With March being DD Awareness Month, OCALI’s Office of Policy has been coordinating with multiple organizations and agencies to maximize the opportunity to educate policy makers about the challenges, opportunities and possibilities for Ohio’s DD community, its stakeholders and its supporters. The team’s new webpage has resources and information about these efforts and more!
Information is everywhere we look—from the books and documents we read, to the videos and movies we watch, and conversations we have at work and in the community. Information shapes our experiences and our experiences shape us. When information and interactions are presented or created in ways that are not accessible, people with disabilities may encounter barriers that prevent full access and participation. Increasing access to information connects us, it empowers us, and it promotes independence.
“At OCALI, we’re striving to ensure all people with disabilities have the opportunity to live their best lives for their whole lives and that starts with accessibility,” explains Jan Rogers, Program Director at the AT&AEM Center.
Early identification of developmental delays and entry into intervention significantly improve lifelong outcomes for young children.
“We want young children with disabilities to be represented in all early childhood initiatives in Ohio,” shares Laura Maddox, Center Director at OCALI’s Center for the Young Child (CYC). “This will ensure that all children with disabilities get the best possible start in life because early experiences impact lifelong outcomes. We do this by informing policy, creating, and sharing resources, and providing training and technical assistance so that young children (0-8) with disabilities have the foundation they need for a lifetime of learning, growth, and opportunities in their community.”
The CYC grounds its work in the latest brain science, policy, and research, representing the perspective of young children and their families when programs are being developed and deployed by the many providers and systems supporting early childhood care and education.
With nearly 40 years in the field of developmental disabilities, Jody Fisher has a passion for serving and impacting others. As a consultant with OCALI’s Center for the Young Child (CYC), Jody brings an extensive background that spans direct service and teaching, to state and national policy work.
“Advances in brain science have provided us with a new roadmap of how we approach early care and education, and how important our earliest experiences are in the formation of our lifelong health and well-being. Having foundational work experience in home, classroom, and clinical settings, I have learned that services and supports can be more responsive and meaningful if our view considers the whole child and family— the day-to-day experiences, routines, surroundings, and interactions all come in to play,” shares Jody.
“Part of my role as a consultant for the CYC is to connect dots and look for partnerships and opportunities that support OCALI’s mission at the local, state, and national levels. It’s the diverse perspectives and experiences with people and organizations, the flow of new ideas, and seeing possibilities turn to realities that fuel me,” she says. “What I find energizing about my role at OCALI is working alongside the next generation of leadership in the field of developmental disabilities. It is a privilege to be part of such a talented group of professionals.”
One of the most exciting areas of Jody’s work in the CYC is promoting a solid understanding of how important it is to have the best start to life as early as possible and how to connect people with the right resources at the right time. From families and individuals to professionals and experts—Jody enjoys seeing the benefits and impact of early support and intervention.
“Early in my career, I had the opportunity to work with an infant with developmental disabilities in her home. Many years later, I ran into her mother who shared with me how important those early visits had been for her as a parent, and that her daughter was now an adult living on her own and employed in the community. Yes, it showed my age, but on a serious note, it was a testament to the impact that early intervention can have in setting the trajectory for positive life outcomes.”
For Jody, inspiring change starts with relationships. Her affiliation and involvement with many agencies, organizations, and associations serving and advocating for Ohioans with developmental disabilities has been a source of motivation.
“We can be much smarter in our thinking and way more creative with our ideas when we sit down with the collective brainpower of a diverse group of people to innovate. For me, that is what inspiring change is all about.”
The CYC values the relationships it has with state agency partners, educators, service providers, and other early care and education stakeholders, and most importantly, individuals and families by encouraging this collective thinking and openness that leads to positive and lasting change.
Outside of OCALI, Jody enjoys spending time with her family and friends. She has been happily married for 27 years and has two millennial sons which keep her constantly challenging herself to “raise the bar” on her technology skills. A self-proclaimed “nature lover,” Jody loves the outdoors and fitness activities. She shares, “I have spent a life-long career in the field of developmental disabilities working to create opportunities for individuals and families to live their best lives. But truth be told, it has been those individuals and families that have impacted my life so deeply in ways too many to count, and I am forever grateful.”
Registration Deadline is January 25
Ensuring access to the right materials and technology for students who are blind or visually impaired is a priority for the Assistive Technology and Accessible Educational Materials (AT&AEM) Center at OCALI.
“It is essential for students with visual impairments to have their materials at the same time as their classmates,” explains Lisa Goshe, teacher for the visually impaired in Columbus City Schools. “It’s an issue of equity. It’s an issue of allowing them to be engaged in their learning. If you don’t have your materials in front of you, how do you engage? It lets students be active learners in the moment and gain the most out of the lesson that’s going on.”
Libraries are a valuable resource for sharing and connecting people and communities with free information and resources. Like a traditional library, the OCALI Lending Library offers thousands of free materials, resources, and technology on a range of topics—from transition to social-emotional development, evidence-based practices, and more that are applicable to various disabilities and for all ages—from early childhood to adulthood.
“We offer Ohioans an extensive collection of free books, videos, assistive technology devices, assessment tools, and other resources that are available to borrow on a short or long-term basis and shipped directly at no charge,” explains Samantha Brown, OCALI Clearinghouse Librarian
The OCALI Lending Library collects and shares accessible educational and professional development materials and resources.
Inspired. Energized. Game changer. Sense of community.
These are just a few words that attendees used to describe their experience at OCALICON 2018. On November 14-16, nearly 2,900 state and national leaders, K-12 education leaders and practitioners, service providers, policy makers, families, and self-advocates from 42 states and eight countries gathered in Columbus, Ohio, at OCALICON. Now in its 12th year, OCALICON 2018 had record-breaking attendance—a 48 percent increase over last year.
“We knew early on that it was going to be our largest event ever. Our first attendee came in 30 minutes after opening registration in April—before we even had a chance to send out the official announcement,” said Simon Buehrer, conference and events manager. “That enthusiasm, energy, and excitement continued and kept building in the months and weeks leading up to OCALICON.”
More than a conference, OCALICON is truly a personal and professional learning experience.