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Recent Demonstrations Sponsored by the Council

group photo of adults with disabilities at TN Employment First Leadership Academy in Sept. 2014The Tennessee Employment First Leadership Academy was a 4-day training September 4 and 8, 2014, created by the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) and the Tennessee Council on Developmental Disabilities. This training was designed to train people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities to be leaders in advocating for better employment options and outcomes for people with disabilities in Tennessee. We believe that people with disabilities should have real jobs with real pay, just like workers without disabilities.


Training included:

  • Ways to improve job options for workers with disabilities
  • Ways to work and advocate with employers, the legislature and other groups
  • Finding ways to shift from segregated to integrated work settings
  • Learning about benefits and services offered by Social Security and other programs

For more information, email or call 615.532.6556.



Project SEARCH launch in TN


The Council is launching 9 new Project SEARCH sites in each of the state's development districts over the next few years to promote early employment experiences for students with disabilities.


The state kickoff event was held in November 2013 in Murfreesboro with Vocational Rehabilitation staff, Local Education Agency staff and DIDD provider staff from each region proposed for the first year of this new program. As of summer 2014, Metro Nashville/Davidson county and Memphis/Shelby County sites are set to begin enrolling students for job training in the fall of 2015. Plans for developing this program in Rutherford county and two additional sites across the state (to be determined) are also currently underway.


The Council’s Project SEARCH initiative targets students with intellectual & developmental disabilities in their last year of high school. Between 90 and 100% of the participants complete the program and are offered a job. The investment in students as they finish high school makes the most efficient and effective use of the student’s education and fulfills a business need in our communities.


To learn more about Project SEARCH or to view videos of students participating in Project SEARCH job sites, visit For more information about Project SEARCH in TN, contact Alicia Cone at or 615-253-1105.



3 participants in Person-Centered Orgs project

Building Person-Centered Organizations


The Person-Centered Organizations and Systems Initiative in TN takes person-centered practice to a higher level by involving all service system participants, from the individual receiving services to direct, management and executive provider personnel, and including the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Central and Regional Office staff. Participants regularly attend Leadership Team meetings together to consider improvements to policies and practices that would facilitate services that are person centered. Due to the Council’s project, Tennessee was one of six states chosen to participate in a national Person-Centered Systems Project and has received high accolades for our commitment to this initiative. For more information about implementing person-centered practices, visit or contact Courtney Kelly at DIDD at




The Tennessee MicroboardAssociation (TMA) formed in 2001 to provide support and training to individual microboards across Tennessee. A microboard is a small group of people who have formed a non-profit organization around one person with a disability for the purpose of providing supports and services to that person. For more details, please visit


Human Service Co-ops


Human Service Co-ops provide people with disabilities and their family members an opportunity to have more say in who provides their services, and how those services are provided. Co-op is short for cooperative, and a cooperative is a type of business that brings people together to work and share ideas. The human service co-op is governed by the people using the co-op's services. This is a demonstration project run by the Tennessee Microboard Association (TMA). For more details, please visit


Next Chapter Book Club



The Next Chapter Book Club (NCBC) is an innovative project that provides adolescents and adults with disabilities an opportunity to read and socialize with friends. The NCBC model actively promotes literacy learning and social connectedness. Book clubs provide opportunities for self-advocacy as members decide which book they want to read, how they want to read the book, and how they want to structure or organize their weekly club meetings. You can visit Tennessee's Next Chapter Book Clubs on Facebook by clicking here or searching Next Chapter Book Clubs in Tennessee.


NCBCs are always looking for volunteers and facilitators, as well as new participants to expand our existing book clubs. In order to find out more information on how to get involved, contact your nearest NCBC today!


Franklin, Tennessee
The Arc of Williamson County
Sharon Bottorff


Johnson City, Tennessee
Eastern Tennessee State University
Cynthia Chambers;


Knoxville, Tennessee
Lorrie Crockett


Memphis, Tennessee
Memphis Center for Independent Living
Elise Fuller


Next Steps


In January 2010, the Council awarded a competitive grant to Vanderbilt University to create Tennessee’s first campus-based postsecondary program for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The two year, non-degree program has become a national model, and offers selected students the opportunity to participate in certain college classes, life skills classes, and career training programs at Vanderbilt and the Tennessee Technology Center. Students continue their education alongside college-age peers, participate in internships on and off campus and receive training to prepare for paid employment. For more information about Next Steps, please visit


project health exercisesProject HEALTH


Physical exercise and nutrition are significant parts of community life, as well as a vital component of personal health care practices. For many people with developmental disabilities, access to daily physical activities is limited at best. A small grant from the Council funded Project HEALTH, a program of the Sports4All Foundation. Public and private providers (TN Community Rehab Providers, YMCAs, Yoga Studios), the TN Department of Health, local colleges and universities and disability advocacy groups partnered to provide opportunities for individuals with developmental disabilities to learn about and participate in regular exercise activities. For more information about Project HEALTH and other Sports4All programs, please visit


Project Open Wide dental programProject Open Wide


A competitive Council grant was awarded to Orange Grove Center in Chattanooga for Project Open Wide. The project includes the following activities: a dental clinic where dental clinicians demonstrate best practices in serving patients with developmental disabilities; internships for dental hygienists and visiting dentists to receive hands-on experience in treating patients with developmental disabilities; training for direct support professionals who provide assistance to individuals with developmental disabilities in proper dental hygiene; and dispelling the myth that sedation dentistry is required for a person who has developmental disabilities.


Project Opportunity


Project Opportunity is job training and placement program for adults with job barriers. Project Opportunity, based at Vanderbilt University's Children's Hospital, provides on-site job training and employability skills training. The ultimate goal is to assist adults with disabilities find and maintain meaningful, competitive-wage employment at Vanderbilt Hospital, at Vanderbilt University, or in the general community. Tennessee's Project Opportunity is modeled after Project SEARCH at Cincinnati Children's Hospital. For more information about Project Opportunity, please visit


Tennessee Disability Megaconference


The Council is a primary sponsor of the annual Disability MegaConference that draws over 600 professionals and private citizens from Tennessee communities to hear expert presentations on education, health, employment, housing, and other areas. Participants have opportunities to engage in discussions about issues and together explore ideas to improve services. For more information, please visit


easy living homeEasyLiving Homes of TN


Visitability means that a house has characteristics that allow ease in entering and moving about the house. These conveniences are useful in a number of situations: pushing a baby stroller, moving heavy items in and out of the house, welcoming a visitor, older family member or a neighbor who has a physical disability or is frail. EasyLiving Homes of TN is a partnership between the Council, ARCH, Inc., of Johnson City, and a working group of public and private organizations, including TN Housing Development Agency (THDA), AARP of TN, Tennessee homebuilders and realtors, who have adopted standards for ‘visitable’ homes, certified over 500 homes statewide and have 18 Tennessee homebuilders and related businesses that are affiliated with the EasyLiving Homes of TN organization.


Tennessee Housing Development Agency is now the administrator of this program.