Partners in Policymaking

Partners in Policymaking logo

The application period is closed. The information below is for reference only. Thank you.

The Board is now accepting applications to join the 2021-2022 class of Partners in Policymaking. We're looking for talented, motivated, and dedicated advocates who are looking to have an impact in their communities. This PIP class will consist of seven two-day sessions beginning September of 2021 and lasting through April of 2022. Eligible participants are people with developmental disabilities and/or parents of young children with developmental disabilities. Individuals participating in the program will attend advocacy training and skill-building workshops designed to hone them into effective and passionate advocates. Completion of this application and selection for the PIP program requires substantial commitment of time, motivation, and energy - it is not for the faint of heart! Be ready to roll up your sleeves, get to work, and change your life!
You can view more information about PIP here

Applications are due by 5 p.m. on March 19, 2021. To download your application form, Click here

COVID-19 Notice

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, this year's PIP session (Sept. 2021 - April 2022) may be delivered 100% virtually. We are hopeful a successful vaccine will be developed and distributed widely enough in time and allow the session to incorporate some in-person gatherings, but will do so only if it is deemed safe and appropriate. It is likely in that case the program would then contain both in-person and virtual meetings. We encourage all applicants to be aware of these possibilities and be prepared to be flexible during the PIP weekend schedules that will remain on Fridays and Saturdays of the designated meeting dates with dramatically reduced time frames to accommodate virtual programming/presentations. The Board will keep all PIP 2021-2022 applicants informed regarding any decisions that are made about program delivery.

Partners in Policy Making Flyer. Available as a PDF download on this site.

  Become a Partner in Policymaking

More than four hundred Virginia PIP alumni, and thousands who have graduated from PIP programs across the country, have learned how to make a difference every day for themselves, their families, and their communities.

Individuals participating in PIP attend advocacy training, resource development, and skill building workshops led by state and national experts. Topics covered include the history of the disability rights movement, self-advocacy, independent living, employment, building inclusive communities, natural supports, legislative advocacy, assistive technology, communication, team building, and much more! VBPD covers all expenses for participants’ training, lodging, meals, and travel.


Application and selection as a participant for the Partners in Policymaking (PIP) program requires a substantial commitment of time, motivation and energy. If accepted, individuals must attend seven two-day sessions between September and April. Each session begins on Friday afternoon and concludes Saturday afternoon. Participants meet competencies by agreeing to complete homework, class assignments and one major project.

The group of selected participants, consisting of parents and self-advocates, will build networks with state and national leaders as well as one another. Participants will be educated on best practices and current trends in many areas including:

  • History of Disability Movements
  • Self-Advocacy
  • Independent Living
  • Inclusive Education
  • Supported Employment
  • Personal Futures Planning
  • Building Inclusive Communities
  • Natural Supports
  • Assistive Technology
  • Communication & Team Building
  • Legislative Process and Strategies

  Frequently Asked Questions

To be eligible, an individual must:

  • have a developmental disability, as defined by the Developmental Disabilities and Bill of Rights Assistance Act


  • be the parent of a young child with a developmental disability

The VBPD uses the definition below to determine eligibility for participation in Partners in Policymaking.

  1. In general, “developmental disability” means a severe, chronic disability of an individual that:
    1. is attributable to a mental or physical impairment or combination of mental and physical impairments;
    2. is manifested before the individual attains age 22;
    3. is likely to continue indefinitely;
    4. results in substantial functional limitations in 3 or more of the following areas of major life activity:
      1. Self care;
      2. Receptive and expressive language;
      3. Learning;
      4. Mobility;
      5. Self direction;
      6. Capacity for independent living; and
      7. Economic self sufficiency;
        1. reflects the individual’s need for a combination and sequence of special, interdisciplinary, or generic services, individualized supports, or other forms of assistance that are of lifelong or extended duration and are individually planned and coordinated.
  2. Infants and young children. An individual from birth to age 9, inclusive, who has a substantial developmental delay or specific congenital or acquired condition, may be considered to have a developmental disability without meeting 3 or more of the criteria described in clauses:
    1. through (v) of subparagraph (A) if the individual, without services and supports, has a high probability of meeting those criteria later in life.

Individuals are selected as Partners in Policymaking (PIP) participants in a competitive application process administered statewide. A panel of Partners graduates reviews and selects participants for each class. Following the screening and selection process, all applicants will be notified of their status by letter. We encourage applicants who are not selected to re-apply, as we always receive more worthy applications than we have spaces to fill. Each class is carefully selected to represent a range of experience, demographics, and abilities.

All session expenses are paid by the Virginia Board for People with Disabilities. Covered expenses include lodging, food, materials, individual accommodations/support (such as sign language interpreters, personal care assistants, respite/child care) and transportation for those needing specialized transportation services and mileage reimbursement for traveling a distance.

Partners in Policymaking participants spend the seven months building a “toolbox” for communicating effectively with legislators, policymakers, and administrators. All presentations, assignments, and group activities are designed to give Partners practice and experience working to improve policy, service systems and opportunities for full participation in community life.

Partners will be introduced to leaders in the disability rights movement. These introductions are a rare opportunity to receive background information and practical advice for advancing a shared vision. The program culminates with a trip to the State Capitol to deliver testimony using skills and knowledge gained during the training. During the program, each Partner will also present to their classmates the advocacy project they have conceived of and developed over the seven month period. Many of the projects grow into long term endeavors.

The Partners in Policymaking program requires a substantial commitment of time, motivation and energy. To provide the fullest experience, ATTENDANCE IS REQUIRED AT ALL SESSIONS.

PIP 2021-2022 will likely be held in a largely virtually setting, depending on the effectiveness and distribution of a coronavirus vaccine. Participant will be informed well ahead of time should any in-person sessions be planned.

  Contact for More Information

VBPD Training Programs
Virginia Board for People with Disabilities
Washington Building
1100 Bank Street, 7th Floor
Richmond, Virginia 23219
804-786-3456 (Voice)
800-846-4464 (TTY/voice)
804-786-1118 (fax)


Advocacy efforts vary… from organizing a rally to talking one-on-one with local or state officials, we want to hear what Partners are doing to improve systems for people with disabilities!

Partners in Policymaking graduates are making differences on many levels. If you are a graduate and have advocated for community inclusion, accessibility, inclusive education, equal opportunity employment, civil rights, or social changes in attitudes and values, tell us so we can share your success.

Submit brief details on our form, or share photos, videos (under 3 min.), or documents to

Thank YOU for helping us keep Partners impacting Policy in Virginia and across the country.

Sarah Alsop (‘12) Sarah created an accessibility committee Bowling Green, VA and they’ve had their first meeting.

Angela Kahler (‘12) Angela was appointed to the Faith Inclusion Network Board of Directors. Angela and PIP 12 grad Christine Chewning are helping to arrange the National Conference for the Faith Inclusion Network. Angela hosted an event (30 attendees) with the network called Inclusion in Action, which incorporated promoting inclusion in the faith community.

Robyn Iuliano (‘11) Robyn started a program called Brighter Futures to build collaboration between schools, agencies, and professionals for people with disabilities. She was also appointed onto the global STOMP (Specialized Training of Military Parents/Professionals) board and serves as a family navigator.

Ivy Kennedy (‘11) Ivy led a breakout session about public education at the Arc 2012 State Convention. Ivy is also doing public speaking about Disability History Awareness Month and the Medicaid Waiver. Ivy was a co-facilitator at the 2012 Youth Leadership Forum.

Lisa Lockhart (‘12) Lisa has started working on programs with the Arc of Greater Richmond. She helped to organize an event called Zumba for Self Determination to raise awareness of all individuals’ right to have control over their lives.

Hollie Monroe (‘12) Hollie was accepted to be on the VAULT Board of Directors. She participated with VAULT (Virginia Advocates United Leading Together) as a vendor at the Youth Leadership Forum Resource Fair. Hollie shared about her Partners experience at the VBPD Board Meeting in September.

Katherine Montgomery (‘12) Katherine was promoted to Advocacy Associate at the Arc of Northern Virginia.

Liz Salter (‘12) Liz has started working on the Mayor’s Committee for People with Disabilities in Hampton.

Matthew Shapiro (‘12) Matthew was selected for an internship at the White House where he is working on disability policy issues.

Brett Wills (‘12) Brett spoke at the September meeting of the Virginia Board for People with Disabilities about his Partners in Policymaking experience.