Kentucky Awarded Office of Disability Employment Policy VOICE Technical Assistance Grant

Kentucky has been awarded a Visionary Opportunities to Increase Competitive Employment (VOICE) Technical Assistance Grant by the US Department of Labor Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP). Kentucky will work with ODEP’s contractor, Econsys, on the grant. Kentucky will use these funds to develop strategies to increase the capacity of the provider community to support transformation from a center-based activity system to a community-based effort with an Employment First focus. This effort will emphasize both the traditional day and employment services provided through the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation and Medicaid as well as the Individual Placement and Support (IPS) Supported Employment program, which serves people with behavioral health diagnoses and substance use issues. IPS supported employment was introduced in Kentucky in 2010 and currently has 19 IPS programs serving 76 counties. The latest information available shows that 3,264 Kentuckians are on the IPS caseloads with 1,070 people actively working in the community.

The Kentucky VOICE Leadership Team includes representatives from the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, Division of Behavioral Health, Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities, Workforce Investment Board, Department of Education, University of Kentucky Human Development Institute, and Medicaid.

Learn more about an array of projects, initiatives, and partnerships that are aligned to improve employment outcomes for Kentuckians with disabilities at

Project Contact: Lori Norton ( or Jeff White (


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50th Anniversary Spotlight on Kathy Sheppard-Jones

HDI expertise is found throughout the counties of Kentucky. I am proud of our strong network, and of our ability to find common threads upon which to build even stronger coalitions.

Kathy Sheppard-Jones – Executive Director

How did you come to know HDI?
I had just graduated from UK and was looking for a job. I got hired on as a STEPS employees on the Kentucky Employment Initiative. It was in the final month of grant funding.

How long have you been at HDI and what is your role?
I have been at HDI for over 20 years in a variety of roles. I’ve been fortunate to work for and learn from Barney Fleming, John Hancock, Carolyn Wheeler, and Harold Kleinert. I have worked across projects that emphasized – agriculture, assistive technology, universal design, health and wellness, preservice training, quality of life, driver rehabilitation, and return to work. I’ve been the Community Education Director, Adult Services Director, and Training Director. Now I am fortunate to be the Executive Director.

During your time at HDI, of which accomplishments are you most proud?
I’m proud to have played a small part in Employment First in Kentucky, and so proud that many HDIers are leading the way in helping to fulfill the promise of Employment First. I’m proud to have coordinated efforts to bring the Certificate in Universal Design to the University of Kentucky. But even more so, I’m proud to be part of an organization that means a great deal to the Commonwealth. I’m proud to highlight the accomplishments of our staff and proud that the HDI is considered a good partner that builds inclusive communities.

Do you have any advice for current and future staff and students at HDI?
Bring the best of yourself to the work that you do. Dream big. Work hard. Do good. Be kind. Book now for the HDI 100th anniversary gala.

Man with gray beard smiling wearing blue shirt

50th Anniversary Spotlight on Jeff White

HDI is a place where opportunity and possibility meet to make change possible; a place where collaborators of varying backgrounds and perspectives join to address challenges that none of us alone could conquer; a place where disappointment goes to perish.

Jeff White – Project Director

How did you come to know HDI?
My first exposure to HDI was incidental to exploration of the Agribility Program with an eye toward replicating it in another state.

How long have you been at HDI and what is your role?
I came to work for HDI in July 2001 as an Area Administrator for the SCL program.

During your time at HDI, of which accomplishments are you most proud?
I am most proud of the fact that after failing to receive a Partnership in Employment Grant during our first attempt we remained bold, positive, and aggressive and were successful with our second attempt.

Do you have any advice for current and future staff and students at HDI?
You are fortunate to work in a place where dreams can come true. Be bold but realistic and work hard to make your mark on your community.

What do you think the future holds for HDI?
I think that HDI will soon be recognized as Kentucky’s leader in advocacy and support for people with all disabilities.

Woman with long brown hair wearing glasses standing in front of a tree

50th Anniversary Spotlight on Lou-Ann Land

As long as there are barriers to a fully inclusive society, HDI will be around to knock them down! In an odd way, I look forward to the day HDI does not need to exist.

Lou-Ann Land – Technical Assistance Specialist

How did you come to know HDI?
As a teacher, I participated in SPLASH training in the late 80s. This was my first introduction to Harold Kleinert and Jacqui Kearns. I was invited to act as a support teacher for new SPLASH participants, attended several days of training on inclusion, participated in the KY Alternate Assessment Project’s State Advisory Board and assisted with the training and scoring of alternate assessments. Eventually, I was hired on the ILSSA project.

How long have you been at HDI and what is your role?
I have worked at HDI since September of 2002, initially as a disability specialist for various states, providing technical assistance on the development of alternate assessment programs and access to the state’s standards through the general education curriculum.  Since 2013, I have worked on the TAALC Communication Project, the KY Peer Support Network Project, and the KY Post-school Outcomes Center as a trainer and facilitator. These projects provide access to grade-specific academic content and a reliable communication system that are indicators for successful post-school outcomes. Using this information, I can assist school districts with interpreting data and identifying how that data can inform school-age programs and instruction.

During your time at HDI, of which accomplishments are you most proud?
Because I continually learn and grow personally and professionally in this job, I have had the opportunity to work on projects that I love. I am most proud of the work on the TAALC communication project. We have seen immediate, meaningful results.

Do you have any advice for current and future staff and students at HDI?
Take advantage of the all the knowledge at HDI through the people who work here.

What does HDI mean to you?
HDI means opportunity! For me, the opportunity to continuously learn from the expertise and experiences of all my colleagues, past and present, at HDI. For those served by the various HDI projects over the years, opportunity to access education, work, health, housing, recreation, and relationships to live a life of their choosing. Opportunities are opened and expanded because HDI holds respect and inclusion of all individuals as part of its mission and core values.

UK Memorial Hall

HDI presents the 2020 University Lecture Series

The Human Development Institute (HDI) has developed a series of dynamic one-hour lecture and seminar style presentations available at the University of Kentucky. These presentations cover an array of topics that include foundational lectures on disability, advocacy, health, employment, universal design and assistive technology. While the content is expansive, the common theme is around building inclusive communities. Presenters are people with disabilities, family members of people with disabilities, and other interdisciplinary experts.

This is a great opportunity for University of Kentucky faculty and staff to schedule presentations for the 2020 spring semester. The Lecture Series launched in fall, 2019, with 17 lectures provided to over 700 students and faculty. For more information or to schedule a lecture for your class, contact Dr. Caroline Gooden at