Tennessee Disability Services Study Report

In Fall 2021, the Tennessee Council on Developmental Disabilities funded a one-year evaluation project to examine what matters most to disability and professional communities across the state, to ask how they currently find needed information, and to solicit their recommendations for making this process easier. Vanderbilt University has led this project in partnership with the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center UCEDD, multiple state agencies, and numerous disability-focused organizations. Over the course of a year, more than 3,000 individuals with disabilities, family members, educators, providers, agency staff, and healthcare workers were surveyed to address a series of key questions: 

  • What are the most pressing needs and questions of Tennesseans? 
  • Where are they turning for information and resources? 
  • What are their most insightful recommendations for improving this process?  
  • How do these answers vary based on who is asked, what they do, and where in the state they live? 

In addition, facilitators held 26 focus groups with a selection of more than 100 stakeholders to obtain in-depth feedback on each of these questions.

All of this information has been used to inform the ongoing work of Tennessee Disability Pathfinder, the state’s central informational and referral program dedicated to helping people with disabilities, their families, and professionals find and access resources and services. It is also useful information for the numerous state agencies, disability organizations, and schools in Tennessee who are also trying to connect people with disabilities and their families to needed information and resources.  

This report provides an in-depth look at the insights shared by so many different people from across Tennessee. It also offers practical recommendations for addressing enduring needs related to accessing information and services that enable people with disabilities to flourish.