Providing the Best Patient Care for People with Disabilities

March 3, 2021 

Dr. Tammie Bassford - A smiling white woman with short, blonde hair wearing eyeglasses. In the foreground is a cactus plant. Dr. Tammie Bassford, associate professor and Sonoran UCEDD faculty member, led a virtual training event with nearly 300 students from the University of Arizona health sciences to help them understand how to better care for people with disabilities.

Photo: Dr. Tammie Bassford led a training with UArizona health sciences students that focused on providing care for people with disabilities. 

Seventeen people with disabilities from Special Olympics Arizona and the community joined Bassford to share their personal experiences with their own health care to show how the students can better respect and work with patients who have disabilities.

The students from the UArizona Colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy and Public Health watched a pre-recorded scenario of an individual with a disability meet with healthcare professionals and a group home manager as they discussed her health care and wellbeing.

In small groups, the students were tasked with evaluating how the professionals facilitated an environment of universal communication, self-advocacy, self-determination, independence, and person-centeredness for the patient.

To help provide insight into the perspective of the patient, a member of the disability community joined the students. Paavlena Madhivanan was among the individuals who shared her healthcare insights with the students.   

“I connected with Vicky (the patient in the video) because people in my life have talked to my parents and not me,” she says. “It’s not right to be put aside. Doctors should talk to me.”

Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health senior Bekkah Lerman participated in the training and is also an intern with the Center for Transformative Interprofessional Healthcare. She says every health care professional should participate in this kind of training.

“The training can only improve the community we work in and the scope of care we provide for our patients moving forward,” she says.

After graduation, Lerman says she will pursue a master’s degree in nursing and will fall back on what she learned during the training.

“A lot of times within healthcare we think we know everything,” Lerman says. “But after the event I was proven that we don’t know everything and there’s no need to go out of your way to make a patient with disabilities feel as though they are different.”

UArizona is among 18 other institutions across the country chosen by the National Curriculum Initiative in Developmental Medicine to improve the experiences of individuals with disabilities in health care settings and situations.


Diversity Fellows Incorporate Disability Awareness, Resources for TOCC Students

March 1, 2021

Sonoran UCEDD Diversity Fellows Raeshaun Ramon and Jolene Santos have created a universally designed brochure for Tohono O'odham Community College (TOCC) students interested in transferring to the University of Arizona.

The brochure was created as part of a Minority Serving Institution Partnership Grant funded by the Administration on Disabilities to jointly develop a disability information, education and student exchange partnership.

Ramon and Santos worked with TOCC Student Services to incorporate disability awareness and resources for TOCC students interested in transferring to UArizona through resource sharing and joint student engagement events.

The collaboration has also created a stronger partnership between Sonoran UCEDD and TOCC staff to integrate disability resources and information into typical student engagement activities.

With the goal of making the partnership and fellowship sustainable, the Sonoran UCEDD is creating a pipeline of indigenous students as disability advocates in their respective fields through inclusion of TOCC students and those who transfer to UArizona. Ramon and Santos were transfers from TOCC, now in their second year at the university.

Learn more about our TOCC Partnership.

Photo (From left): Sonoran UCEDD Diversity Fellows Jolene Santos and Raeshaun Ramon worked with Tohono O'odham Community College Student Services on a universally designed brochure with information for students interested in transferring to the University of Arizona. 

Sonoran UCEDD Joins National Nursing Home COVID-19 Action Network Project

February 1, 2021

The Sonoran UCEDD Project I-AADAPT (Identify and Address Alzheimer's and Dementia in Adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities through Prevention and Training) is joining the Arizona Center on Aging for ECHO National Nursing Home COVID-19 Action Network project.

The ECHO National Nursing Home COVID-19 Action Network project is funded by the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality, and led by the ECHO Institute at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center.

This one-year program, in collaboration with local and national experts, provides training and support to nursing home staff in Arizona on best practices for protecting patients, staff and visitors from COVID-19 infection and spread.

Nationally 15-16.5 percent of nursing home residents are younger than 65 years old, a majority of which are individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD).

Yumi Shirai - A smiling Asian woman wearing glasses with long, dark hair. To ensure appropriate and equitable support are addressed for the unique needs of people with I/DD who are residing in nursing home, Dr. Yumi Shirai will join weekly virtual learning and resource sharing sessions with other content experts from a wide range of clinical and health education fields (infectious disease control, geriatric, palliative care, quality improvement specialist).

Photo: UArizona Sonoran UCEDD Affiliated Faculty member Yumi Shirai will ensure individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities are represented in the ECHO National Nursing Home COVID-19 Action Network project.

Now Available! COVID-19 Vaccine Information in Plain Language

Logo for the Arizona Developmental Disabilities Network The Arizona Developmental Disabilities Network has developed a plain language document about the COVID-19 vaccine.

Please feel free to download and share with friends, family, co-workers and anyone in your network.

The Arizona Developmental Disabilities Network is comprised of the following organizations: Northern Arizona University Institute for Human Development, Arizona Developmental Disabilities Planning Council, UArizona Sonoran Center for Excellence in Disabilities, Arizona Center for Disability Law, The Arc of Arizona, and the Native American Disability Law Center.

UCEDD Peer Mentor Joins Arizona Center for Disability Law Board of Directors

We are excited to announce Gabe Martinez, program aide and peer mentor for the Sonoran UCEDD, was appointed to the Arizona Center for Disability (ACDL) Board of Directors. Gabe - A young man wearing glasses sitting at a desk and typing on a laptop.

Since March, Martinez has helped to bring his unique perspective to products, materials and trainings. As a frequent panelist and presenter, Martinez gives young people and people with disabilities the encouragement and vital skills necessary to pursue their goals.    

In his role on the ACDL Board of Directors, Martinez will be responsible for reviewing and voting on ACDL financial expenditures and budget projections throughout the year, making sure that the ACDL content being disseminated is necessary and accessible, and providing overall supervision of ACDL’s Executive Director. 

Additionally, Gabe serves on the ACDL Development Committee, which is responsible for holding events and creating materials to engage current and potential donors. 

"Gabe is an unfailingly positive team member who is always willing to lend a hand," says Kim Rogan, office manager and executive assistant for the Sonoran UCEDD. "We are so incredibly proud of him."

We Need Your Help to Better Understand Transition Services in Arizona!

From left, a young black woman with dark hair, a young white man with dark hair, and a young white woman with blonde hair sit together at a table.

Our Research Team
Dr. Wendy Parent- Johnson, Susan Voirol, Heather Wolff, Austin Duncan and Rachel Rios-Richardson. 

Check List GraphicWhat is this about? 

  • We are studying transition services for students who have disabilities in Arizona.
  • We want to hear from you about what is working, what is challenging, and what supports you need.


Two People conversing graphicHow will this work?

  • We conducted interviews with transition stakeholders around the state.
  • We developed this statewide survey to gather additional, comprehensive input from transition stakeholders across Arizona
  • We will summarize information and share results and recommendations.


A graphic of a tablet computer. Why? 

  • Your small amount of time could make a big difference!
  • Better understanding the state of transition services in Arizona could lead to positive changes for our students and schools.


A graphic of stick figures sharing ideas.Who? 

  • The survey should be taken by anyone who addresses youth in transition across the state: educators, transition specialists, state agency staff, vocational rehabilitation counselors, developmental disabilities support coordinators, community members, agency providers, and independent living centers. 


For more information, please contact Wendy Parent-Johnson ( or Susan Voirol (

Project SEARCH Adds Two New Sites

We are thrilled to announce that Mayo Clinic has teamed with the Paradise Valley school district, and Banner Gateway Medical Center has teamed with Gilbert Public Schools to be the two newest Project SEARCH sites for fall of 2020!

"Mayo Clinic is proud to partner with our community to provide wonderful training and experiences to Project SEARCH interns," says Marcia Edwards, diversity recruitment specialist for Mayo Clinic in Arizona. "Partnering with Paradise Valley Unified School District has allowed us to select from a group of phenomenal students. The UArizona Sonoran UCEDD has been one of our great partners providing support toward the ultimate success of our program. We look forward to seeing the fruits of our labors with Project SEARCH as we learn and grow alongside our interns, broaden our recruiting pool and develop our inclusive culture." 

"Banner Health is excited to partner with Gilbert Public Schools, UArizona Sonoran UCEDD, and Vocational Rehab to bring Project Search to Maricopa County. As the largest healthcare system and employer in Arizona, we are committed to providing our diverse communities with equitable care, as well as opportunities to develop a pipeline of talent. By bringing Project Search to Maricopa County, we have been afforded the opportunity to foster individualized, on the job development for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities that focuses on training in employability and independent living skills. Through this program, we aim to assist in creating opportunities for our Project Search interns to have a successful transition into productive adult life." 

With the newest Project SEARCH sites coming onboard, we celebrate the increase for a total of 8 sites in Arizona. We will continue to reach out to schools and businesses across the state to develop new sites.

Expanding Project SEARCH sites gives students with intellectual or developmental disabilities the opportunity to complete an internship at a business, learn relevant, marketable skills and expand their employment options. Project Search AZ Logo

Project SEARCH Arizona is a transition-to-work program designed to help young people with significant disabilities make successful transitions to productive adult life. In 2018, Arizona interns had an average of 85 percent employment rate compared to the national employment rate of 77 percent.

Learn more about Project SEARCH.

Introducing a New Four-Year Collaborative Project: Career Pathways to Arizona's Future

Career Pathways to Arizona's Future Logo

The Sonoran UCEDD is pleased to announce a new four-year project funded by the Arizona Department of Economic Security, Division of Rehabilitation Services Administration. 

Wendy Parent-Johnson, PhD, director of the Sonoran UCEDD and Susan Voirol, program manager of Employment First and Transition Initiatives, received the multi-year, multi-million dollar for a project focused on improving post-school outcomes and employment rates of high school youth with disabilities.  

This will be done through the delivery of effective Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS).

The project, implemented in collaboration with vocational rehabilitation, schools, and adult service providers across the state, will respond to this need using a comprehensive, multi-faceted approach.

A Statement from the Sonoran UCEDD

The recent tragic murders and continual assault on Black lives has brought to the forefront what Black communities have known and experienced for generations in this country. Racism exists and is pervasive in the policies and practices of our institutions. The justified anger, frustration and pain has led to civil action across the nation and real potential for systemic change.

Together as staff, we reflected on the impact of these events on us personally and in the context of our work. We engaged in difficult conversations about structural racism and our responsibility as a Center to address racial injustice. We see this as an opportunity for us to do better. An opportunity for us to play an active role in creating meaningful and positive change at the individual and systemic level.

We acknowledge that many people with disabilities and their families are confronted with the realities of racism whether in their everyday interactions or their ability to access and receive quality services and supports. Among the disability community, people of color are disproportionately impacted in the criminal justice, education, health and other systems of care. As disability advocates, we recognize that racial justice is also disability justice.  

As an organization, we are committed to amplifying the voices of individuals from marginalized groups. We will tackle racial disparities through our programs and initiatives to impact service delivery practices, policies, and outcomes. We will partner with communities and engage people with lived experience to inform and monitor our work. We will hold ourselves accountable through on-going assessment and community feedback. We will continue to intentionally engage in self-reflection and open, honest discussions as an organization, to address systemic inequities.

We stand with Black, Indigenous, Latinx and other communities of color in the fight for racial equity. We recognize the strengths and resilience of these communities. We are ready to listen, learn and take action together to achieve real change and justice.

In solidarity,
Sonoran UCEDD Staff

Understanding Distance Learning’s Impact on High Needs Students

A young Asian boy looking at a tablet device at a table.

A three-part webinar series is bringing together parents and guardians of high-needs students to share stories of their child’s distance learning experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The goal of the series is to provide families with a forum to share their experiences, challenges and successes with distance learning, to ask questions about what comes next, and to hear form Arizona education advocates and leaders about resources and self-advocacy.

Arizona school districts had to transition quickly to distance learning in March after Governor Doug Ducey closed schools through the end of the school year to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The transition posed a challenge to educators as to how to deliver education to students and to families who had to facilitate learning at home.

Among the challenges parents and guardians faced were navigating the medley of different communication tools used by schools to conduct learning, limited one-on-one time for individual students, and the one-size fits all approach to teaching which posed challenges for students with high needs.

We Want to Hear from You!

Group of five young people of different races smiling together. And text that says Fostering Positive Outcomes.

Do you directly support youth currently in or who have aged out of foster care?

Are you part of an organization or agency that provides services to young people who have experienced foster care or who have disabilities?

If so, we want to hear from you!

We invite you to complete an anonymous survey through the link below.

The purpose of this survey is to better understand the experiences, needs, and availability of services and supports for Arizona youth with disabilities in transitioning to adulthood and out of foster care. We welcome anyone who supports this population to complete this survey, including (but not limited to) parents, caregivers, case workers, providers, guardians, state agency and justice system employees, and educators.

Fostering Positive Outcomes is a state-wide project assessing the needs and supports for youth with disabilities and special health care needs who experience foster care in Arizona. 

Your input will provide us with valuable information to guide future efforts that will help youth who experience foster care prepare for adulthood.

For more information and to take the survey, go to:

Para más información y para tomar la encuesta en español, ir a:

Invitación a completar encuesta

How to Zoom Instructions in Clear Language

As more people use Zoom to conduct virtual meetings and social gatherings, the Nisonger Center at Ohio State University and the Ohio Self Determination Association created clear language instructions and best practices for people with disabilities to use Zoom. 

Follow these step-by-step instructions for how to use Zoom: 

1. Join a Zoom Meeting from an Email Message 
2. Set Up Sound and Video in a Zoom Meeting 
3. Zoom Meeting Controls (Buttons)
4. Video Meeting Social Rules

Coronavirus: Information and Resources

UPDATE (4/8/20)
UArizona Sonoran UCEDD Intern and occupational therapy doctoral candidate Benjamin Olson provides insights and strategies for managing stress during these uncertain times. From establishing a routine to other methods of connecting with others, there is a meaningful takeaway for everyone in need of maintaining a state of well-being and of positive inspiration. Benjamin Olson

Well-Being During COVID-19: Strategies from an Occupational Therapy Student

In light of recent news about the number of Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases within the United States and Arizona, please review the following resources about how to prevent the spread of illness and what symptoms to look out for.


CDC Videos about COVID-19
10 Things You Can Do To Manage COVID-19 at Home 
COVID19: What Older Adults Need to Know 
6-Steps to Prevent COVID-19


What is COVID-19 Flyers by the Arizona Statewide Independent Living Council
Plain Language Booklet on COVID-19 by Green Mountain Self-Advocates
Fact Sheet for Older Adults who have Disabilities
EPA’s List N: Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2
CDC Print Resources
Fact Sheets (Multiple Languages)
Hand Washing Visual One-Sheet
COVID-19 Plain Language with Pictures 

La información sobre la respuesta de emergencia de Arizona a COVID-19 ya está disponible en español.
¿Qué deben saber los adultos mayores y las personas con discapacidad?
Información de COVID-19 Por y Para Personas con Discapacidades
El coronavirus (COVID-19) y la parálisis

COVID-19 HOTLINE: 1-844-542-8201

If you have been denied access to necessary services due to COVID-19 or feel that your legal rights have been violated, contact Arizona Center for Disability Law at (602) 274-6287, or toll free (within AZ) at 1-800-927-2260. You can also email

You can find these resources on the Partners in Preparedness website. Resources are being updated everyday.