Change is inevitable, and anyone engaging with Indiana’s public systems in recent years knows this all too well. In the last two years alone, systems that educate, serve, and support Hoosiers with disabilities across the lifespan began rethinking their approaches. Some systems are already initiating major reforms. Changes underway, among others, include the integration of new approaches in early childhood services, new graduation requirements targeting skills to prepare students for the labor force and higher education, redesigning of Medicaid Home and Community-Based Services, and an expansion of less restrictive alternatives to guardianship. Common among these is a push for greater individualization, increased service flexibility and choice, and greater opportunities for people with disabilities to be included in their communities.
At the Indiana Institute on Disability and Community, we have been at the forefront of advancing and supporting many of these systems changes. With our deep expertise and knowledge about the state and the public systems, and our capacity to conduct research and evaluation, train and educate, convene and engage key stakeholders, and scale-up best practices, the Institute remains steadfastly committed to supporting the state to ensure all Hoosiers are included.
At the Institute, we also recognize that Indiana is a culturally and linguistically diverse and rich state. As such, it is imperative that we, through our day-to-day work, acknowledge and embrace this diversity. In the last year, we at the Institute committed to expand our professional and organizational capacities to more effectively include and serve diverse communities. As a partner in statewide systems change, we are also committed to using these capacities to ensure we are responsive to the varying needs of the diverse communities in which we operate.
The future is bright for people with disabilities in Indiana and the changes underway today will serve as the critical foundation. Though there is much work to do across the state, I am confident that with Indiana’s strong and effective self-advocates, families, advocates, professionals, and policymakers, people with disabilities will have greater opportunities to lead meaningful lives in the community.
Derek Nord, Ph.D