CDI Town Hall on Disability in Education brings stakeholders to campus

The Town Hall centered around the realities, challenges and priorities for students with disabilities in Pre-K through college. The audience heard testimonials from educators, parents and students, followed by a panel of key stakeholders and changemakers who discussed opportunities for improvements to direct and systemic issues present in the education system.


  • Rachel May, NYS Senator, 53rd District
  • John Mannion, NYS Senator, 50th District
  • Al Stirpe, NYS Assemblyperson, 127th District
  • Kimberly Hill Ridley, New York State Chief Disability Officer
  • Christopher Suriano, Assistant Commissioner of Special Education, NYS Education Department
  • Christy Ashby, Director of the Center on Disability and Inclusion
  • Beth Myers, Director of the Taishoff Center for Inclusive Higher Education
  • Irastina Reid, Director of Special Education, SCSD
  • Lori Saile, Executive Director, Jowonio School

Watch the Video Recording

Through Intelligence++, Domenic Gallo ’24 Reimagines Augmentative and Alternative Communication Tech to Empower Individuals with Speech Disabilities

“I have always been drawn to creative problems, yet I have always solved those problems in technical ways. I am very left-brained. But people need to know being left-brained can be just as creative as being right-brained. In fact, if you are forced to pick the perspective of just one side, you lose the overlap between them. That is where all the good things happen.” 

Dominic Gallo headshotThis is the personal philosophy of Domenic Gallo ’24, a sophomore in the industrial design program at Syracuse University’s College of Visual and Performing Arts (VPA). This semester, Gallo has enjoyed putting his creative problem-solving skills to the test in an inclusive design class offered through Intelligence++, a collaboration among VPA, Blackstone LaunchPad at SU Libraries, and InclusiveU, a program of the School of Education’s Lawrence B. Taishoff Center for Inclusive Higher Education. 

The elective—available to both undergraduates and graduates—challenges students to ideate and build solutions for challenges unique to individuals with intellectual disabilities.

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Director Christine Ashby Selected for Women in Leadership Inaugural Cohort

Twenty-six of Syracuse University’s most promising women and non-binary people have been selected to join the inaugural leadership development cohort launched by the Women in Leadership Initiative (WiL). Beginning with reflective readings this summer, cohort participants will participate in an intensive, intentional experience designed to propel them to greater personal and professional growth.

The cohort will be led by Candace Campbell Jackson, senior vice president and chief of staff to the Chancellor; Dara Royer, senior vice president and chief marketing officer; Marcelle Haddix, associate provost for strategic initiatives; and Jamie Winders, associate provost for faculty affairs.

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Hoping to Eliminate Barriers to Education, InclusiveU Goes to Washington, DC

On any given day, members of Congress and their staff can hold dozens of meetings with concerned citizens and interest groups looking to advocate on behalf of a particular issue.

Sometimes these citizens are seeking additional revenue for their cause. Other times, they want to educate and spread awareness.

If you took a survey of the congressional staffers who met recently with a delegation from Syracuse University’s InclusiveU program, chances are they would remember the energetic and charismatic Olivia Baist ’22, who recently earned a degree in studio arts from the College of Visual and Performing Arts.

Baist is a proud graduate of Syracuse University and its InclusiveU program, which thanks to an initiative from the Taishoff Center for Inclusive Higher Education brings students of all ages with intellectual and developmental disabilities to campus to experience college life in a fully inclusive setting.

Baist and two of her InclusiveU colleagues—director Brianna Shults G’20 and Katie Ducett, an inclusive (special) education Ph.D. candidate in the School of Education—spent two days pushing for policy change to make higher education accessible for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities during a whirlwind tour of Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

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Professors Ashby, Ferri Weigh In on Section 504 Update

For the first time in 45 years, the US Department of Education is planning to update federal mandates for how schools and colleges must accommodate students with disabilities. The department is soliciting public comments about how current regulations can be improved under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

Christine Ashby headshot
Professor Christine Ashby

“The passage of Section 504 was a landmark and hard-fought moment in the disability rights movement. It was a tremendous step toward ending disability-based discrimination and promoting full rights of people with disabilities in education and employment settings,” says Christine Ashby, Director of the Center on Disability and Inclusion and Professor of Inclusive Special Education and Disability Studies at Syracuse University School of Education. “But 45 years later, the promise of the law has not been fully realized. Far too many students lack access to appropriate supports and services and many face diminished opportunities and segregation from non-disabled peers.” Read full story.

As the School of Education’s Italy Program Returns, Sara Jo Soldovieri ’18, G’19 Reflects on Its Influence

Now a doctoral student researching inclusive education, Sara Jo Soldovieri ’18, G’19 was a sophomore when she took “Literacy, Inclusion, and Diversity in Italy,” a study abroad short course offered by the Syracuse University School of Education and Syracuse Abroad.

Sara Jo Soldovieri stands in front of a backdrop of Florence, Italy
Sara Jo Soldovieri ’18, G’19 visits Florence, Italy in 2016.

Soldovieri matriculated at Syracuse because of her interest in inclusive education and the University’s deep expertise in the subject. Studying abroad in Italy showed her the possibilities of fully integrating students with disabilities into the classroom. It helped set Soldovieri on her academic path. Read full story.

New Book Edited by School of Education Faculty Explores Live-Actor Simulations as Effective Training for Real-World Educational Challenges

“My co-authored chapter explores the use of clinical simulations for disability, difference and inclusive education across several School of Education programs,” says Christine Ashby, director of the School of Education’s Center on Disability and Inclusion. “I see tremendous potential for simulations to address anti-racism, equity and inclusion. In addition to creating opportunities for our students to engage with these topics, sharing data across our programs creates a space to hold our school accountable to the principles and values we espouse.”

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Center on Disability and Inclusion Presents at Thursday Morning Roundtable

Syracuse University School of Education faculty members Christine Ashby and Beth Myers discussed the initiatives of the Center on Disability and Inclusion (CDI) during a Zoom public forum attended by more than 35 Central New York leaders earlier this month, hosted by Syracuse University’s Thursday Morning Roundtable. Watch the presentation.

Aligned with the International Day of Persons with Disabilities on Dec. 3, Ashby and Myers walked through the center’s priorities and projects’ impact on campus, in Central New York and globally.

“The CDI works to address systemic challenges and further the progress towards creating a more inclusive world for people with disabilities in all aspects of school and society, both locally and globally,” Ashby says. “Presenting at a forum like the Thursday Morning Roundtable really helps us move the mark forward by spreading awareness about the work we are doing, and engage more people in the conversation.”

Located in the School of Education, the CDI is a disability-related research center that also serves community engagement, technical assistance and advocacy functions through collaborations with related centers, including the Taishoff Center for Inclusive Higher Education, the Center on Human Policy and the Inclusion and Communication Initiatives.

Ashby is a professor of inclusive special education and disability and director of the CDI. Myers is the Lawrence B. Taishoff Professor of Inclusive Education, executive director of the Taishoff Center for Inclusive Higher Education and assistant director of the CDI.

Now in its 56th season, Thursday Morning Roundtable features speakers who discuss current topics in Central New York and beyond.

WAER Features The Big Shift event

As graduation weekend just wrapped up at Syracuse University, education officials are already beginning to assess what support students will need going forward.  They’ll be talking about what the past year has been like navigating education during a virtual presentation on May 25th called The Big Shift: Special Education and Mental Health in 2021.

Christy Ashby is an Associate Professor and the Director of the Center on Disability and Inclusion.  She says students didn’t experience a typical 18 months and will now need support with their social, emotional needs.

“At SU, even if we’re fully in person in the fall, which we fully intend to be, I think there’s still going need to be some work done to make sure that both are incoming students and our current students really get sort of reacclimated to a college experience and make sure that we are continuing to attend to those  mental health needs.”   

Ashby adds there is mutual concern for local K-12 students getting reintroduced to social interactions that were lost due the pandemic and figuring out the best ways to support them.  The pandemic also caused a positive shift to a different way to access mental health services, according to Associate Dean for Research in the Counseling Human Service Department at SU.  Melissa Luke says telehealth counseling has been helpful to families of students.

“And they find that the access to telehealth services is easier to schedule.  It also provides added opportunity for types of intervention that can be done.”

She says some of her clients have expressed they never want to return to in-person counselling entirely.  This will be some of the many topics covered during the virtual presentation Tuesday night from 6 to 7:30.  The event is a part of Mental Health Awareness month and is co-sponsored by Senator Rachel May’s Office.  To register and learn more details about the panelists and what other topics of interest will be covered during the event click here.

Listen here

Christy Ashby discusses The Big Shift event on Bridge Street

As Central New York and the world starts to transition to post-pandemic life, it’ going to be challenging for many, and especially so for those living with special abilities.

“I think this whole last year and a half has been challenging for everyone” says Dr. Christine Ashby, the Director of the Center on Disability and Inclusion at Syracuse University and an Associate Professor in their School of Education.

“For folks who already struggle with transition issues, with mental health challenges, with disability, the difficulties can be exacerbated” she adds.

Dr. Ashby cautions that while the pandemic seems to be nearing its end, the world and our individual lives are forever changed.

“Even though most of us are celebrating seeing a light at the end of the tunnel, this is still a big change, and we still need to think about the kinds of supports and strategies that are going to help ease that transition for folks, and recognize that this has been complicated not only for people with disabilities, but also for their family members and their educators and mental health providers and support people in the community.”

Dr. Ashby is helping moderate a virtual panel discussion about this topic. Topics will include the biggest challenges expected and strategies to deal with them, as well as information on available local resources.

Panelists scheduled to take part include:

  • Adrian Bayardi, Consultant for Remote Learning, The Jowonio School
  • Melissa Luke, Associate Dean for Research and Dean’s Professor, Counseling and Human Services
  • Samantha Pierce, Founder, Sanchia A. Callendar, Inc.
  • Mark Warner, Teaching Assistant, Syracuse City School District
  • Monique Wright-Williams, Chief of Staff, Syracuse City School District
  • Amy Zogby, Professional Development Specialist, School-Age Family and Community Engagement Center at Syracuse University

“We should say it’s a collaboration also with Senator Rachel May’s office” says Dr. Ashby. “So, this I think really shows this recognition of this as a whole community issue, not just an issue relating to education.”

The Big Shift: Special Education and Mental Health in 2021 is planned for Tuesday, May 25 starting at 6pm. It’s happening on Zoom and free to all.

View Interview Here