Group of Advocates

The Tennessee Disability Coalition is an alliance of organizations and individuals joined to promote the full and equal participation of people...

Rep Jernigan and Louise McKown

The Tennessee Disability Coalition is an alliance of organizations and individuals joined to promote the full and equal participation of people...

Advocates in front of the capitol building

The central purpose of the Coalition is to advocate for public policies that promote equal opportunity, economic self-sufficiency, and independent...

Disability Day on the Hill Announcement

"When dozens or even hundreds of people gather for a common cause, those who create our laws have no choice but to...

A Vision Brought to Life

A group photo of student and professional actors and actresses on stage

Before Melissa Smith opened Backlight Productions, a theater program for adults with special needs, she spent her time managing employees at Our Thrift Store in Franklin, Tennessee. This thrift store was designed to employ people with disabilities. Before long, Melissa considered opening a musical theater to give adults opportunities to shine on stage. 

Disability Etiquette with Professionals Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

A screenshot of the disability etiquette brochure. Alt formats of the brochure can be found at the link within the article.

by April Meredith, Empower Tennessee Independent Living and Advocacy Specialist


Have you ever hosted a party or had company over to your place for dinner? You may have started with some planning questions. When will it be? Who will be invited? What should we eat? Will food be cooked or catered? Then, as those questions were answered, you probably moved on to planning more specific aspects of the gathering such as eating utensils, seating, music selection, and additional activities – all based on the needs and preferences of each particular guest.

How $250 Can Revolutionize Your Business & Other Lessons From This Year's ADA Symposium

Tom Jedlowski pictured with partner agency Empower Tennessee employees

Recently, our Director of Communications & Technology, Tom Jedlowski, attended the annual Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Symposium. In honor of the 29th anniversary of the ADA on July 26, Tom's shared his takeaways from the symposium on disability employment. 


On July 26th, 1990 this country fundamentally changed. 

Resources on Katie Beckett Program Design

Mother holds young son
Sarah's picture

On May 24th, 2019, Governor Bill Lee signed legislation to create a Katie Beckett Program into law in Tennessee.

A Katie Beckett Program will establish a pathway to Medicaid and essential wraparound home-and community-based services for children (under age 18) at home, whose condition qualifies them for institutional care, regardless of parent income and resources.

A Future with More Assistive and Accessible Technology

Headshot of Evan

Evan Espey enjoys cheering at sporting events, spending time with his nieces and volunteering for political campaigns. He also plays on a basketball team that tours the Southeast United States, racing across the gym floors in a wheelchair alongside his teammates.

Born with Spina Bifida, Evan has become a self-advocate. He currently serves on the Tennessee Council of Developmental Disabilities, offering a unique point of view to vital conversation surrounding the supports and services of people with disabilities.

Invisible Illness in the Workplace

A woman sits with her head in her hands while looking down at her computer

May is an important month for employees who have invisible illnesses! There are several groups in the disability community that celebrate an awareness month in May. During these 30 days, the disability community works to spread awareness around these invisible diseases:

•    Arthritis
•    Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
•    Celiac Disease
•    Cystic Fibrosis 
•    Fibromyalgia
•    Lupus
•    Lyme Disease
•    Stroke

A Late Diagnosis that Led to Powerful Advocacy

Tequilla and her son stand in front of a light background

At one and a half years of age, Desean started to lose his hearing, but the diagnosis that he had hearing loss did not come until he was almost five. During this time, he made up his own language to communicate with his family. Because he was not diagnosed until later, he also lost out on tremendously important early intervention services that would have benefitted Desean as he began to move into his early school years. Tequilla, his mother, learned American Sign Language (ASL) through volunteering at Desean’s school, which in turn motivated her to go into healthcare leadership. 

2019 Legislative Session Wrap Up

Group of students at Disability Day on the Hill
Sarah's picture

We are extremely thankful to announce the passage and funding of the Katie Beckett bill! $27.3 million was allocated to fund this bill and support children with long-term disabilities or complex medical needs whose family incomes have prevented them from qualifying for TennCare. The Katie Beckett program will create a dedicated pathway for children to access TennCare and other home- and community-based services (HCBS) to help keep them healthy and their families together. This program will make a tremendous difference thanks to the support of countless families and advocates! 

Becoming Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee

Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee posing with a teenage girl

At the age of two, Cyndi Leach contracted the polio virus and as a result, became paralyzed from the waist down. However, Cyndi does not remember anything other than living with the effects of polio. She views her disability as part of who she is and has always found alternative ways to approach her goals.

“I’ve never felt that my disability is tragic. I learned at a young age that I could do anything I wanted to do, I just had to figure out different way to do it,” said Cyndi. 

House Budget Includes Funding for Katie Beckett Bill

Speaker Geln Casada Shakes Young Boy's Hand As Mother Looks On
Sarah's picture

Big news! The House Finance Committee has passed their version of the state budget—which includes $27 million funding for the Katie Beckett bill! We are so grateful to the House Leadership, Sponsor Representative Sam Whitson and Representative Matthew Hill for championing this legislation. We anticipate that the House of Representatives will pass their version of the budget in their session tomorrow morning. Immediately afterwards, we will be holding a press conference with Speaker Glen Casada to share our gratitude. 


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Tennessee Disability Coalition

The Coalition is an alliance of organizations and individuals who have joined to promote the full and equal participation of men, women and children with disabilities in all aspects of life. We work together to advocate for public policy that ensures self-determination, independence, empowerment, and inclusion for people with disabilities in areas such as accessibility, education, healthcare, housing, and voting rights.

Copyright © 2018 Tennessee Disability Coalition. All Rights Reserved. Tennessee Disability Coalition


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Tennessee Disability Coalition
955 Woodland Street
Nashville, TN 37206

Nashville: (615) 383-9442Toll-free: (888) 643-7811Email: