit increases and budgets shrink, the Ohio Department of Transportation has developed a strategy to bring the most efficient and cost-effective improvements to transit riders and taxpayers alike.

Travel trends show that there is a definite rise in the need for convenient, affordable public transportation to jobs, medical appointments, shopping and recreational activities. Our transit agencies are struggling to fund these existing services, let alone meet the increased demand.

Through the grant, the Council will seek the following short-term outcomes: (Initial changes in participants’ knowledge, attitudes and skills. These are necessary steps toward the ultimate outcome.)

  • Increased number of people accessing transportation information.
  • Increased information provided to key policy makers/legislators regarding transportation issues.

Additionally, the following long-term outcomes will seek desired changes or improvements in targeted behaviors and/or system performance:

  • By December 2018, there will be regional or statewide accessible and affordable transportation service.
  • By December 2018, 800 more individuals with disabilities will have access to affordable and accessible transportation.

Strengthening the Voices of Direct Support Professionals

September 2017: As a part of its Community Living goal in the Five-Year Plan, Ohio DD Council awarded the Ohio Alliance of Direct Support Professionals (OADSP) with the “Strengthening the Voices of Direct Support Professionals” grant. The goal of this initiative aims to have over 800 direct support professionals (DSP) who support people with disabilities and their families be provided information to improve support by encouraging a better trained, more respected, and more involved workforce.

In response to the direct support workforce shortage, organizations in Ohio created a career path by building a DSP credentialing pathway. Called Professional Achievement through Training & Education in Human Services (PATHS), it incorporates the Community Support Skills Standards, the National Association of Direct Support Professionals Code of Ethics and the Minnesota Front Line Supervisor Standards. Participants work with a skills mentor as they complete training and prepare portfolios to document their skills.

The Ohio Developmental Disabilities Council has provided funds to support DSPs since 2001. In 2001, OADSP was funded for six years to design a volunteer credentialing program for DSPs working with people with disabilities in collaboration with other disability organizations, especially the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities, in a selected region of Ohio.

In 2007, Council funded the OADSP to engage in sustainability planning, so the PATHS credentialing program for direct support professionals will be sustained statewide through consumer and employer demand. In 2012 Council invested funds to directly benefit DSP to:

  • Attend conferences.
  • Create opportunities for networking.
  • Participate in webinars.
  • Receive funding for classroom training and/or on-line training.

OADSP created the DSP Council, which meets in person at least four times per year in order to discuss issues facing DSPs to make recommendations for improved support systems.

University of Toledo kicks off initiative for young students with disabilities

July 2017: Under its Children & Health Projects, ODDC awarded the University of Toledo a grant to pursue the Better Child Care for the Student with Developmental Disabilities initiative.

The goal of this initiative will support young students with developmental disabilities to receive quality child care through 10 demonstrated best practices and procedures.

This project is based on a 2015 joint policy statement from the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services that highlights on the inclusion of children with disabilities in Early Childhood Programs.

In Ohio, children with disabilities and their families continue to face significant barriers to gaining access to inclusive high-quality early childhood programs. Many preschool children with disabilities are only offered special education services in settings separate from their peers without disabilities.

The policy states that all young children with disabilities should have access to inclusive high-quality early childhood programs, where they are provided with individualized and appropriate support in meeting high expectations.

With its grantee, the University of Toledo, the ODDC will work in partnership with others in the field of early child care in Ohio to demonstrate new and improved best practices and procedures to increase both the quality of care and the inclusion of students with developmental disabilities in child care settings.