AAIDD: Translating Knowledge to Power and Practice

The American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities 143rd Annual Meeting was held in late June in St. Paul, MN. There was a significant Illinois LEND presence at the meeting, with multiple LEND alums presenting at the conference. Notably, IL LEND faculty member Meghan Burke received the AAIDD Early Career Award.

The conference theme was Knowledge Translation: Power in Research, Policy, and Practice. Knowledge translation is the act, intention, and processes by which information moves from academia to communities, from researchers to citizens, leaders, and professionals. LEND is a form of interdisciplinary knowledge translation, where research and clinical trainees work in collaboration to inform one another’s practice.

In the context of disability research and policy, knowledge translation becomes an essential access tool. For our work to be meaningful, it should be accessible and actionable to the disability community. How can your work be translated to disability communities?


1. Explore and answer questions that the disability community is asking.

2. Ensure your research design, especially the informed consent process, is accessible for participants with varied communication skills, technology and language access, and levels of understanding.

3. Create opportunities for disabled collaborators as both participants and members/consultants of the research team.

4. Create and distribute open access, plain language summaries of your findings. Meet with community leaders to discuss ways that research can inform change.

Clinical Practice

1. Keep up with current research, especially research that meaningfully incorporates disabled people’s perspectives.

2. Work carefully with patients and clients to ensure that they understand and consent to exams, evaluations, and treatment plans.

3. Challenge ableist ideas and assumptions within your school, clinic, practice, or firm.


1. Uplift the voices of disabled self-advocates and their policy priorities.

2. Volunteer to ensure that polling places, town halls, and other forums for civic engagement are accessible.

3. Write letters or call or email or visit your representatives. Support disabled people in writing, calling, and visiting as well.

Above all, allow disabled individuals and communities to inform your work, center their perspectives, and continue to fight for a more equitable and accessible world. Knowledge is power.

 By Helen Rottier