Disability Policy Research Initiative of the Intermountain West (DRIIM)

Project Dates: 
Featured Project Image


To conduct, promote, and disseminate high quality disability policy research that encourages collaboration, public deliberation and action, and ultimately greater community inclusion of people in the Intermountain West region (Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah).







Background behind DRIIM

Historically the disability community has struggled to be fully included in society. On the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), compared to people without disabilities, they continue to experience lower employment, higher poverty, lower educational attainment, inadequate healthcare, housing, and transportation, and greater social isolation. Numerous Federal policies and Executive Orders have attempted to address these gaps over the last twenty five, but evidence suggests only slight improvements have been made, if any at all.[1]

Regional analyses of disability programs and policy evaluations could yield comparative, collaborative research across states sharing similar traits such as land use, party affiliation, state economics, population demographics, education and employment policy, and unemployment and poverty rates. Similar to regionalized policy areas, such as water, climate, energy, and transportation; in this shared context, resources can be better coordinated and leveraged, and context-specific solutions can be discovered. In essence, the goal of state level policy makers and experts is to identify and share best practices with each state in the region. The result of this type of approach is practical, actionable, evidence-based research that can lead to concrete policy and legislative changes.

[1] These include such laws as the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Fair Housing Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Olmstead Decision, IDEA, the creation of the Office of Disability Employment Policy, the Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act, the creation of the Administration of Community Living, and establishment of a minimum wage and hiring quota for people with disabilities under federal contracts.

DRIIM Activities

DRIIM draws upon the expertise and research from partner universities and policy research centers throughout the Intermountain West region. In partnership with researchers and people with disabilities, DRIIM will conduct the following types of activities over the next five years:

  • Regularly and consistently translate and disseminate academic research, publications, and outcomes to media and mainstream audiences.
  • Evaluate state policies, conduct original research, create policy briefs and reports, and provide requested information to each state and region on disability-related issues;
  • Create a web-based collection of state-level indicators, briefs, and reports in selected subject areas for policymakers and stakeholders in the Intermountain West region in an accessible format that each state can visit and use for policy planning and goal setting purposes (the site would also include links to member agencies);
  • Convene regional meetings funded by members to allow for deliberation over regional policy issues and how to address them with policy makers, individuals with disabilities, family members, and professionals;
  • Create coordinated regional documents addressing topic areas of interest to regional members;

Coordinate with national organizations to invite to the regional conferences, share progress made, present at national conferences (funded by member states who wish to highlight their own work).

Recent blog from Dr. Erica McFadden:

ADA 25 years later: We're still not equal


Staff Resources

Nancy E. Brune
Executive Director
Kenny Guinn Center for Policy Priorities

Brune received her Ph.D. from Yale University and her Master of Public Policy and B.A. degrees from Harvard University. Brune has consulted for the Harvard School of Public Health, JPMorgan Chase, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, and the World Bank. The product of a Mexican father and an English mother, Dr. Brune was raised in a household that emphasized public service. She has served as a bilingual Court Appointed Special Advocate and as a bilingual mediator with the Neighborhood Justice Center.  Her research focus is immigration, students with disabilities in public schools, and post secondary employment opportunities.

Allison Cohen Hall
Senior Research Associate
Institute for Community Inclusion

Allison Cohen Hall, Ph.D., is a Senior Research Associate at the Institute for Community Inclusion at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. She is currently the Co-PI and Project Director for the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Advancing Employment for Individuals with Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities. She has published numerous journal articles on state systems and employment. She also supports several self-advocates to meaningfully participate in research activities. Dr. Hall received her doctorate in 2005 from the Heller School at Brandeis University, with a specialization in disability policy.

Joshua Connolly
Manager of Data Analysis
Arizona Indicators Project

Joshua Connolly earned a B.S. in Business Administration from SUNY Brockport and an M.S. in Management Science from Clarkson University.

Connolly has extensive programming experience, having served as Marketing Database Manager for Contact East/The Stanley Works and as a Quantum Programmer (Data Validation/Tabulation) for several global Market Research firms including Research International, Harris Interactive and Synovate.

David Daugherty
Associate Director
Morrison Institute for Public Policy

Daugherty has spent more than 30 years as a research methodologist. Working in both the private and public sectors he has been the primary researcher on more than 1,000 survey research projects and served as supervisor for an additional 1,500 projects. He has also moderated more than 1,000 focus group sessions. Much of his work has been done in understanding and characterizing mass media audiences – the Internet, TV, newspapers and magazines. Areas of specialization include mass media, research methods, and organizational and interpersonal communication.

Kristin Gilger
Associate Dean
Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University

Kristin Gilger is associate dean in charge of professional programs for the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, where she directs the National Center on Disability and Journalism, which assists journalists who report on disabilities. Gilger was director of Student Media at ASU from 2002-2007, directing student publications. Prior to coming to ASU, she spent 21 years in various reporting and editing roles at newspapers across the country. She is the winner of numerous awards, including the National Headliner Award for a project on race relations in Louisiana.

Her CV is available at http://cronkite.asu.edu/assets/faculty/cv/gilgercv.pdf

Eric C. Hedberg
Senior Research Scientist

E. C. Hedberg is a Senior Research Scientist at NORC. Hedberg's current area of research includes investigating the design of education interventions. He is CO-PI with Larry Hedges on an IES project "State-specific Design Parameters for Designing Better Evaluation Studies" which seeks to use state longitudinal data systems to provide important experimental design parameters.

Hedberg is also active in family research.  He wrote his dissertation on intergenerational exchange and used multi-level models to investigate dyadic exchanges between respondents and their family members.

Hedberg also served as Research Director at Arizona State University's College of Public Programs in 2010-2011.

He has co-authored several methodological pieces that have appeared in education, medical, and criminological journals.

Jay Klein
Associate Clinical Professor
College of Public Service and Community Solutions

Jay Klein also serves as the Project Director for the Alliance for Person-Centered Accessible Technologies in the College of Engineering.  He came to ASU after nearly twenty years at the University of New Hampshire’s Institute on Disability, where he served as the Director of the Center for Housing and New Community Economics and the National Home of Your Own Alliance. Klein has in-depth knowledge of financial, policy and programmatic issues that affect the ability of people with disabilities to accumulate assets and own a home.

Erica McFadden
Senior Policy Analyst
Morrison Institute for Public Policy

McFadden holds a PhD in Public Administration & Policy from Arizona State University. She has almost twenty years of experience working with various non-profits in different positions in the fields of aging and disability including: counselor, consultant, educator, researcher, grant-writer, lobbyist, marketer, and executive director.  She has presented at numerous conferences and published academic articles, book chapters, policy briefs and reports on aging and disability issues with a special focus on governance issues. McFadden also has cerebral palsy.

Garret Westlake
Associate Dean of Student Entrepreneurship
Arizona State University

A serial entrepreneur and higher education professional with over 10 years of experience, Dr. Westlake leads by example.  He uses his personal experience with dyslexia to inspire, motivate, and change attitudes about the role of diversity and disability in business, education, and society.

Dr. Westlake is an expert on entrepreneurship and student development in higher education as well as on Autism Spectrum Disorders. His areas of research include the employment gap for individuals on the autism spectrum and the use of biofeedback in the treatment of anxiety in college students with disabilities. Dr. Westlake currently serves as a board member for MindSpark Technology in California and the Phoenix-based NorthBridge college success program.

Kim Wolowiec-Fisher
Assistant Professor
Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at ASU

Dr. Wolowiec-Fisher's research focuses on the structural and function characteristics of adolescents’ with intellectual and developmental disabilities social networks within the classroom, school, and community context. She is interested in school-level inclusion and transition policies that (a) promote social network membership through participation and (b) focus on utilizing social network data to improve outcomes on employment, independent living, and post-secondary education. She is also interested in how access to information communication technologies can improve social networks and quality of life.