Katie Wolf Whaley Photo

HDI 50th Anniversary Spotlight on Katie Wolf Whaley

HDI is a place where people are given the opportunity to learn new ideas, study new research and implement new ways of understanding and supporting people with disabilities to live their best life. It is a place for families, the University community and all Kentuckians to better understand the complex issues in society around people with disabilities that do not get near the attention they deserve. It is a place that makes connections and shows possibilities.
—Katie Wolf Whaley, Project Director of the Supported Employment Training Project


How did you come to know HDI?
I started as an Research Assistant when I began my Masters in Social Work program at UK.
How long have you been at HDI and what is your role?
I first started at HDI in the fall of 2000 as an RA. After completing my Masters in Social Work, I became a Project Coordinator and, many years later, the Project Director of the Supported Employment Training Project. For several years I also worked with the Kentucky Business Leadership Network and now also oversee the OVR Consumer Satisfaction Survey and Rehab Tech contracts.
During your time at HDI, of which accomplishments are you most proud?
After seeing so many years of training, conversations, consultation and good people across Kentucky making employment for people with disabilities a reality, it was incredibly exciting to be a part of the Governor’s signing of the Employment First Executive Order.
Looking back, can you please share with us a fun or fond moment you had at HDI?
Oh, the most fun had to be the golf scrambles with Bill Mazzelini driving the golf cart and bringing drinks, and jokes, to us all on the course and everyone sharing a meal and lots of laughter after we “played” golf. And the years when Ron Harrison would light up a huge grill before the All Staff meeting, those were the best!
Do you have any advice you would like to share with current and future staff and students at HDI?
HDI is made up of people and the values they hold. While we have contracts and data and reports and timelines, it is the heart of this institute that keeps it innovative, relevant and moving forward. It is the belief in real inclusion and the value of all people that make our work matter. The disability community is not always on the same page, but what makes HDI special is that it makes decisions and sets priorities with the respect for all people at the forefront. Just because a method or policy is popular, does not make it right. Know the history of people with disabilities and the systems that have been created and continue to evolve and always seek out what is right for people to move toward true respect and inclusion in society.
What do you think the future holds for HDI?
I think the future is bright! HDI is connected in more ways than ever before across our Commonwealth and is really seen as a leader. I see the voice of people with disabilities growing and gaining attention and find a larger place along side, and leading, professionals in our field.