Kentucky's Employment First Council including about twenty people

Kentucky’s Employment First Council Launches First Meeting!

Kentucky’s Employment First Council assembled for its first meeting on Thursday, October 4. The 27 member group is comprised of people with disabilities, family members, employers, state agency representatives, and provider agencies. The Council was convened as a result of an Executive Order, signed by Governor Matt Bevin on May 15, 2018, making Kentucky an Employment First state. Employment First is the philosophy that everyone, including people with significant disabilities, can work in integrated employment. Kentucky’s Executive Order states “…competitive and integrated employment in the community shall be considered the first and primary option for persons with disabilities of working age who have communicated a desire to become employed”. Continue reading

Inclusion Award plaque on desk

HDI Receives 2018 University of Kentucky Inclusive Excellence Award in the Department/Unit category!

HDI was recently selected as a recipient of the 2018 University of Kentucky Inclusive Excellence Award in the Department/Unit category in appreciation for the institute’s dedication and passion to advances in diversity and inclusion, which aligns with the University’s Strategic Plan.

HDI’s commitment to advancing diversity and inclusion through campus and community leadership and engagement was recognized at the University of Kentucky Faculty Awards ceremony, Thursday, April 19. All HDI staff were invited to attend the ceremony, and HDI’s Executive Director, Kathy Sheppard-Jones, accepted this significant award on behalf of the institute. Continue reading

Two men with Down syndrome in a meeting.

Research Brief Fall 2017: A Statewide Community Conversation about Post-School Employment for Kentucky Youth with the Most Significant Disabilities

by Chithra Adams, Harold Kleinert, Kathy Sheppard-Jones, Amanda Corbin & Malachy Bishop

Young adults with disabilities face multiple challenges in obtaining successful post-school employment outcomes. This situation has remained relatively unchanged despite nearly 25 years of federal attention to the issue, including mandated transition services and a series of additional significant legislative responses. Recent research by Carter, Austin, and Trainor (2012) highlighted the severity of the situation, showing that “just 26% of recent graduates with severe disabilities were working for pay in their community up to 2 years after leaving high school” and 43% of those who were employed “held jobs in which most other workers had disabilities” (Carter et al., 2016, p. 398).

KentuckyWorks is a five-year systems change grant project designed to directly impact post-school outcomes for youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Kentucky. KentuckyWorks is a collaborative, multi-partner project that aims to impact youth outcomes within each of the state’s 174 school districts, and the target population is defined as all KY transition-age students with the most significant disabilities. The goal is to increase positive post-school outcomes (integrated employment, participation in post-secondary education, or both) for students with the most significant disabilities in the state by 20 percentage points over the five years of this grant.

Read the Research Brief.

Kentucky Disability Resource Guide: Now Interactive and Digital

In June 2016, the Human Development Institute released an interactive digital version of the popular Kentucky Disability Resource Guide ( This resource allows professionals, Kentuckians with disabilities, and their families to find a range of resources at their fingertips within just a few clicks.  Continue reading