Public Policy Team Co-Lead
Michael Morris is the LEAD Center Public Policy Team Co-Lead and the Director of National Disability Institute (NDI) in Washington, D.C. Morris has more than 35 years of experience inside and outside of government pioneering new strategies to improve the lives of people with disabilities. Morris serves as an advisor and technical expert to multiple federal agencies on policy and systems relationships at federal, state and local levels to advance economic stability, mobility and asset development for persons with disabilities.
Morris received his undergraduate degree with honors in political science from Case Western University in Cleveland, Ohio, and his law degree from Emory University School of Law in Atlanta, Ga. In 1981, he was named the first Joseph P. Kennedy Fellow in Public Policy and came to Washington, D.C. to work in the Office of Connecticut Senator Lowell Weicker, as legal counsel to the United States Senate Subcommittee on the Handicapped. Morris also served subsequently as counsel to the U.S. Senate Small Business Committee.
From Capitol Hill, Morris went to work at United Cerebral Palsy Associations first as Director of Government Relations, then as Director of Community Services, and finally as National Executive Director. During his 14-year tenure, his leadership put a focus on needed assistive technology and its essential role in accommodating people with disabilities in the areas of employment, education, communications and daily living.
In 1998, Morris was project director and PI of the NIDRR-funded RRTC on Workforce Investment and Employment Policy at the Law, Health Policy & Disability Center (LHPDC) at the Iowa College of Law. He analyzed federal-state relationships in multiple systems, identifying barriers of asset limits to income production and self-sufficiency. In 2003, Morris became project director for the NIDRR-funded Asset Accumulation and Tax Policy Project, and for eight years served as lead policy expert on systems collaboration, informing research design and implementation.
In 2001, Morris helped establish National Disability Institute to as the first national nonprofit dedicated exclusively to advancing the social and economic independence of persons with disabilities through strategic investment and technical assistance activities nationwide that bring together government, corporations, foundations, and community and faith-based organizations. With NDI, Morris co-founded the Real Economic Impact Tour (REI Tour), a national movement begun in 2005, which in resulted in new access and use of EITC and other asset building strategies for more than 1.5 million individuals with disabilities in 100 communities nationwide and helped low-income taxpayers with disabilities receive more than $1.4 billion in tax refunds. The REI Tour was co-sponsored by Bank of America, AT&T and the Walmart Foundation in partnership with the IRS.
In 2008, Morris became CEO of the Burton Blatt Institute at Syracuse University, serving as lead policy expert on assistive technology, asset development, employment, housing, and long-term services and supports.
Morris co-authored two publications for the National Council on Disability: The State of 21st Century Long Term Services and Supports: Financing and Systems Reform for American with Disabilities (2005) and The State of 21st Century Financial Incentives for Americans with Disabilities (2008). He is co-author of Tax Credits and Asset Accumulation: Findings from the 2004 NOD Harris Survey of Americans with Disabilities published in Disabilities Studies Quarterly (2005), which reported on research findings from the inaugural DRRP on Asset Accumulation.