New developments and research projects are underway at Northern Arizona University’s Institute for Human Development (IHD) thanks to three grants totaling $3.2 million to support students with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and study vocational rehabilitation practices in Indian Country.
The first is a five-year, $2.5 million grant awarded by the Transition and Postsecondary Programs for Students with Intellectual Disabilities (TPSID), part of the U.S. Department of Education. The grant will allow IHD to develop and implement a radically inclusive support and coaching program for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) to attend postsecondary education institutions throughout northern Arizona.
“Inclusion on college campuses means that all students are supported, those with disabilities and those without,” said Kelly Roberts, principal investigator and IHD executive director. “Everyone benefits from students with disabilities learning in the same classroom as the rest of the community.”
Witnessing the success and the interest level generated by the pilot project, IHD project leaders decided to expand the reach of the pilot by recruiting partners from across northern Arizona—along with state and tribal leadership—to jointly support a proposal for federal funding to increase the number of students with ID who attend college after high school.
The pilot project, funded by the Arizona Developmental Disabilities Planning Council (ADDPC), supported four students with I/DD at Coconino Community College.
The second is a $600,000 grant awarded to IHD by The National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research to conduct a community-based participatory research (CBPR) project about American Indian Vocational Rehabilitation Services (AIVRS)—programs that support integrated, high-quality employment for tribal members with disabilities living on or near recognized tribal service areas.
Although academics have extensively studied state-based vocational rehabilitation, there is little research on vocational rehabilitation in Indian County. The Culturally Appropriate Research in American Indian Employment (CARE) project is designed to address this gap in academic research utilizing a CBPR model, which ensures that members of the communities being studied are involved in the project design and data collection.
“CBPR is ideal for the exploratory nature of this project because it means that historically-marginalized Native American stakeholders will have joint ownership and leadership in this work,” Roberts said. “This research demands respecting and honoring the immense wisdom and community strengths of sovereign tribal communities.”
The third is a one-year, $100,000 grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration on Disabilities to develop a comprehensive, integrated pilot plan to help youth with I/DD transition to adulthood.
This grant will allow IHD to bring diverse stakeholders together who are already working to assist youth with I/DD to form the Arizona Coalition for Transition Success (AzCTS)—a coalition to collaboratively develop a seamless, integrated transition success plan that will support better outcomes for employment and postsecondary education in Arizona.