UCEDD Public Policy Team

The VKC UCEDD Public Policy Team focuses Vanderbilt Kennedy Center resources on local, state, and national disability-related public policy issues. Research findings and the research and clinical expertise of Vanderbilt Kennedy Center faculty, staff, and trainees are made available to inform public policy discussions and legislation.

About the VKC UCEDD Public Policy Team

The VKC UCEDD Public Policy Team enlists VKC, Vanderbilt University, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, community, and state resources to develop a proactive approach to advocating a legislative agenda and policies to support individuals with disabilities and their families. The Team also introduces VKC UCEDD trainees to policy issues. Activities are coordinated with members of the Tennessee Developmental Disabilities Network.

The Team works closely with the both the Vanderbilt University and the Vanderbilt University Medical Center Offices of Federal Relations. At the beginning of each legislative session, they coordinate with these offices key issues that affect individuals with disabilities and their families in the coming sessions. They also coordinate regular visits and tours of the VKC UCEDD for local, state, and national legislative and congressional members and their staffs. Team members participate in public policy events such as the annual Vanderbilt Day on the Hill and the annual Disability Awareness Day with the Tennessee Legislature. Team members serve on national and state public policy and planning committees and task forces.

The Team includes VKC UCEDD faculty and staff, members of the UCEDD's Community Advisory Council, trainees, and community members.

Additional Activities

  • Tennessee Kindred Stories of Disabilities
    This story project provides a way for individuals with disabilties and families to share their experiences with a variety of supports and services like health care, education, housing, and employment. Stories are collected by students at Vanderbilt University and are compiled in a topical booklet each year that is shared with Tennessee legislators and policymakers during TN Disability Day on the Hill and the Disability Policy Seminar in Washington DC. Stories are housed in a searchable database and may be viewed HERE.
  • Educate to Advocate
    Every year, just before Tennessee Disability Day on the Hill, the Policy team hosts a training for trainees, students, researchers, health care professionals, service providers, educators, individuals with disabilities, and family members to provide information and tools to promote disability policy advocacy. The training generally includes a panel of experienced advocates, legislative staff, and a legislator, who share tips about how and why to tell your stories to elected officials. It also includes updates on key state and federal issues, and provides a hands-on activitiy to help participants shape their stories for advocacy work.
  • Disability Day on the Hill
    Disability Day on the Hill is an opportunity to meet with state legislators at the Capitol to talk about issues important to individuals with disabilities and their families. Disability agencies, individuals with disabilities, family members, and advocates from across the State participate. The VKC UCEDD's role in Disability Day on the Hill varies from year to year. Involvement has included activities such as UCEDD staff and faculty meetings with legislators, education through Kindred Stories of Disability and Educate to Advocate (see above), communication activities like recording Day on the Hill speakers, interviewing participants about their experiences, and more.

    The next Disability Day on the Hill will take place in 2020. Disability Day on the Hill includes a kick-off program coordinated by the Tennessee Disability Policy Alliance. Meetings with legislators take place in their offices in the Cordell Hull Building (425 5th Ave N, Nashville, TN 37243).

    In 2019, the Tuckson family was interviewed as part of the Kindred Stories project. They then took their advocacy further by attending Disability Day on the Hill. We followed the Tuckson family as they met with their representative and took advantage of all Disability Day on the Hill has to offer. You can watch the video here:

    Disability Day on the Hill 2019 from Vanderbilt Kennedy Center on Vimeo.


    • To find your legislators and to learn more about their work and current legislation, visit the Tennessee General Assembly Website
    • To download the TN General Assembly Directory, Click Here.
    • Public Policy e-newsletter from the Tennessee Council on Developmental Disabilities
      The Council distributes a weekly public policy newsletter via email. Archived versions are accessible at the link above.
    • The Arc Tennessee
      The Arc’s network of national, state and local chapters impacts public policy at all levels. Through advocacy and grassroots mobilization, The Arc Tennessee works to protect the civil rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) and their families.
    • Tennessee Disability Coalition
      The central purpose of the Coalition is to advocate for public policies that promote equal opportunity, economic self-sufficiency, and independent living for children and adults with disabilities. Working with member agencies and their constituents, the Coalition organizes to influence public policy both administratively and legislatively.
    • The Association of University Centers on Disability (AUCD)
      AUCD advocates for a number of legislative issues that are critical to individuals with disabilities and their families. The organization distributes a federal policy newsletter called Disability Policy News In Brief, hosts a policy Action Center, and produces a weekly video series highlighting current issues in disability policy called "Tuesdays With Liz." In fact, Liz recently interviewed Patti Killingsworth (Assistant Commissioner for the Bureau of TennCare) about long term supports and services and the Federal Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) Rule . You can watch that interview HERE.
    • Quick Start Guide to Educating Policy Makers
      The purpose of this guide is to provide members of the AUCD network and its allies suggestions for improving the effectiveness of their interactions with policymakers.

    • For more information on the UCEDD Public Policy Team, contact Laurie Fleming, (615) 936-8852

UCEDD Co-Directors

Core Directors

The VKC UCEDD is funded by the Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Grant #90DD0825-02-02.