Council on Leadership in Advocacy (COLA)


About COLA

The AUCD Board of Directors has established a number of Councils and Committees that are made up of experts in the field to help the Board address emerging trends and issues, and to facilitate communication across and beyond the AUCD network. The Council on Leadership in Advocacy, also known as COLA, is made up of individuals with disabilities and family members from each University Center across the AUCD network.

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 local University Center Consumer Advisory Committees (CACs), including identifying needs for assistance, providing technical assistance, and disseminating information about exemplary and innovative practices.
  • Envision, actively advocate for, and disseminate information about the next generation of policy and practice that will help make the promise of full participation a reality.
  • 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 UCEDD education, research, and service programs and in AUCD functions.
  • Serve as a model and resource for others desiring to infuse the participation people with disabilities and family members into program planning, research, and evaluation.

The Council on Consumer Affairs first convened in the fall of 1994; the name was later changed to the Council on Consumer Advocacy. The Council was formed as a result of AUCD's (formerly AAUAP) increasing recognition of the importance of receiving consistent and ongoing consumer feedback. Start-up activities were funded by the Administration on Developmental Disabilities, through a Project of National Significance entitled "Leadership and Choices." Principle support was provided by Bruce Eddy of AUCD and Carl Calkins of the University of Missouri/Kansas City, Missouri's UCEDD.

The Council leadership structure includes several internal committees and two co-chairs. 1998 By-Laws stipulate that one co-chair must be an individual with a disability, and the other be the family member of an individual with a disability. The three-year, staggered co-chair positions carry with them a slot on AUCD's Board of Directors.

Full Council membership consists of one representative of each UCEDD, designated by that UCEDD's director. The Council continues to strive to meet its long-term goal of full membership.

In 2003-2004, AUCD made a commitment to revitalize the role of COCA within the network. Past President of AUCD, David Johnson appointed an ad hoc COCA Workgroup. This workgroup, chaired by Carl Calkins, solicited feedback from the AUCD network and met several times to develop a renewed vision to strengthen the role of COCA. A final set of recommendations was produced and presented to the board and UCEDD Directors at the UCEDD Directors' retreat May 2-3, 2005 in Chicago, IL.



New on the COLA Web Pages

Denise Prehay


Lifting My Voice: An Advocate Reflects on MLK Day

By Denise Prehay, Mailman Center LEND Trainee

Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement have taught us in the Disability Rights Movement to advocate. As a self-advocate trainee at the University of Miami's Mailman Center for Child Development's LEND program, I am lifting my voice, not only for myself, but for others.

MPS-MNLEND Team Top L to R: Elle Chenoweth (MNLEND Fellow - MPS); Cynthia Hillyer (Dir. of Early Childhood Ed - MPS); Mariana Walther (MNLEND Fellow - MPS) Bottom row L to R: (Suad Salad, Assoc. Educator - MPS); Nancy Gonzalez (MNLEND Fellow)


Including Family Voices to Improve Service Delivery to Multilingual & Underserved Young Children with ASD

A MPS ASD Family Voices & MNLEND Partnership

The ASD Family Voices Project is an initiative of Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) that focuses to improve service delivery to multilingual and underserved young children (3-5 years) with ASD and their families. In the 2016-2017 school year, MPS and MNLEND launched a collaborative partnership to create an evaluation project to analyze the effectiveness of MPS services and processes for multilingual children and families who receive services in the Early Education, Special Education and Multilingual Departments.



Introducing the Washington Autism Alliance & Advocacy Family Navigation Online Training Module

By Maria Cortes, MSW Student, and Jen St. Cyr, Director of Family Services

At the Washington Autism Alliance & Advocacy (WAAA), we are excited for the opportunity to collaborate with partner agencies in Washington State through a generous autism-focused grant from the Washington State Department of Health made possible by AMCHP. A product of this collaboration is our new Family Navigation Online Training. You can find it here:



Improving Family Centeredness Together - New York State Early Intervention Initiative (NY UCEDDs)

The Westchester Institute for Human Development (WIHD; Valhalla, NY), in collaboration with Strong Center for Developmental Disabilities (Rochester, NY) and Rose F. Kennedy UCEDD (Bronx, NY), will assist the New York Bureau of Early Intervention in implementing a portion of the State Systemic Improvement Plan (SSIP).



Tips, Trust, and Humor: Connecting with Indiana Teachers and Employment Specialists

What do taking your accounting department to lunch, baking cookies, and Julie Andrews have to do with audience outreach? Each of those notions were components of messages delivered this past year to Indiana employment professionals.



Updated Educator's Guide Available from OAR

The Organization for Autism Research (OAR) prides itself in the evidence-based information resources it shares with self-advocates, their parents, educators, and paraprofessionals. Among these materials are the eight "Life Journey Through Autism" guidebooks that OAR has published since 2003. The ninth and newest guide in that set is "Life Journey Through Autism: An Educator's Guide to ASD (Level 1 Supports)," a revision and update of the "Educator's Guide to Asperger Syndrome."



Using Dance To Build A Community (TX UCEDD)

Written by: Ashley Green

Movement is a form of communication. For Courtney Kalaher, using that movement to create relationships and community among people with disabilities is critical. Kalaher joined the Postsecondary Access and Training in Human Services (PATHS) Program in 2014. She brought her skills in dance and developed the Communication Through Movement course. Through the course, students develop paths of inquiry and response approaches to learning and cognitive development. "Movement is such a powerful form of communication.