The Administration on Disabilities (AoD) within the Administration for Community Living (ACL) seeks to fund one (1) five-year grant to maintain and expand a center that is a national, person-centered, culturally competent resource that empowers and supports the national self-advocacy movement. This center will serve as a national resource that:
Further strengthens statewide and local self-advocacy organizations,
Creates and disseminates self-advocacy resources,
Provides leadership development opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (ID/DD), and
Strengthens the network of civil rights organizations working on behalf of people with ID/DD.
The center will be guided by principles of independent living, self-determination, and intersectionality. (These definitions are included at the end of Section I.) Partnerships with entities supporting traditionally unserved and underserved communities of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (ID/DD) – including individuals from racially and ethnically diverse populations and individuals who use augmentative and alternative communication are critical to the success of this project.
B. Program History / Background
ACL’s mission is to maximize the independence, well-being, and health of older adults, people with disabilities across the lifespan, their families, and their support networks. ACL was created around the fundamental principle that older adults and people of all ages with disabilities should be able to live where they choose, with the people they choose, and with the ability to participate fully in their communities. By funding services and supports provided by networks of community-based organizations and with investments in research, education, and innovation, ACL helps make this principle a reality for millions of Americans.
The self-advocacy movement is a human and civil rights movement led by individuals with ID/DD. Self-advocacy is a term of personal identity, focusing on one's political power and right to self-determination. The self-advocacy movement works to ensure that individuals with ID/DD can make their own decisions, speak for themselves and for others with disabilities, and take control over their lives. The goal is to ensure that people with ID/DD have the same rights, responsibilities, and opportunities as people without disabilities. In the words of two leaders from the self-advocacy community:
"Self-advocacy is about independent groups of people with disabilities working together for justice by helping each other take charge of our lives and fight discrimination. It teaches us how to make decisions and choices that affect our lives so we can be more independent. It also teaches us about our rights, but along with learning about our rights we learn responsibilities. The way we learn about advocating for ourselves is by supporting each other and helping each other gain confidence in ourselves so we can speak out for what we believe in.”
The Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act of 2000 (DD Act) supports self-advocacy in multiple places. For example, when defining self-determination activities, the DD Act references the importance of self-advocacy and ensuring that individuals with developmental disabilities have “support, including financial support, to advocate for themselves and others, to develop leadership skills, through training in self-advocacy, to participate in coalitions, to educate policymakers, and to play a role in the development of public policies that affect individuals with developmental disabilities.” When describing the State Councils of Developmental Disabilities, the DD Act clearly mandates the Councils “establish or strengthen a program for the direct funding of a State self-advocacy organization led by individuals with developmental disabilities.” For two other DD Act programs (The University Centers of Excellence on Developmental Disabilities (UCEDDs) and the Protection and Advocacy Systems (P&A)), the DD Act emphasizes the importance of having representation on their governing bodies from ‘self-advocacy’ organizations.
In 2016, ACL first funded the Self-Advocacy Resource and Technical Assistance Center (SAR-TAC), which produces and disseminates accessible, easily read information that enables individuals with ID/DD to make choices and gives them greater control over their lives. Receiving information in an accessible manner and knowing how to use it is vital to living in the community. SAR-TAC maintains a website with hundreds of resources including toolkits, recorded webinars, and videos. The Center provides technical assistance to state and local self-advocacy organizations and has implemented a fellowship program with four cohorts with six fellows each. These fellowships provide people with ID/DD employment opportunities, leadership skills, training on the use of technology, and experience in planning, organizing, networking, asking for support when needed, problem solving, and speaking in public.
The COVID-19 pandemic amplified the need for individuals with ID/DD to receive information in a way that they can use it, given that the majority of people with ID/DD are dependent on other people for some of their most basic and personal needs. In response, the current center used a variety of methods for individuals with ID/DD to receive information in ways that they could use it. Along with creating and disseminating resources for people with ID/DD during the pandemic, the resource center collaborated with federal and state agencies, such as the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), to translate their guidelines into easy-to-understand information that is accessible by people with ID/DD. The grantee also created a Plain Language Toolkit on COVID-19. This toolkit includes easy-to-understand information on how to keep safe in the community and at work during the pandemic. Finally, the Center has hosted zoom calls serving as community forums to share resources and information in an accessible manner.
This project supports the AoD priorities of:
Promoting health equity,
Achieving economic security and mobility,
Protecting rights and preventing abuse, and
Empowering individuals, communities, families.
It will also support the Administration’s priorities to address the COVID-19 pandemic, racial inequities, and the American economy. ACL recognizes that strengthening self-advocacy and leadership of individuals with ID/DD is a critical component to addressing the multiple inequities and living well in the community.
This project is funded under the Projects of National Significance (PNS) within the Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act, which defines the purpose of PNS as a program to "create opportunities for individuals with developmental disabilities to directly and fully contribute to, and participate in, all facets of community life; and support the development of national and State policies that reinforce and promote, with the support of families, guardians, advocates, and communities, of individuals with developmental disabilities, the self-determination, independence, productivity, and integration and inclusion in all facets of community life of such individuals."
C. Program Goals
ACL seeks to continue supporting the strengthening of the self-advocacy movement by funding one (1) five-year grant to continue and expand a center. ACL’s long-term goals for this project are that people with ID/DD will:
Be seen as equal partners;
Have more opportunities for employment and other means of obtaining income;
Have increased independence and be more self-sufficient; and
Live safely in the community.
In large part, the success of the project will be seen when:
The general public is more aware of the rights and abilities of people with ID/DD;
People with ID/DD have more information about major current events and disasters/ emergencies;
Self-advocacy organizations are seen as a resource by federal, state, and local agencies as well as others, including people with ID/DD;
The center is recognized as a unique and valuable resource, particularly for its expertise in translating documents and other helpful tools into easy to read language;
The center is able to leverage funds from other sources;
More people with ID/DD are employed; and
People with ID/DD have less anxiety because they have access to information they understand and can use to make informed decisions.
D. Required Activities
As an applicant, you should respond to this funding announcement by submitting a proposal that describes the approach you will take, if funded, to maintain and expand a self-advocacy resource and technical assistance center as a person-centered, culturally competent resource center to empower and support the national self-advocacy movement. You should explain how you plan to implement the required activities listed here along with other activities you believe necessary to achieve the outcomes listed above.
1. Advisory Committee
Your application should describe how your project will form and receive guidance from an advisory committee. The application should described how advisory committee members will be recruited and selected, ensuring that at least 75% are people with ID/DD. The application should also describe how the diversity will be ensured and that the advisory committee is diverse with regard to race, religion, age, ethnicity, disability, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, location, and other factors not listed. The advisory committee will direct the project in all its activities including, but not limited to, developing criteria for materials to be posted on the website; selecting fellows; and choosing the topics for webinars, YouTube videos, fact sheets, and toolkits. The advisory committee will assist the project in determining to which agencies it will offer technical assistance in translating the agencies’ guidance and resources into easy-to-understand information. Finally, the advisory committee will help create and will ultimately approve the plan to evaluate the project.
Your application should describe partnerships and collaborative activities with at least three (3) distinct groups, including:
Other federal agencies, state and local government agencies, and nonprofit organizations: The center will reach out to a variety of other agencies and organizations to make them aware of their services and offer them expert technical assistance in translating essential documents into easy-to-read, plain, and clear language. This will assist agencies in translating their important information (e.g., updates on COVID-19 vaccines and returning to work during and after the pandemic) into fact sheets that are easy to use for people with ID/DD. Your application should describe how you will reach out to agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control; the Occupational Safety and Health Administration; the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services; the Rehabilitation Services Administration; and others and encourage them to make use of the center’s translation services.
AoD Technical Assistance Providers: In order to facilitate coordination of ACL-funded outreach efforts (e.g., development and dissemination of accessible resources) to people with ID/DD, the grantee will regularly convene a meeting of related AoD technical assistance providers. These TA providers include, but are not limited to, the UCEDD Resource Center, the Training and Advocacy Support Center, and the Information and Technical Assistance for Councils on Developmental Disabilities. Applicants should describe how they will convene this group to maximize the coordination of information and outreach to people with ID/DD. Your application should also describe how they will offer and encourage the other TA centers to take advantage of their translation services to create more accessible resources.
Civil Right Organizations: The center will actively seek out opportunities to collaborate with other civil rights organizations that have similar goals but for whom disability is not a primary focus. These activities include sharing mutually beneficial information; inviting representatives to speak on webinars and accepting invitations to speak on their webinars; and translating information into easy to read, clear information for people with ID/DD. These collaborations will provide the center an opportunity to educate other civil right organizations about disability issues.
Your application should describe a plan to support a website for the center. Your plan should include how you will create or build off an existing website and identify additional resources, best practices, training curriculum, and success stories to post on the website. Your application should describe how you will reach out to partners (e.g., other federal agencies, other technical assistance providers, civil rights organizations) to seek out additional resources and, if necessary, modify existing resources so they can be easily understood.
4. Resource Development, Translation, and Dissemination
Your application should include a plan for how you will identify and translate key documents and other important information that is critical for the public to know, including the ID/DD community, into an easy-to-read format. (For example, information from the website of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration related to maintaining safety at work during COVID.) This plan should consist of several parts:
The center will collect, develop, and refine a wide variety resources for its website. These resources will include, but not be limited to, tools to assist state and local self-advocacy organizations; resources on employment, information on current events; and information about supported-decision making.
The center will develop, identify, and modify resources for several purposes and audiences including, but not limited to, its own website, ACL, the Centers for Disease Control, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services, and the Rehabilitation Services Administration.
The center will support regional self-advocacy organizations building relationships and securing contracts with state and local agencies to develop easy to read documents.
The center will also collaborate with other AoD/ACL grantees to ensure essential documents are available in easily read language. This collaboration will require that the center reach out and communicate to other entities:
The need for easily understandable information,
The center expertise and ability to modify information from other partners and agencies, and
The center’s willingness to assist the entities to modify selected guidance into easily understood resources.
5. Leadership Development
Your application should describe a plan to support a leadership fellows program that collaborates with other technical assistance providers, other DD network grantees, non-profit organizations, and civil rights organizations to create innovative leadership experiences for people with ID/DD. Your application should describe how such organizations will play an active role in recruiting fellows for this program and assist in placements in meaningful employment opportunities. Your application should also describe how the center will award leadership fellow mini-grants annually for at least six community organizations for a length of one-year, no later than the 8th month of the first year of this project. Your application should describe how the center will prepare guidance for the recipients of the mini-grants on:
Recruiting methods for the Leadership Fellows;
Qualifications for the Leadership Fellows;
Topics to be researched; and
How to measure the success of the Fellowships.
The budget should include funds for providing stipends for leadership experiences for people with ID/DD. You should demonstrate in your application how you will pay particular attention and seek guidance to recruit fellows from unserved and underserved populations.
6. Technical Assistance
Your application should include a plan to provide one-on-one technical assistance to local self-advocacy organizations that request it. Your application should describe how the center will provide technical assistance by teleconferences and quarterly webinars. Your application should also describe how the center will develop training materials and provide technical assistance on issues related to self-advocacy organizations including, but not limited to:
Working with advisors;
Recruiting young people;
Grant writing, securing 501(c)(3) nonprofit status;
Growing leaders; and
Working with other non-disability organizations.
Upon request, the center will provide technical assistance to self-advocacy organizations, businesses, and other organizations on ways to include people with ID/DD in their communication, employment, and other related matters. Your application should include a description of how you will respond to such requests for technical assistance and also to requests from individuals with ID/DD.
Hosting a national conference is permissible but not required under this activity; however, if you propose a national conference in your application, please describe how you will work with AoD to finalize and receive approval of the agenda for the conference.
7. Webinars and Video Meetings
Your application should include a plan to gather research for and conduct webinars. The plan should include collaboration with the advisory committee and other civil rights organizations to select relevant topics, ensure webinars are culturally competent, and make certain notifications are disseminated to a wide a variety of audiences.
Your application should also include a plan to hold virtual meetings. These meetings should be based on current events and should be a forum for people with ID/DD to share their thoughts and feelings. Your application should include an approach to collaborate with other civil rights organizations to ensure that meetings are culturally competent and welcoming and that notifications are disseminated to a wide a variety of audiences.
Your application for funding should describe the process you will use for collecting data that shows the impact of grant activities and the success of the project, including in the areas below. Your application should include a logic model that shows the clear relationships between the project’s activities, outputs, and desired outcomes (i.e., ACL’s long-term goals). ACL’s envisioned goals are:
People with ID/DD have the information they need and are seen as valuable members of society;
People with ID/DD are seen as valued contributors to other organizations;
People with ID/DD have more opportunities for economic mobility and security;
People with ID/DD have more independence and self-sufficiency; and
More people with ID/DD live safely in the community.
An expected outcome of this project is the sustainability of a self-advocacy resource and technical assistance center to provide resources and technical assistance to people with ID/DD, their families, professionals, agencies, and other organizations. Your application should include a plan to identify what activities of the center will be sustained after federal funding has ended. The plan should include ways to generate the sufficient resources and strategies for organizational, financial, and/or community sustainability to continue and refine the work beyond the end of the funding period.
Administration on Disabilities Technical Assistance Providers (AoD TA providers): The Association of University on Centers on Disabilities (AUCD), the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities (NACDD), and the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN).
Easy-to-Read: Key information for living well and safely must be accessible for people with ID/DD. For purposes of this funding opportunity, a document that is easy to read will be easy to understand by people with ID/DD and others who have difficulty reading English at an advanced level. An easy-to-read formatted document will:
Follow the rules of Plain Language as described at https://plainlanguage.gov/
Be clear and easy to understand
Contain approximately one picture for every idea
Avoid using acronyms
Include significant white space (e.g., large spaces between paragraphs)
Limit the number of ideas on a single page
Self-Advocacy: There are two predominant conceptualizations of self-advocacy and people with ID/DD. One views self-advocacy as a skill that people with ID/DD need to develop and/or acquire to make their needs known in requesting necessary supports and accommodations, while the other frames self-advocacy as a civil rights movement that has empowered people with ID/DD to shift power from professionals and parents to people with disabilities and has laid the groundwork for important innovations in service delivery, such as the use of person-centered planning and services and self-directed supports (Abery, Olson, Poetz, & Smith 2019).
Unserved and Underserved: The term includes populations such as individuals from racial and ethnic minority backgrounds, disadvantaged individuals, individuals with limited English proficiency, individuals from underserved geographic areas (rural or urban), and specific groups of individuals within the population of individuals with developmental disabilities, including individuals who require assistive technology in order to participate in and contribute to community life.
[1[ Caldwell, J. (2011). Disability Identity Development of Leaders in the Self-Advocacy Movement. Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.
 United States, Congress, The Developmental Disabilities and Bill of Rights Act of 2000. Sec. 102. P. 1687 (27).
 Ibid. Sec. 124 P. 1698 (4)
 Ibid. Sec. 154. P. 1722 (3) and Sec. 144 P. 1717 (1)
 An Act to Improve Service Systems for Individuals with Developmental Disabilities, and for Other Purposes. (PL 106-442) U.S. G.P.O., 2000. “About Independent Living.” National Council on Independent Living, 30 May 2019, ncil.org/about/aboutil/.
 Abery, B. H., Olson, M. R., Poetz, C. L., & Smith, J. G. (2019). Self-determination and self-advocacy: It’s my life. In A. S. Hewitt & K. M. Nye-Langerman (Eds.), Community living and participation for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (pp. 117–140). Washington, D.C.: American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.
 United States, Congress, The Developmental Disabilities and Bill of Rights Act of 2000. Sec. 102. P. 1688 (32).