SubHero Banner

Sparking new thinking to lead to action

Spark Initiatives are developed by Optum® and bring together leaders in government, nonprofit and private sectors. The idea is to spark new thinking on major health and human services issues in the U.S.

Horizontal Rule

to better serve people with disabilities


25 experts
collaborate to tackle barriers to self-direction


Four work groups
are bringing thoughts and ideas to life

Horizontal Rule

Helping individuals lead a self-directed life

More than four million Americans* are living with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities (I/DD). They want to be able to make their own choices and live independently. Yet this can be a challenge in our current health and human services environment.

How can government agencies, advocates, providers, the health system and other stakeholders collaborate to help these individuals lead more self-directed and fulfilling lives?

For the 2017 Spark initiative, some 25 of these stakeholders began discussing the challenges facing Americans with disabilities. We also looked at the problems with the system that serves them, and how to solve them. Ultimately, this led to the formation of four work groups.

Workgroups on self-direction

Group 1 was tasked with defining a “Shared Framework” that explores what self-determination should look like for people with disabilities. What does informed decision-making look like? How can individuals be informed about options so they can make the best decisions?

Group 2 is tackling the challenge of how to best teach those who interact with Americans. This includes service providers, guardians, employers, educators and others. How can we help them enable greater self-determination and independence?

Group 3 is surveying providers and other support personnel to identify barriers that stand in the way of so-called person-directed services. They are looking at ways to remove these obstacles through changes to providers’ services.

Group 4 is addressing outcomes and performance. They are recommending ways to help policymakers develop more flexible funding mechanisms. They are also suggesting new tools for disabled individuals to make it easier for them to direct funds according to their needs.

*Administration for Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AIDD)



2018 I/DD Provider Survey Report

 View the Report