The University of Arizona College of Medicine Tucson Sonoran Center for Excellence in Disabilities
Achieve. A Sonoran UCEDD Newsletter. Expanding possibilities and enhancing independence through education, research and service. Photo of a black man in a wheelchair reaching up to retrieve a book from a bookcase.
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in the disability community!


Graphic shows text that says Sonoran Center for Excellence in Disabilities Five-Year Grant Renewed -- Grant will continue important work in developmental disability related research, education and service. Photo shows two men, one who is a person with a disability, smiling. One man has his arms around the person with a disability.
The Sonoran Center was awarded $3 million for another five years as a designated University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD) from the Administration on Disabilities, Office of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.
Every five years, the Sonoran UCEDD develops a work plan to address the needs and challenges faced by Arizonans with developmental and other disabilities through research, education and service.
A comprehensive needs assessment guided the planning for the next five years using a variety of approaches and sources to ensure the voices of people with disabilities, family members, and other stakeholders across the state were heard and included in the work plan.

Read on to learn more about the five-year grant.  
GOALS FOR 2022-2026
1. Enhance and expand opportunities for individuals with developmental disabilities to attain personal life outcomes across the lifespan

2. Build capacity to achieve inclusive and equitable access for persons with developmental disabilities and their families from diverse, underserved and under-resourced communities

3. Enhance social inclusion for individuals with developmental disabilities by expanding opportunities to make community connections and build relationships

4. Build capacity to promote promising and evidence-based disability practices through career and workforce development of current and future professionals


From left, Summer Work Program students Adam Alghaith and Johnny Moreno were hired by Golf n' Stuff and Surf Thru Car Wash, respectively, in Tucson. 
Two students in the Sonoran Center for Excellence in Disabilities Summer Work Program have found permanent, competitive and integrated employment within their job placements.
Adam Alghaith and Johnny Moreno will stay on at Golf n’ Stuff and Surf Thru Car Wash, respectively, immediately after their Summer Work Program internship ends.
The Summer Work Program began in June with 37 students placed in different jobs in Tucson and Phoenix. In addition to learning valuable skills, students are paid at the prevailing wage of their role. Students in the program are also contributing to the development of a model state agencies can follow in their efforts to better support and prepare individuals with disabilities in finding and keeping employment.  
Valerie Alghaith, Adam’s mother, was so pleased by the program and the work of Sonoran UCEDD staff.  
“As a parent wondering about how their special needs son is doing at work, I could message Lorie (Sandaine) or any of the managers at Golf n’ Stuff and get an answer right away,” Valerie says.

Sandaine is a project coordinator with the Sonoran UCEDD and acted as a job coach for Adam.  
Valerie and Adam weren’t without hesitation when they started the program. Both were worried about how other people, including staff, would interact.
“It was all just an unknown,” Valerie says. “I just wanted to make sure he wasn’t feeling uncomfortable or that he would be blamed for something – but all of those fears were squashed on the first day.”

Valerie says the constant communication with Lorie was key to putting her worries at ease.  
To help Adam feel comfortable in the workplace, Sandaine supported and helped motivate him while he did his job tasks. What helped him most was a checklist of tasks that he would check off. Often when he finished his checklist, he was asked to help manage attendance on rides like the bumper boats and go-karts.
“It was the most fun part of my job,” Adam says.
Adam and Valerie were so excited when they found out Golf n’ Stuff had offered a part-time position.
“At first, I could barely picture myself with a job, but now I feel a lot more confident and comfortable because of the people that I work with,” Adam says. “I was happy to find out I got a job.”
Valerie added: “It made me feel good that he did a good job. I am just so grateful for Adam to have this opportunity.”

The Summer Work Program is funded by the Arizona Department of Economic Security - Rehabilitation Services Administration.

To learn more, please contact Lorie Sandaine at


Austin Duncan - A smiling white man with very short hair. I am a disability anthropologist who studies, teaches, and does practical work surrounding intellectual and cognitive disabilities. My interests largely derive from my own personal experience, as I am cognitively disabled because of a severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) I survived 18 years ago. 

In my current position, I am a postdoc with split responsibilities between the University of Arizona’s Sonoran Center for Excellence in Disabilities and the department of pediatrics within the UArizona College of Medicine – Tucson.      

As a postdoc, one of my principal activities is to build upon my prior research to jump-start my career as a disability academic. For that, I am currently publishing the results of my dissertation research on “The Social Life of TBI,” an article about the disability of TBI that is currently under review, and a forthcoming piece on the alarmingly high co-incidence of TBI and homelessness nationwide. 

Read on to learn more about Austin. 

ABC15 News in Phoenix recently highlighted the Tempe's BEST (Building Employment Supports and Training) program during an evening newscast. 

The Sonoran UCEDD supports the Tempe BEST program by providing training to city of Tempe employees about how to support or work with people with disabilities. 

The Tempe BEST program helps individuals with developmental disabilities find jobs with the city of Tempe that are tailored to their specific skills and interests. 

Learn more about Tempe BEST and watch the newscast
Forging New Careers: Ready. Set. Go!
Friday | August 6 & August 13
8:30 AM - 12:30 PM

*Attendees need only attend one session 
The University of Arizona Sonoran Center for Excellence in Disabilities invites you to a topical training and focus group discussion about supported employment and YOUR role in providing this service to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. 

Attendees can expect to participate in large and small group discussion about supported employment and implementing Employment First principles. 
Who is this for? 
Organizations/Staff Providing Direct Employment Service
Email or call 520-626-0442. 
Health Care Advocacy Class 
Repeated Every Third Monday
9 - 11 AM

Join our virtual class on Health Care Advocacy related to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, aging, and dementia. This class will be repeated on the third Monday of each month, beginning July 19. 

The objectives of each monthly session are to: 
  • Understand and address the challenges related to healthy aging for people with IDD
  • Identify and properly address aging/dementia related health changes
  • Learn the steps of Health Care Advocacy to ensure healthy aging needs are met
  • Learn and utilize a dementia screening tool developed by the National Task Group on Intellectual Disabilities and Dementia Practices
Disability Rights in AZ: What You Need to Know 
Monday, August 2 | 11:30 AM - 1 PM (AZ Time)

The Arizona Developmental Disabilities Network is holding a session about the rights individuals have when accessing disability services and what to do when they run into cultural, linguistic, or other barriers.

Panelists will share stories of the issues they faced accessing services, what they did to resolve them and how it affected their rights.

Do you know your rights for accessing services?

Come and...
  • Learn about your rights in accessing services
  • What to do if you run into barriers
  • Hear from others who have experienced the challenges and can share their tips and strategies
American Sign Language, Arabic, Kinyarwanda, Spanish and Swahili Interpreters and CART will be provided.

For questions or materials after, please email
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All rights reserved.

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1521 E. Helen St.
Tucson, AZ 85721

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