A Community Conversation, “Disabilities and Diversity: Challenges and Accomplishments,” was held on Tuesday, June 28, 2016 at the University of Missouri Kansas City Institute for Human Development. The concept for this meeting grew out of common interests between Aaron Bishop, Commissioner of the U.S. Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AIDD), and U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, II.

Participants included:

  • U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II, 5th Congressional District of Missouri
  • Aaron Bishop, Commissioner, U.S. Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AIDD)
  • Leo Morton, Chancellor, University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC)
  • Carl F. Calkins, Director, UMKC Institute for Human Development
  • Representatives of fifteen Missouri disability or diversity-related organizations/initiatives
  • Individuals with disabilities or representing diverse backgrounds

This diverse and engaged group discussed their experiences, highlighting both challenges and accomplishments groups face while working to extend inclusion to people with disabilities, as well as the complexities disability organizations meet when reaching out to populations with diverse backgrounds.

“We are pleased to have the opportunity to listen to these leaders share their accomplishments with us at the state and local level, drawing attention to what didn’t and has worked. And can others learn from these successes?” said Bishop. “This is a first step. The goal is to replicate this initiative with a conversation at the national level.” Others agreed that the time is right, and in fact imminent, to bring diversity and disability experts together through stronger alliances and partnerships.

“It is our job, as advocates for our community’s underserved populations, to lend a hand in improving the quality of life for the people we serve. When our inclusion efforts are successful, our communities are stronger,” said UMKC Chancellor Leo E. Morton.

“I’m glad to be a part of this much needed discussion for programs involving people with disabilities. It’s important to discuss what’s working and find out what improvements are needed to ensure every person is treated fairly, with dignity and respect,” said Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, II.