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Fund for Excellence Projects Awarded

The University of Kentucky Human Development Institute Fund for Excellence was created to support the development of innovative programs, services, or products to address the needs of individuals with disabilities and their families, for which funding is not currently available. Below is a list of the most recent awards.

Expanding the Social Networks of Adults with Autism

Project Lead: Patti Logsdon

This project supports autistic adults in expanding their friendships, social networks, and community participation in valued community roles and activities. This will be achieved through a blended approach that builds upon person-centered planning, circle of friends/support, peer networks and valued social roles. This project will support HDI’s mission of building inclusive communities by developing social networks.

Mind in the Making: Seven Essential Executive Skills for Families

Project Leads: Dr. Joanne Rojas and Sally Dannenberg 

Mind in the Making (MITM) is a research framework that summarizes decades of developmental research into the seven essential life skills. The MITM training consists of eight modules geared to early childhood professionals and family educators to engage them in an experiential and reflective process of self-discovery of their own competence in these life skills, connect their experience to the research, and learn to promote these capacities in themselves as well as in the children in their care. The goal of this project is to provide this training to communities throughout the state that serve families that are at risk because of a variety of circumstances. This project supports HDI’s mission of addressing the inequity of access to resources and support networks. 

Working Alternatives to Guardianship (WAG)

Project Lead: Laura Butler 

The goal of this project is to form a workgroup of stakeholders that will work together to inform workable decisional support options for people who have not traditionally had viable options beyond legal guardianship. The initial objective of the group will be to create a Continuing Legal Education course that will focus on providing people with legal documents that will be accepted by a wide variety of other professionals. This project will further HDI’s mission of building inclusive communities by helping identify ways for more people to experience full personal and civil rights. 

Person using an adaptive bike in the woods

UK HDI Fund for Excellence Award to fund Bluegrass Mountain Biking Accessibility Initiative 

Kentuckians will soon have access to an adaptive mountain biking trail, thanks in part to an internal grant funded by the UK Human Development Institute. The trail, to be built by the Kentucky Mountain Biking Association, will be designed with the interest of people with disabilities at the forefront, prioritizing input and feedback from trail users with disabilities. 

The $10,000 grant, known as the Fund for Excellence award, was awarded to John C. Hill and Laura Butler. The Fund for Excellence Award is issued to Human Development Institute staff members for innovative projects, services and products that address the needs of individuals with disabilities and their families.  

Hill, principal investigator of the grant, is a survey project coordinator at HDI, an adjunct professor in the College of Education and the College of Information and Communication, and, fittingly, a mountain biker himself. 

“When I look through things, I try to find ways to connect my personal life to my research,” Hill said. 

The grant proposal written by Hill and Butler for their project, called the Bluegrass Mountain Biking Accessibility Initiative, addresses indicated barriers to physical activity and equitable access to outdoor recreation. Butler, disability program administrator at HDI and project director of the mountain biking initiative, works closely alongside Hill to collect and analyze Kentucky National Core Indicators survey results to assess the services and supports offered to people with disabilities.  

The location of the new trail, which will be in central Kentucky, is still being determined. It may be its own trail or a new branch or modifications to an already existing trail. However the logistics pan out, the scope of the project that is funded through the Fund for Excellence Award will conclude in the second half of 2023. In the meantime, Hill, Butler, and their partners on the project are working to install QR codes on trails throughout the bluegrass, in order to conduct surveys to better understand what limitations current trail users have and what sorts of trail features and/or adaptive technology would best support their needs. 

In Hill’s experiences, he has seen that the culture within the bluegrass mountain biking community is to support new bikers and cheer them on, even when that means slowing down the pace a bit.  

“The mountain bike community is really special to me because [there are so many] extremely intelligent, nice people, and they care about others. They just want to get people involved,” Hill said. 

Hill and Butler are relying on the expertise of the Kentucky Mountain Biking Association to physically build the trail. Together, and in collaboration with Midway University and the UK Community Innovation Lab, the team plans to consult with experts in trail building, universal design, and the community members who the trail is designed for throughout each step of the process. 

For questions about the Bluegrass Mountain Biking Accessibility Initiative, please contact John C. Hill at  

Jacob Mason Tina Jackson Story video still with Jacob and Tina during the interview with the caption: "Who are you and why do you want to share your story?"

HDI Launches Storytelling Website

The University of Kentucky Human Development Institute Digital Storytelling Initiative highlights the stories and lived experiences of people with disabilities. By recording and collecting stories, the contributions of people with disabilities and their families are amplified to help shape the narrative of how disability impacts society. These stories can be found at HDI Voices, a website that currently includes stories about employment, health, and COVID-19.

The work continues! Do you have a story to tell? HDI staff Patti Logsdon, Adam Potter, and Patti Singleton want to work with you. You can share your story or work with others to record their story in writing, on audio (podcast), or video. If you are interested in adding to the HDI story collection, fill out the form at  or contact Patti Logsdon at or 859 218-1338.

Visit and share with others who want to improve their work with people with disabilities and their families. This project was made by possible by a HDI Fund for Excellence proposal.

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HDI to pilot Professional Certification in Universal Design

A University of Kentucky (UK) Human Development Institute (HDI) Fund for Excellence award has been given to Christina Espinosa Bard and Patti Singleton to offer a professional certification to equip people to use the principles of Universal Design (UD) in the workplace. This will expand HDI’s current undergraduate certificate program available to UK students from any field of study.

HDI is a national leader in embedding UD practices in learning by examining goals, materials, methods, and assessment for usability factors. These practices will be used to develop and pilot a six-hour certificate program that will include case studies and activities to support practical application of UD principles in the workplace.

To increase capacity and raise awareness about UD principles, UK employees will be provided an opportunity to complete the certificate at no cost to them. This project supports HDI’s mission of promoting the inclusion and contributions of people with disabilities through information sharing, leadership, and advocacy. 

Contact or for more information.

Andy Meredith with camera.

HDI Fund for Excellence Awarded for Expanded Photo Library to Improve Representation of Diversity, Employment, and the Lifespan

HDI’s Stephanie Meredith and Harold Kleinert recently received the HDI Fund for Excellence award to expand our photo library of people with disabilities from diverse backgrounds for the entire Institute and also the National Center for Prenatal and Postnatal Resources. These photos play a critical role in portraying diverse people with disabilities across the lifespan as active participants in an inclusive world. Continue reading