Disability Policy Academies

About Disability Policy Academies

TCDD coordinates Disability Policy Academies to provide policy professionals and community advocates with an educational deep dive on a specific disability-related topic. Participants are given the opportunity to learn the background of an issue, hear from leading experts on the topic, and leave with action steps they can implement in their own work. 

Upcoming Programs

No upcoming programs are scheduled at this time. 

Past Programs

When the 88th Texas Legislature adjourned its regular session on May 29, 2023, lawmakers had filed the largest number of bills ever in a single legislative session in Texas. Hundreds of those measures were related to disability issues such as special education, employment, guardianship, transportation, and others. The TCDD policy team watched these bills, offered public testimony, and tracked their progress. This program, held online on June 14, 2023, covered an overview of new disability-related laws from the 88th Texas Legislature; a summary of disability issues that remain unaddressed; a discussion on topics lawmakers may cover in a special session; and a Q&A session with our public policy analysts.

View a recording of this program on the TCDD YouTube channel. 

This program, held online on March 15, 2023, featured representatives from several disability organizations sharing their top priorities for the 88th Texas Legislature. TCDD Public Policy Director Scott Daigle served as the program’s moderator.   

View a recording of the program on the TCDD YouTube channel.

This program included a recap of disability-related issues in the 87th Texas Legislature. The program was co-hosted by TCDD and Texas Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities (GCPD). Policy experts with TCDD and GCPD gave an overview of new disability-related laws; summarized disability issues that remained unaddressed, and discussed topics lawmakers would cover in special session.

Speakers for the program included:

  • Ron Lucey, GCPD executive director
  • Monica Villarreal, GCPD research specialist
  • Scott Daigle, TCDD public policy director
  • Linda Logan, TCDD senior public policy analyst
  • Lauren Gerken, TCDD public policy analyst
  • Sabrina Gonzales, TCDD public policy analyst
  • Demi Tomasides, TCDD public policy intern

A recording of the program is available on the TCDD YouTube channel.

This program focused on the school-to-prison pipeline, a term frequently used to describe the policies and practices that funnel students, often those from marginalized communities, from the classroom into the juvenile and criminal justice system. Students with developmental disabilities (DD), especially those of color, are profoundly impacted by the perpetuation of the school-to-prison pipeline.

State Rep. Gene Wu, House District 137 (Houston), gave a legislative outlook on the topic. The program also included a panel discussion with Andrew R. Hairston, director of the Education Justice Project at Texas Appleseed; Malhar Shah, staff attorney with the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund; and Angel Crawford, staff attorney with Disability Rights Texas. Laura Marquez, DD Policy Fellow with Paso del Norte Children’s Development Center, was the event’s moderator.

To request a recording of this program, please contact TCDD at tcdd@tcdd.texas.gov.

This Academy featured a conversation with renowned infectious disease expert Dr. Peter Hotez, a professor of pediatrics and molecular virology at Baylor College of Medicine, and Dr. Emily Hotez, assistant professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. The father-daughter team discussed COVID-19 and disabilities and shared insights from a paper they wrote on the topic. TCDD Communications staff also presented on personal accounts and data collected through TCDD’s Texas COVID Stories campaign, which included two statewide surveys concerning the impacts of COVID-19 on self-advocates and family members of people with DD.

To request a recording of this program, please contact TCDD at tcdd@tcdd.texas.gov.

This program took place virtually two days after the start of the 87th Texas legislative session to discuss methods and opportunities for public input, as well as COVID-19 safety protocols. A panel of experts, including Jacob Cottingham from the office of Rep. Donna Howard, Bryan Law of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, and Mel Hocker, past president of Texas Advocates, was moderated by TCDD Public Policy Director Scott Daigle.

During the Disability Policy Academy, TCDD addressed questions about advocacy in the 87th session of the Texas Legislature, including:

  • How will the public communicate with lawmakers amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic?
  • What is the expectation for in-person vs. remote input this session?
  • What COVID-19 safety precautions are being taken at the Capitol?
  • What resources can be used to track legislation?
  • What are some tips for being an effective advocate?


To request a recording of this program, please contact TCDD at tcdd@tcdd.texas.gov.

This Disability Policy Academy focused on the federal, state, and local policies supporting the array of housing and residential options available to Texans with DD and answered questions related to the difference between personal care and group homes, intermediate care facilities, what Medicaid pays for and other options for financial housing assistance, and who oversees the health and safety of residents across settings.

Individuals with DD are at a much higher risk of experiencing traumatic situations like abuse, neglect, and exploitation. These experiences can affect individuals with DD in the same way trauma affects anyone else, having a tremendous impact on a person’s mental and physical health and well-being. This Academy focused on the trauma-informed care framework that involves recognizing, understanding, and responding to the effects of trauma. This model involves changing the mindset of trauma not as a pathological reaction, but as an adaptive response to a traumatic event. The discussion centered on how to implement this framework more widely for persons with DD in order to prevent traumatic situations from occurring, respond to behaviors, and prevent re-traumatization for survivors.

Individuals with DD are over seven times more likely to have been victims of sexual assault. This Academy focused on victims, risk factors, as well as what happens when someone reports an assault (e.g., how the system works – or does not work) and barriers to justice. An overview of current national and state policy was discussed, including advocacy strategies to make positive changes.

This Academy provided state health and human service leaders an opportunity to review the history of disability services and review current state and national trends related to providing long-term services and supports for individuals with DD. Speakers led a detailed discussion of barriers, opportunities, and strategies Texas can use to strengthen services for individuals with DD today and moving forward.

Not all individuals with DD who want to work can find meaningful work in the community at a competitive wage. This Academy reviewed how the policies included in the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) have impacted employment-related services in Texas and changed the way Texas supports people with disabilities to find meaningful, integrated employment. Participants also discussed the history of Employment First and the policies adopted in Texas to increase the number of individuals who are working.

Guardianship is a legal process used to protect individuals who are unable to care for their own well-being due to infancy, incapacity, or disability. A court will appoint a legal guardian to make decisions and represent a person’s personal and financial interests. Not all individuals with DD need guardianship. Some use alternatives such as supported decision-making services that help an adult with a disability make their own decisions by relying on trusted friends, family members, professionals, and others. Texas was the first state in the country to pass legislation and legally recognize supported decision-making options. This Academy focused on the history of and policies that resulted from this legislation.

What is a waiver? How many are available in Texas? What is the difference between the many waivers in Texas? This Academy included a detailed overview of the Texas Medicaid system and the types of supports offered in both residential and community-based settings. Participants reviewed eligibility criteria and how individuals with DD and families can access services, resources, waiver interest lists, and other state plan services and supports.

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