Partners in Disability

The Arc of Texas is accepting applications for the 2023 Partners in Disability Leadership program, an advanced 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 deadline to apply is January 6, 2023. Sessions and events will be held in person and online.

Get Updates about PDL

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 support systems used by Texans with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) and their families. The Arc of Texas aims to provide ongoing support of leadership 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; understand the intersectionality of disability and race, and create cultures of inclusion. Participants also polish skills to become more effective leaders and communicators and obtain a fuller picture of professional strengths and areas for improvement.

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

The 360 Leadership Assessment

Whether class members are experienced executives or emerging leaders, all will have an exciting opportunity to participate in a confidential 360 Leadership Assessment designed to incorporate valuable feedback from bosses, peers, and direct reports into a development plan that will result in more effective leadership at all levels. Assessment outcomes will only be shared with the PDL participant and not with The Arc of Texas, employer, or other entity. One-on-one coaching sessions will be integrated into the approach so that assessment results and action steps can be processed and tailored to meet individual professional development needs. The 360 Leadership Assessment concept will be introduced during the March 2023 session of PDL, and the assessment process will conclude by May.

The Topics

Expert presenters will cover key focus areas, including:

  • The history of IDD perceptions, theories, services, and the disability rights movement.
  • The current state of IDD services and systems in Texas and the nation.
  • Innovative approaches that result in improvements in critical services and supports.
  • The meaning of leadership through the lens of the disability rights movement and application of leadership qualities.
  • Communication strategies for different audiences and advocacy storytelling.
  • Ways to incorporate person-centered practice and self-determination concepts into everyday practice.
  • Strategies for creating inclusive cultures for individuals with IDD within communities, organizations, 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 agencies or organizations 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 policies with the participation of Texans with IDD. PDL staff and fellow PDL participants will support your efforts to plan your project, and there will be time allotted in each session to collaborate and work on it. To see previous leadership projects, check out a 2020 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. Leadership projects will be presented during graduation.

The Timeline

The 2023 schedule for The Arc of Texas Partners in Disability Leadership program is the following:

  • Orientation To be available for viewing online
  • Session 1 Thursday, February 23, 2023*
  • Session 2 Thursday, March 30, 2023
  • Session 3 Thursday, April 20, 2023
  • Session 4 Thursday, May 18, 2023
  • Session 5 Thursday, June 15, 2023
  • Session 6 Thursday, July 20, 2023*
  • Session 7 Thursday, August 17, 2023
  • Session 8 Thursday, September 14, 2023
  • Session 9 Thursday, October 19, 2023
  • Graduation Thursday, November 16, 2023

In-person and Virtual Sessions
*The Arc of Texas will host the following sessions of PDL at its offices in Austin, TX:

  • Opening session #1 on February 23, 2023
  • Session #6 on July 20, 2023
  • Graduation on November 16, 2023

The above sessions will be followed by networking events attended by PDL participants and qualified program alumni to facilitate connections and meaningful dialogue with professionals in the IDD field.

All other sessions will be completely virtual, with Zoom links provided for attendance.

For PDL participants who are unable to attend the in-person sessions, Zoom links will be provided for virtual participation.

Travel and logistics
The Arc of Texas can support up to $225 per PDL participant in costs related to travel to Austin for select sessions. While at the offices of The Arc of Texas, participants will be provided meals and any required materials for the session. Please monitor this page for updates on information about travel logistics so that you can attend the sessions held in Austin, Texas in 2023.

Who Should Apply?

Partners in Disability Leadership is designed for professionals 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
  • 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 and program alumni.
  • 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, program alumni, and PDL staff to optimize the collective learning experience.
  • Attend all PDL sessions throughout the year and graduation.
  • Plan for a few hours of personal time for offline work and complete all post-session surveys.
  • Be open to diverse perspectives and learning approaches with a view toward professional growth and fulfillment.

How Much Does It Cost?

If you apply by December 16, 2022, the early bird tuition fee for the 2023 Partners in Disability Leadership program is $1,200. After December 16, the regular tuition fee of $1,500 applies.

The tuition fee covers the costs of materials and resources, nine (9) sessions featuring top disability experts who will discuss trends, best practices, and strategies in the IDD field; 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. 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 the final deadline, January 6, 2023.

Apply Now!

You must answer all questions to advance through the application sections. Please include the names and email addresses of two references (with at least one professional reference), upload your CV/resumé, sign and date the form, and 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 2023 class will be notified via email by January 20, 2023.


Please send an email to Wendy Ward, Education & Leadership Specialist. 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