HDC forms Plain Language Task Force

Inspired by advocates at the 2022 AUCD conference, HDC creates a Plain Language Task Force to make our information more accessible.

Will Johnson smiles with two thumbs up standing next to Jolie Robichaux holding her right thumb and document in plain language document in her left hand. Behind them is a white board with the text written in bubble letters: "Plain Language Task Force."
HDC’s Will Johnson (left) and Jolie Robichaux (right) make up the Plain Language Task Force.
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In Memory of Mark Martin

HDC is sad to share the news that Mark Steven Martin passed away on Tuesday, April 26, 2022. Mark devoted his entire career to serving individuals with disabilities.  He was committed to helping people with disabilities gain education, employment and the tools needed to reach their goals. For the final several years of his career, Mark served as Director of Louisiana Rehabilitation Services. The original notice can be found here.

Perspectives: Risk

Perspectives: Risk. Dignity of Risk by Dr. Philip Wilson

Perspectives is a blog inspiring change through different perspectives brought to you by our Constituent Advisory Committee (CAC), HDC staff, and local community. Our current theme is risk. If you have a perspective on risk as it relates to disability, email your idea to

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Perspectives: Risk

Perspectives is a blog inspiring change through different perspectives brought to you by our Constituent Advisory Committee (CAC), HDC staff, and local community. Our current theme is risk. If you have a perspective on risk as it relates to disability, email your idea to

“A Daring Adventure” by Jamie Duplechine

What is security to you? What makes you feel safe? Webster’s dictionary defines security as “freedom from risk.” Does it make you wonder if we are ever truly secure? I mean, really, are we ever free from risk?  I say, a life with no risk, is no life at all.

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CAC Member Dewain Baldwin Works to Build Connections in New Orleans

Self-advocate and HDC CAC member Dewain Baldwin understands the importance of making connections and having a support network around you. That’s why he co-founded Colorful Connections Nola with a friend in 2017. Dewain describes Colorful Connections as a social group for young adults with autism and other disabilities that strives to be inclusive of all people. The group organizes regular meetups that range from coffee shop meetings to board game and bowling nights. Dewain is passionate about growing the group because it will increase access to fun social events and recreational activities for people with disabilities. The group is open to everyone, and he encourages people without disabilities to come take part in the fun, as well. More information about the group can be found on the group’s Facebook page.

Dewain Baldwin joined HDC CAC in March, 2018. He helps advise HDC and sape its mission and programs. He has a special interest in the Transition, Employment, and Community (TEC) initiatives area. He is also a long-time member of the Orleans Parish People First chapter.

A Free Screening and Panel Discussion of Resilience: The Biology of Stress & the Science of Hope

HDC Resilience Flyer

The HDC CAC presents a free screening and panel discussion of Resilience: The Biology of Stress & the Science of Hope. This expository documentary explores the effect of Adverse Childhood Events (ACEs) on long term health and the path to adopting trauma-informed approaches. A panel discussion focusing on the films relevance to the development of disability will follow. Speakers will include experts from the Human Development Center, LSU Health, and the Louisiana Bureau of Family Health.

HDC CAC Members Elect Chairperson and Vice Chairperson

CAC members elected Shannon D’Aquila (left) as Chairperson and Patsy White (right) as Vice Chairperson at the meeting on March 9th, 2018. The two will serve in their leadership roles for three-year terms.


Shannon D’Aquila, CAC Chairperson

Shannon is the mother of two young ladies: Colleen age 11 and Kathleen age 10. Her youngest daughter, Kathleen, was diagnosed with Autism at the age of two. Since that time, she has advocated for both her daughter and other children with special needs, particularly Autism, with the school system, legislation, insurance companies, Jefferson Parish Human Services Authorities, medical professionals, and therapy providers. She has been family participant in HDC’s LASARD project, a speaker at the LASARD conference in 2012, and a LEND family mentor for the past two years. Second only to having all of her daughter’s needs met, she is most passionate about families of children with disabilities both being empowered to advocate for themselves and their loved ones and having knowledge on how to receive appropriate services.


Patsy White, CAC Vice Chairperson

Patsy and her husband of 38 years, Jeffrey, have five children and seven grandchildren. Her 20-year-old son, Michael, has Prader-Willi Syndrome and her 17 year-old-son, Jeffrey, is on the Autism Spectrum.  Over the years, she has worked to educate herself about advocacy in the disability community. She has completed the Partners in Policymaking and the LEND programs, as well as the Prader-Willi Syndrome WYATT Advocates for Education program. She is active with the Regional Advisory Council for Region 3, St Charles Council on Aging, St. Charles Parish Early Childhood Development Policy Council, LASARD, PAIMI Council, Board of Directors of the Advocacy Center, PWSA(USA) Louisiana, and PWSA(USA) Advocacy Committee. She has also served on the Louisiana Developmental Disabilities Council, as well as the Louisiana Department of Education Special Education Advisory Panel. Her philosophy is not to change her child to fit the world, but to change the world to fit her child.