Native Center for Disabilities

Native Center for Disabilities, An initiative of the Sonoran Center for Excellence in Disabilities. Logo includes circle each quadrant representing Arizona's landscape - the rivers, the sun, the desert and the mountains - with an overlay of the universal access symbol of an individual. Outside of the circle are four blue stars as nods to the Pascua Yaqui and Tohono O'odham tribes on whose land the University of Arizona resides.


An innovative new program to help Arizona Tribal partners improve the quality of life for their disability communities. The new center will provide on-site and virtual trainings, continuing education, workshops, community events and other disability and culturally related services to help Tribal partners improve the quality of life for their disability communities.


Tribal communities across Arizona will have input in the development of the new center through a traditional community discussion format called Talking Circles. Talking Circles are used by many Native American communities throughout the United States and will help initiate an effective, culturally based strategy for community engagement and outreach efforts.

"Far too often the needs of our people with disabilities go unrecognized and as they grow opportunities become less and less, leaving them and their families feeling hopeless," says Mildred Manuel, deputy director of the Pascua Yacqui Tribe Education Division and member of the Sonoran Center Community Advisory Council. "We are pleased to see the work being done by the University of Arizona Sonoran Center and look forward to being a part of this new opportunity for our Native American communities and our people with unique needs."




The Finds Their Way: Communities for Youth Transition project was developed in collaboration and with support from nearly 30 Tribal, state and community partners, and is funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Community Living.

The Sonoran Center will leverage the expertise and knowledge of a diverse group of individuals that represent advocacy organizations, Tribal special education and rehabilitation services, and state agencies to help youth find inclusive employment.

“Transitional services for Native American youth are an essential resource and support to help with planning their future after high school. I commend the Sonoran Center for Disabilities and Jimmy Warne for their commitment to Native American youth with disabilities, education and the future,” says Treva Roanhorse, a consultant for the Native Disability Center and former executive director for Navajo Nation Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services.

In a recent study, only 18 percent of staff who work with students with intellectual and developmental disabilities reported their students experience employment or post-secondary education as typical outcomes following graduation. Families have also shared their experiences with state agencies that have left their children with no employment support options.

Work over the five-year project is expected to result in systems change that improves the experiences and outcomes for Native youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities and a model framework that can be replicated for other Tribal and underserved communities.

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The American Indian Youth Disability Summit began in 2021 to complement the American Indian Disability Summit and to offer American Indian youth with disabilities the opportunity to learn from their peers about self-advocacy, culture and tradition, resiliency, and Native perspectives on disability.

The Youth Summit is presented by Ability 360, Ak-Chin Indian Community Arizona, the Arc of Arizona, Banner University Health Plans, Rehabilitation Services Administration, United Healthcare Community Plan, Diverse Ability Incorporated, the University of Arizona Sonoran Center for Excellence in Disabilities - Native Center for Disabilitie

Learn more about the American Indian Youth Disability Summit 


For more information, please contact Native Center Director, Christie Kelly at