Bringing together decades of leadership into one collaborative center, the School of Education has announced the new Center on Disability and Inclusion (CDI). Formed to advance inclusive education and disability rights, and promote the inclusion of people with disabilities in all aspects of school and society, the center is a strategic collaboration between the Lawrence B. Taishoff Center for Inclusive Higher Education, the Center on Human Policy, the Inclusion and Communication Initiatives (ICI) and the newly established Mid-State Partnership and Pre-Employment Transition Programs.
Christine Ashby, associate professor of inclusive education and disability studies, and director of the ICI, has been named director of the new center with Beth Myers, Lawrence B. Taishoff Assistant Professor of inclusive education and director of the Taishoff Center, serving as assistant director. The collaboration makes it easier to seek grants, share resources and expertise, and broaden the reach of each individual center.
While maintaining a strong research focus and deep connection to academic programs in inclusive education and disability studies, the CDI also leads efforts in community engagement, technical assistance and advocacy functions through dedicated projects in schools and communities in upstate New York.
Through the Mid-State Partnership, early childhood agencies and school districts are receiving technical assistance from the same center that is conducting research, teacher education, inclusive classroom practices and disability rights work.
“One of the big differences in how we are working to advance inclusion is through greater connection to public schools,” Ashby says. “Looking at issues impacting inclusion across the life span, from childhood through adulthood and through many different lenses of educational access, communication, disability rights and advocacy, it’s clear that we have to be close partners with school systems to help them bring about change. We need to push from the outside and from the inside. That is how we will best accomplish systems change.”
The center will formally celebrate the launch at the upcoming Orange Central with a School of Education virtual gathering of staff, alumni and supporters to discuss how CDI is uniquely positioned to carry forward the legacy of decades of leadership in research, policy and pedagogy with and for people with disabilities.
“I’m excited to see the Center on Disability and Inclusion in place as it builds on the SOE’s long legacy of work in these areas and will allow for even more strength as it brings multiple groups together under the CDI umbrella,” says Joanna Masingila, dean of the School of Education. “I look forward to the local, state, national and international leadership of SOE faculty and staff through the center.”
Professor Ashby says she is excited to bring these pieces together. “Everyone is realizing the need for more collaborative and intersectional approaches.”
The CDI’s work is supported by grant funding from the New York State Department of Education, The Taishoff Family Foundation, ACCES-VR and the U.S. Department of Education.