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. The research and clinical expertise of Vanderbilt Kennedy Center faculty, staff, and trainees are made available to educate elected officials and inform public policy discussions and legislation that impacts individuals with disabilities and their families.

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, the team coordinates with these offices on key issues that affect individuals with disabilities and their families in the coming session. The team also coordinates 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.

About the VKC UCEDD Public Policy Team

In addition to VKC UCEDD faculty, staff, and trainees, activities are coordinated by a team of partners that includes representatives from:

Additional Activities

  • Tennessee Kindred Stories of Disabilities
    Individuals with disabilties and families 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. Stories are housed in a searchable database and may be viewed here.

  • Educate to Advocate
    Every year, the Public Policy team hosts a training for students, researchers, health care professionals, service providers, educators, individuals with disabilities, and family members to provide information and tools to promote disability policy advocacy.

  • Disability Day on the Hill
    Disability Day on the Hill (DDH) is an opportunity to meet with state legislators at the Capitol to talk about issues important to individuals with disabilities and their families. The theme for 2022 DDH is "TeamWork TN." All 2022 Disability Day on the Hill programs, legislative visits, and related national policy events will take place virtually. Upcoming events are included below.
    • Tuesday, January 25, 2022: DDH 2022 Advocacy Webinar
      Hosted by Tennessee Disability Coalition, presented by policy experts and self-advocates. Learn how to build an effective advocacy strategy to educate policymakers and make change. Two time slots available, at 2:00 p.m. CT and 6:00 p.m. CT. CLICK HERE to register.
    • Wednesday, February 9, 2022, 5:30-6:30 p.m. CT: 2022 Educate to Advocate Public Policy Workshop
      Whatever our perspective – trainees and students, researchers, health care professionals, service providers, educators, individuals with disabilities or family members, or simply concerned citizens – we see ways that the disability service system can be improved. One dimension of changing service systems is educating legislators and other public policy makers. This virtual workshop will feature stories and strategies from disability professionals who have experience advocating in Tennessee and Washington, D.C. CLICK HERE to register.
    • February 21-March 7, 2022: Legislative Team Meetings
      RSVP to join an advocacy team in your area. The Tennessee Disability Coalition will set up the meeting and prep you and your team to attend. CLICK HERE for more information.
    • March 11, 2022: 2022 Disability Advocacy Day
      Tennessee lights up "Coalition Blue" to celebrate Disability Advocacy Day. CLICK HERE for more information on how to celebrate Disability Advocacy Day in your area.


    • 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 Weintraub 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.
    • Public Law 106–402, 106th Congress: Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act of 2000
      In every state and territory, programs authorized by the Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act (DD Act) empower individuals with developmental disabilities and their families to help shape policies that impact them. DD Act programs conduct important research and test innovative new service delivery models. They work to bring the latest knowledge and resources to those who can put it to the best use, including self-advocates, families, service providers, and policymakers.
    • Advocacy Toolkit for Families with a New or Potential Diagnosis of Intellectual or Developmental Disability
      This toolkit has been designed for parents or guardians of a child who has been recently diagnosed with an intellectual or developmental disability (IDD), or caregivers who may be concerned about their child’s development. The toolkit includes a collection of frequently asked questions and helpful resources for families to promote best possible outcomes in their child’s development.

    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 For Community Living Grant #9DDUC0077.