35th Anniversary Edition

A Vision for Relevance


David R. Johnson served as director of the Institute on Community Integration from 1997 to 2018. He may be reached at johns006@umn.edu.

An image of three scholars with a green and white poster about transition planning research. One of the scholars is a man, and he stands to the left of the poster. The other two scholars are women, and they stand to the right of the poster.

Earlier this year, David Johnson and colleagues presented research on transition planning for students with IDD.

I have been given the challenge, or more so an opportunity, to reflect on Impact over my 20 years as director of ICI. It’s a challenge from the standpoint that this means I have 34 issues of to try and recall, but an opportunity to explore the diversity of topics and issues that were covered and published over that period. The topics came from a number of sources. Certainly, ICI staff have brought forward many of the topics, but the topics always reflected current issues we felt were important to “unpack” and share perspectives on through Impact. Each edition would start with a sense of vision regarding the relevance and importance of the topic in impacting, if you will, the lives of individuals with intellectual, developmental, and other disabilities, their families and caregivers, and professionals who serve them. By design, the publication has consistently been a reflection of our core values and principles that guide discussions on current policies and practices, and the implications of these policies and practices on the lives of individuals with disabilities and their families. What I have also valued is the approach we have taken to seek out colleagues from around the country to serve as co-editors of each issue. This has significantly added not only to the depth and quality of each issue, but also the reach to many new audiences.

Black and white photo of a middle-aged man speaking. He is wearing a suit.


One of the important contributions of Impact has been to take on topics that are infrequently discussed or just not openly talked about at all. We have never been afraid to put forward an issue that would challenge our audience. I remember the first issue we published when I became director was “Supporting Parents Who Have Cognitive Limitations (1998).” The key question posed was, “How can a person with a cognitive impairment manage the complexities of parenting?” The answer communicated throughout the issue was "with support." This issue covered a range of sensitive topics, from the challenges and realities of affording and managing a household, to the termination of parental rights, to examining the complexities of both system and personal advocacy. Other sensitive, yet thought provoking issues focused on sexuality (2010), violence against women (2000), and alcohol and drug abuse services (1999), all for people with developmental and other disabilities.

We covered the life course, from early education and development through aging and retirement, and everything that happens in between. One of the issues I have a high regard and appreciation for focused on the justice system. The Justice System and People with Intellectual, Developmental and other Disabilities (2017) involved a partnership with The Arc’s National Center on Criminal Justice and Disability and North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. The issue drew attention to the unique and serious disadvantages persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities often face when encountering law enforcement and when involved with the juvenile or adult criminal justice systems. We attracted strong support for this issue from law enforcement agencies nationwide and it became an excellent example of Impact’s reach. For example, the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) distributed Impact electronically as a resource to its 45,000 subscribers worldwide. The Arc shared thousands of copies through its national trainings of law enforcement professionals, and numerous state public safety and criminal justice system agencies shared the issue with their colleagues. In the truest sense, I believe this is what we call impact.

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