Partners in Disability

Partners in Disability Leadership program is an advanced virtual leadership development training program created for professionals who are interested in being stewards of the disability rights movement and leaders within their agencies and organizations.

The Arc of Texas is no longer accepting applications for the 2022 Partners In Disability Leadership program. If you are interested in being informed when the application opens for the 2023 PDL program please subscribe below.

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Preview our 2022 Speakers

The Goal

The goal of The Arc of Texas Partners in Disability Leadership (PDL) is to provide participants the knowledge and skills to positively impact the services and supports systems used by Texans with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) and their families. The Arc of Texas provides ongoing support of project development and networking opportunities for current participants and alumni.

The Program

PDL takes a skills-based learning approach and equips professionals with information, leadership skills, and connections to influence positive change in IDD services and support systems. Through this unique program, participants examine the history of societal views of disability and public policies that provide access or erect barriers to critical supports and services. Participants learn how to promote self-determination, implement person-centered practices, recognize the intersectionality of disability and race, and create cultures of inclusion. Participants also gain skills to become effective leaders and communicators.

In addition to engaging sessions with speakers and interactive work with others, each participant develops a leadership project to effect positive change within their organization.

What’s Involved?

Expert presenters will cover topics including:

  • The history of IDD perceptions, theories, services, and the disability rights movement
  • The current state of IDD services and systems
  • Application of key leadership qualities
  • Communication strategies for different audiences and advocacy storytelling
  • Ways to incorporate person-centered thinking and self-determination concepts into everyday practice
  • Strategies for creating inclusive cultures for individuals with IDD within organizations, institutions, and agencies
  • The intersectionality of disability, race, gender, and other identifiers
  • Current public policy issues affecting the delivery of services and support for individuals with IDD

The Leadership Project

Participants will develop a leadership project that will positively impact their organizations or agencies by addressing issues or focus areas pertinent to their work. Examples include increasing commitment to self-direction, supporting policies that promote quality of life for Texans with IDD, sharing knowledge of IDD services with other staff and future leaders, or amplifying sensible and positive policy through the participation of Texans with IDD. PDL staff and fellow PDL participants will support your efforts to plan your project, and there will time allotted in each session to collaborate and work on it. To see previous leadership projects, check out 2020 Partners in Disability Leadership Yearbook or 2021 Partners in Disability Leadership Yearbook. Through your participation in an individual or team-led actionable leadership project process, you will acquire skills and techniques to support the mission of your agency or organization.

What is the Timeline?

The 2022 schedule for The Arc of Texas Partners in Disability Leadership program is the following:

  • Orientation To be available for viewing online
  • Session 1 Friday February 18
  • Session 2 Friday, March 18
  • Session 3 Friday, April 15
  • Session 4 Friday, May 20
  • Session 5 Friday, June 17
  • Session 6 Friday, July 15
  • Session 7 Friday, August 19
  • Session 8 Friday, September 16
  • Session 9 Friday, October 21
  • Graduation Friday, November 18

Each of the nine virtual sessions will take place the third Friday of each month from February through October. The sessions start at 9 a.m. CT with a one-hour lunch and breaks in the morning and afternoon. The day ends at 5 p.m. CT. Leadership Projects will be presented during virtual Graduation on November 18.

Who Should Apply?

Partners in Disability Leadership is designed for people of diverse backgrounds and experiences. We welcome all applicants with an interest in the program. Past applicants and participants have included staff from:

  • State agencies such as the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, the Department of State Health Services, the Texas Workforce Commission, and the Texas Education Agency
  • The Texas Legislature
  • Independent School Districts throughout Texas
  • Local IDD authorities
  • Managed Care Organizations
  • Others in the disability nonprofit sector

What Are the Expectations?

The Arc of Texas is committed to your professional development. We will:

  • Ensure each learning session has practical application to improve knowledge and skills that will enhance your ability to become a change agent for Texans with IDD and their families
  • Facilitate networking opportunities with fellow class members
  • Provide clear guidelines and support during leadership project planning
  • Respond to your feedback, communications, and needs

Participants are expected to:

  • Engage with PDL colleagues, expert presenters, and PDL staff to optimize the collective learning experience
  • Attend all nine (9) PDL sessions throughout the year and graduation
  • Plan for a few hours of personal time for offline work and to complete post-session surveys
  • Be open to diverse perspectives and learning approaches with a view toward professional growth and fulfillment

How Much Does It Cost?

The tuition fee for the 2022 Partners in Disability Leadership program is $1,000, which covers the costs of materials and resources, nine (9) virtual sessions featuring top disability experts who will discuss trends, best practices, and strategies; networking opportunities to forge lasting connections; and alumni support for ongoing learning. You will receive notification of our decision within two (2) weeks of the application deadline. If selected, you will be provided instructions for tuition payment.

Get support from your employer to participate in the program and download our template justification letter.

A limited number of scholarships are available to participants from agencies or organizations with a financial need. In addition to submitting the regular application, please complete the scholarship application to be considered for financial assistance.

Scholarship Application

How Do I Apply and What Information Will I Need to Submit?

Please complete and submit the Partners in Disability Leadership application by January 31, 2022.

Apply Now!

You must answer all questions to advance through the various sections. Please include the names and email addresses of two references (with at least one professional reference), upload your CV/resumé, and complete the application fee payment. Sign and date the form. Click on “Submit” to finalize the application process.

What Happens After I Apply?

Participants are selected through a competitive screening process administered by The Arc of Texas. Applicants selected for the 2022 class will be promptly notified via email by February 7, 2022.


Please send an email to Wendy Ward. Thank you for your interest!

What Partners in Disability Leadership Graduates and Presenters Are Saying

“PDL is a great program that fosters a supportive space for professionals … Participating in PDL expanded my network, provided me with the tools to identify and organize my goals, and empowered me to lead a project … I think this is a brilliant and necessary program for every professional.”

Ricardo R., 2021 Partners in Disability Leadership graduate

“On behalf of Disability Services, we are both excited and grateful to receive support from PDL on such an important initiative such as the National Alliance of Direct Support Professional’s Certification Program. Hannah, Calen, and Katie have been instrumental in promoting a culture of change in how people in direct care are perceived, as they are not merely caretakers. As a result of their work with PDL, we are able to give the frontline workers a chance to show competency and receive certification as a Direct Support Professional through the National Alliance of Direct Support Professionals.

“The program is recognized nationwide. MHMR Tarrant is one of two agencies in the state to participate in certification for direct care workers. Investing in and valuing the people on the frontlines who provide assistance and care to those we serve is critical to their success.

“Recently, we had the kick off meeting and the feedback from our direct care employees was amazing. One person stated, ‘Now I can have a career and not just a job’ while another stated, ‘I can sit up a little taller now.’ Disability Services believes our frontline workers are invaluable and we look forward to sharing some very positive results in the near future.”

My Health My Resources of Tarrant County, employer of three 2021 PDL alumni

“The Arc of Texas Partners in Disability Leadership Program … gives participants a chance to learn about systems and strategies from national experts[and] will feed your soul while enhancing your effectiveness.”

Deborah M. Spitalnik, Ph.D., PDL presenter

“I deeply value my time working with PDL participants … If you’re committed to working toward a more accessible, inclusive world for Texans with intellectual and developmental disabilities, PDL is for you!”

Emily Ladau, PDL presenter, disability rights activist, author of Demystifying Disability: What to Know, What to Say, and How to be an Ally

2021 Partners in Disability Leadership Yearbook