Council on Leadership in Advocacy (COLA)



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The purpose of the Council on Leadership and Advocacy (COLA) is to enhance the Association of University Centers on Disabilities by fostering current and new leaders with lived experience of disability, including their family members, to promote leadership in their programs and communities. Council membership will expand to include directors, faculty, staff, and advisers at center programs, and CAC members.


How COLA Relates to AUCD and Its Work

COLA works to enhance AUCD by fostering and supporting current and new leaders with lived experience of disability, including their family members in order to promote this same leadership in their programs, communities, and regions, and to serve in liaison roles with local disability leadership. The Council helps the association to:

  • Build effective partnerships with other AUCD Councils and Committees, federal agencies, and other national disability groups.
  • Build the capacity of UCEDD Consumer Advisory Committees.
  • Develop leaders and mentors that build the capacity of the network to affect change at the local, state, and national levels.
  • Assist in the development of standards for participation of people with disabilities and family members in AUCD network centers and programs
  • People with disabilities and family members participate in program planning, research, and evaluation.



The Council on Leadership in Advocacy, also known as COLA, is made up of individuals with disabilities and family members from each AUCD network center and program. COLA members are involved in Community Advisory Councils at UCEDDs, AUCD Councils and Committees, AUCD Special Interest Groups, and other advocacy opportunities. Membership is open to anyone in the AUCD network. However, each center will designate an individual representative who will cast one vote when a matter before the Council requires such action.


2018 Focus Areas

The 2018 COLA annual plan has been drafted to align with the AUCD 2018 Strategic Map.


  • Diversity & Equity: Utilize network resources to support COLA membership.
  • Leadership: COLA membership champions and model diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  • Research: 1) Increase visibility of COLA within AUCD network; 2) COLA is an integral partner to strengthen network engagement and collaboration; 3) People with I/DD &/or family members lead or direct research within AUCD network.
  • Policy: COLA contributes to AUCD network policy, practices, and research.

COLA Leadership





AUCD 2018 Registration is Open!

Deadline: October 26

Join us at AUCD2018 as we come together, celebrate our achievements, and to recharge our commitment to achieving inclusive communities! We welcome network members, non-network organizational partners, experts from all across the disability field, individuals with disabilities, family members, and trainees to learn and grow together during this exciting event.



Article published by international fellow hosted by VT UCEDD

After spending five weeks in the US in an intensive fellowship program for inclusive disability employment, Victoria Lihiru returned home to Tanzania ready to make changes. She recently published an article in The Guardian newspaper in Tanzania, reflecting on her fellowship experiences and progress needed for people with disabilities. Her article is titled "Disability inclusive employment: My two cents from Green Mountain state" and can be read online: This article followed her participation in the Professional Fellows Program for Inclusive Disability Employment. This fellowship program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, and administered by AUCD in partnership with the Institute for Community Inclusion at the University of Massachusetts Boston and Humanity and Inclusion.



Institute on Disability and Human Development (IL UCEDD) Employee Participates in Public Art Display

Over the summer, the Chicago Lighthouse, a social service organization serving people with blindness, visual impairments, disabilities, and Veterans, in partnership with Huber Financial Advisors, sponsored a public art display in Chicago entitled, "Lighthouses on the Mag Mile". Over 100 artists, more than half who had disabilities, from the community painted 6-foot-tall fiberglass lighthouse sculptures and they were subsequently displayed on Chicago's famous Michigan Ave.



Training the Next Generation of Self-Advocate Leaders in Florida (FL UCEDD)

By Jairo Arana

It was President John F. Kennedy who said "when written in Chinese, the word 'crisis' is composed of two characters. One represents danger and the other represents opportunity." With this in mind, the Florida Developmental Disabilities Council with its sister agencies, the UM Mailman Center UCEDD, USF Florida Center for Inclusive Communities UCEDD, and Disability Rights of Florida contracted with the University of Delaware to develop the Florida DD Network Collaborative Leadership Program. Its purpose is to prepare the next generation of leaders. Some sobering facts, stated in a study by the University of Delaware: "over 50% of the CEOs surveyed did not have a succession plan for their organizations. Almost without exception, the leadership crisis has been a major topic of focus at recent conferences for developmental disability professionals."



Summer Programs have an Impact on Over 110 Participants (TX UCEDD)

The Center on Disability and Development supports several summer programs; this year there were 111 participants, as well as 49 staff and mentors who supported and supervised the participants.



AUCD 2018 Scholarships Available

Application Deadline: September 30

AUCD is pleased to offer conference scholarships to both network trainees and leaders with disabilities/family members. Learn more about the different types of scholarships, and apply before September 30.


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