CDHPD Core Team

Ilka Riddle, PhD, is an Associate Professor in the University of Cincinnati (UC) Department Of Pediatrics/Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center (CCHMC) and the Director of the University of Cincinnati Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UC CEDD) in the Division of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics at CCHMC. She received her PhD in Human Development and Family Studies at the University of Delaware, with a focus on disability and illness and its impact on families. In her role as Director of the Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities, she is responsible for providing guidance and leadership to staff and community partners for improving the health and lives of children and adults with disabilities on the local, state and national level, collaborate with internal and external partners, write reports, conduct research and policy work, apply for and secure state and federal funding and expand the impact of her UCEDD and the national network of UCEDDs across the country. Dr. Riddle has over eleven years of experience as the principal investigator and co-investigator on various federally and state funded grants, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, the Ohio Department of Health and the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities, and foundation grants addressing system improvements for children and youth with developmental disabilities and special health care needs; health disparities, health promotion and disease prevention for individuals with disabilities; healthcare transition and inclusion of individuals with disabilities across the lifespan in health care settings and activities. Most recently, Dr. Riddle has been involved in various national efforts and workgroups to improve training of healthcare providers on Developmental Disabilities and develop principles and guidelines for inclusion of individuals with intellectual disabilities in health-related programming, services, training and research. Dr. Riddle is particularly interested in system change activities and the impact of policy on practice.


Kara Ayers, PhD, is the Associate Director and Assistant Professor at the University of Cincinnati Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCCEDD). She is Director of the newly formed Center for Dignity in Healthcare for People with Disabilities (CDHPD) and also a co-founder of the Disabled Parenting Project. Dr. Ayers’ interests include disability identity/culture, bioethics, community inclusion and the use of media to teach, empower and reduce stigma. She serves on multiple task forces and national and state coalitions related to improving outcomes for people with disabilities and infuses the mantra, “Nothing about us without us,” into all of her scholarly and community-based pursuits.


Leah Smith, MPA, is currently the Project Coordinator for the CDHPD at the UCCEDD. Immediately prior to this, Leah managed the #LiveOn campaign, which is an anti-suicide campaign aimed specifically towards people with disabilities. Leah has also served two terms as the Director of Public Relations for Little People of America (LPA), spearheading many efforts to destigmatize in media representation and empower Little People in their everyday lives. Finally, Leah has co-facilitated Her Power! for a number of years, which is a program aimed at helping disabled high school girls dismantle the stereotypes that the media places on disabled women.