The UCEDDs serve as a bridge between university and community; this is the essence of their identities. Within this ED&I Action Plan, there are two considerations that cut across all efforts to enhance workforce diversity, CLC, and the use of systems change strategies to achieve local and state impact (collectively referred to as ED&I initiatives below). The first of these is recognizing the importance of grounding all efforts on partnerships with individuals with I/DD and their families, particularly those from underserved groups. The second consideration is that UCEDDs as university programs have an obligation to advance knowledge through research and scholarship.
The UCEDD network workforce will reflect the diversity of racial, ethnic, linguistic, and cultural groups, and disability identities of individuals residing in the U.S., its territories, and the tribal nations. A diverse workforce is associated with reductions in disparities and enhanced organizational effectiveness. Our network has to date had notable disparities in the employment of individuals from racial and ethnic backgrounds other than non-disabled, non-Hispanic White in leadership and senior management roles. This may be due in part to the underrepresentation of individuals from underserved groups in professional and clinical roles in the UCEDD, as well as their underrepresentation in many of the graduate and professional training programs.
The UCEDD National Network should demonstrate the highest commitment to CLC–embedding it as a critical component of activities across all the core functions. Cultural competence is cited as a priority in the D.D. Act of 2000 that underlies all efforts to increase independence, productivity, inclusion, and self-determination for individuals with I/DD. One essential aspect of CLC is the capacity to acquire knowledge about and respond effectively to cultural differences. This requires that UCEDDs acknowledge, understand, and value that the constructs of independence, productivity, inclusion, and self-determination vary widely both within and across different cultural groups. Increasing CLC is associated with reductions in disparities in access, utilization, quality, and outcomes of services and supports for individuals from underrepresented groups in health and education; there is a need to demonstrate that this is also true for individuals with I/DD across all areas of emphasis in the D.D. Act.
Among the most important work of UCEDDs are their efforts in transforming I/DD service systems at the local, state, and territorial levels. Within this body of work across the areas of emphasis from the D.D. Act of 2000, UCEDDs should include a specific focus on using data to describe the nature of disparities experienced by individuals with I/DD and their families from underserved groups and planning interventions to reduce these disparities. In doing so, these activities should be informed by engaging communities that are affected by disparities, strategic partnerships, and a systematic approach toward achieving sustainable systems change. At a minimum, a UCEDD should be expected to have at least one initiative addressing disparities in the designated area of emphasis in its five-year plan (e.g., health, education, employment).