Abilities Expo Presents Experienced, Highly Knowledgable Speakers
Here are past Abilities Expo presenters.
Stay tuned for 2021! Please check back three months
before the Expo for the new schedule.
For the Abilities Expo workshop series, we select presenters whose individual lives are as relevant to the Community as the issues they are addressing. Our speakers have years of experience and are highly knowledgeable in their fields. Their accomplishments precede them and many are recognized nationally and within their state for their ongoing work with people with disabilities. All our speakers have apparent and non-apparent disabilities, work in the disability field or are the sibling or parent of a person with disabilities.
Ainsley's Angels of America
Perhaps you used to run. Perhaps you have never ran. Either way, Ainsley's Angels of America aims to ensure that everyone can experience the joy of going for a run. In addition to ensuring everyone can experience endurance events, Ainsley's Angels of America aims to build awareness about America's special needs community through inclusion in all aspects of life. Serving as advocates to providing education and participating as active members in local communities, we believe everyone deserves to be included. Stop by our booth to experience this today and together, let's counter the claim that it is impossible and remove "can't" from the equation! Deal? Can you envision it now? The positive energy, the other athletes smiling from ear to ear, the togetherness of every member preparing to 'roll with the wind', the normalcy of the family, and the love everyone shares ... it is a therapy like no other! Oh, and the impact reaches the entire family, as many have discovered first-hand the therapeutic effects of these races.
Learn more at www.ainsleysangels.org
Artfully Gifted Foundation (AGF) was founded in 2013 for the purpose of supporting young entrepreneurs with disabilities. With both a retail site and now an e-commerce website, we strive to provide a platform for these entrepreneurs to present their products to a wide audience. Working with the Illinois Center for Rehabilitation and Education-Roosevelt (ICRE-R) we are able to provide a training site for students interested in retail, as well as to provide a means for their students to test-market their works of art and products made in their vocational training classes. In the future the Foundation plans to expand to provide financial support to these entrepreneurs, expand our retail sites, create opportunities for employment for persons with disabilities, and participate in the expansion of housing options for persons with disabilities.
Learn more at www.artfullygifted.org
Discover chess, a game that is accessible to nearly everyone and enjoyable. Numerous studies have examined the benefits of chess. Chess helps your brain to grow and people who play are less likely to develop dementia. Meet and learn from passionate players who also happen to have different types of disabilities. Challenge boards will be set up for attendees to learn chess basics and get to try the game.
Learn more: www.chessvets.org
Canines for Disabled Kids
Public awareness and education are very important to CDK – so important that they travel the country to talk to students of all grade levels, civic groups, religious groups, and businesses about assistance dogs. CDK also offers different ways to help educate the public about service dogs including Educational Presentations, Booth Event Participation, Americans with Disability (ADA) consulting. Members of CDK staff and volunteers travel all over the country for these opportunities. Please contact us to learn more about how we might participate in your school, business, or community event.
Learn more at https://caninesforkids.org
After being diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy at the age of two, Cory Lee's thirst for adventure never ceased. He went on many trips around the US when he was younger, and then started taking things internationally when he turned fifteen. Since then, Cory has traveled to all 7 continents, while managing to run his travel blog curbfreewithcorylee.com, where he shares his accessible, and sometimes not so accessible, travel adventures with others. Cory’s blog has received the prestigious 2019 Webby Award for Best Personal Blog and 2 Lowell Thomas Awards for Best Travel Blog. He was also named New Mobility Magazine’s 2018 Person of the Year. Cory has been featured in the Los Angeles Times, National Geographic Travel, Forbes, USA Today, in a nationwide segment for CBS News, Lonely Planet, and many others. He hopes to inspire other wheelchair users to roll out of their comfort zone and see all of the beauty that the world has to offer.
Debra Kerper's desire to pursue a career in Travel for the Disabled came from her personal experience as a physically challenged traveler. Debra has been living with Lupus since the age of 20 and became a below knee amputee at the age of 29. She has undergone over 30 surgeries and has spent much time using a wheelchair as well as enjoying long periods of good health and short distance walking. She has a very keen understanding of medical ailments and disabling conditions resulting from excessive time spent in hospitals and outpatient rehab facilities.
In February, 2016 Debra had serious vascular problems resulting in the amputation of her left leg. Adjusting to life as a bilateral amputee has not been easy. Debra did not allow this new life changing event to get in her way….she continued to work full time and travel. Since surgery, she has escorted groups to Alaska, the Mediterranean, the Baltic, Ireland and Hawaii. Her mantra is "Just Doing It Differently".
Debra travels extensively with a wheelchair and/or a scooter and has learned how to MINIMIZE THE FRUSTRATIONS while MAXIMIZING THE ENJOYMENT of visiting new and exciting destinations. She has visited more than 30 countries and has been on over 100 cruises. She is able to share her knowledge and expertise with other disabled persons as well as those who simply want to travel at a more leisurely pace. She possesses very strong interpersonal skills and a love of helping people.
Easter Seals of DuPage & Fox Valley
Easter Seals has a mission to enable infants, children, and adults with disabilities to achieve their maximum independence, and to provide support for the families who love and care for them. Easterseals programs across the country provide a wide variety of interventions that help individuals of all abilities, including those with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Easterseals currently has a combination of services specifically targeting individuals with the diagnosis of ASD as well as other services that include individuals with ASD among their service recipients.
Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley is headquartered in Villa Park and also serves children and adults with disabilities at centers in Naperville and Elgin. To expand our services and to serve more children, the Lee A. Daniels Center in Naperville opened in September 2001. In 2005 we assumed service responsibilities for children receiving therapy at the Jayne Shover Center in Elgin and became Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley Region.
Through our dedication to helping individuals gain their independence, Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley has become one of the largest and most highly regarded pediatric outpatient rehabilitation centers in the Midwest. Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley serves more than 3,200 infants, children and young adults with developmental disabilities each year. In addition to providing children and young adults with traditional physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy, our services now also include assistive technology therapy, medical nutrition therapy, evaluations, audiology, social services, community outreach programs, a child development center, specialty clinics, and a continuing education program.
Learn more: http://www.easterseals.com/dfv/who-we-are/history/
Fred Astaire Dance Studios
At Fred Astaire Dance Studios, our passion is helping to enrich lives – mentally, physically, emotionally and socially – through the positive, transforming power of dance. There are thousands of reasons why people begin dance lessons… and once we show you how much fun ballroom dancing can be, we know you’ll want to keep coming back.
Learn more: https://www.fredastaire.com/northbrook/
Help Hope Live
Celebrating 36 years of service and a perfect charity rating, Help Hope Live offers a safe and proven way for you to raise funds for your mobility needs while maintaining key coverage such as Medicaid and SSDI. Don’t let finances stand in your way: explore what fundraising with a supportive nonprofit can do for you.
Jackie is an Accessible Yoga Ambassador providing Adaptive Yoga classes to promote inclusion for adults (and children) with special needs since 2015, partnering with the County of San Diego and St. Madeleine Sophie’s Center. She teaches Yoga at local libraries, the YMCA, and privately. Jackie has multiple accreditation in children’s yoga, with an E-RYT200 and Perinatal Yoga Certification from Yoga Alliance, plus one for Teaching Yoga for Multiple Sclerosis. She has a vested interest in understanding and explaining the connection between yoga and functional movement to maximize the mind/body/breath experience. Jackie says “I have found that I am most happy when I am in the service of others, and therefore, journey to share yoga as much as possible.”
Justin is a Program Coordinator at Mobility International with the National Clearinghouse on Disability & Exchange project. He works to increase the participation of people with disabilities in mainstream international exchange by filling the information gaps for professionals and people with disabilities through direct advising, developing a collection of online materials, and organizing workshops. Justin spent the summer of 2008 studying Spanish in Mexico, and the 2010-2011 academic year at the Pontifical Catholic University in Santiago, Chile making progress on his Bachelor of Arts degree in Latin American history. He was born with congenital glaucoma and relies on nonvisual techniques in his everyday life.
Dr. Linda M. Schultz (Nurse Linda)
Linda M. Schultz, PhD, CRRN is a leader and provider of rehabilitation nursing for 40 years, most recently developing Activity Based Rehabilitation strategies. She has directed programs at an international level including the Christopher Reeve recovery project at Washington University in St. Louis. She is certified by the Association of Rehabilitation Registered Nurses. Dr. Schultz writes the interactive Ask a Nurse Blog, an evidence-based community forum, conducts monthly international webinars hosting discussions and questions from individuals with paralysis and has created emergency pocket cards concerning the topics of sepsis and Autonomic Dysreflexia, in coordination with the Christopher and Dana Reeve Paralysis Foundation. As a researcher, Dr. Schultz focuses on the concepts of promoting bladder and bowel continence and skin integrity. She has completed a national analysis of urinary continence in the elderly population utilizing NIH data. The results of these findings have been used to establish protocols by the AHCPR.
L-Theory Collective is a collective of dancers dedicated to revitalizing modern dance through a unique blend of dynamic athleticism and emotive Artistic integrity while promoting inclusion through Community engagement in The Art of Dance. Lamaiya Lancaster is the principal choreographer and a dancer and describes herself as “a visually impaired dancer-choreographer and instructor with retinitis Pigmentosa”.
Mark Wellman is a nationally acclaimed author, filmmaker and motivational speaker. Despite being paralyzed in a mountain climbing accident, Mark has inspired millions to meet their problems head-on and reach for their full potential. A two-time Paralympian and former Yosemite Park Ranger, Mark's NO LIMITS philosophy encourages individuals to adventure into new horizons; to go beyond the seeming unreachable.
Mark, faced with seemingly insurmountable obstacles, persevered courage and determination to fulfill his passion for the outdoors. He shares his story in the autobiography Climbing Back. An accomplished wheelchair athlete, Mark is best known for the first historic paraplegic ascents of the sheer granite faces of El Capitan and Half Dome, in Yosemite National Park.
Martha Younger-White is an accomplished social service professional with over 35 years of experience overseeing public sector programs that impact the lives of people with disabilities. She manages Employment Services and Rehabilitation programs at the Lighthouse where her key responsibilities include helping clients find and retain employment, meet developmental milestones and lead independent lives. She is proficient in American Sign Language. Previously, she was employed as Bureau Chief of the Bureau of Accessibility and Job Accommodation at the Illinois Department of Human Services where she was responsible for assuring statewide compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. She is a graduate of Northwestern University and University of Illinois-Chicago with a Master’s degree in Urban Planning and Policy.
ParaCheer is the inclusive sport of CHEER and DANCE for athletes with and without a disability. ParaCheer Spirit is a nonprofit organization based in the Midwest providing opportunities for athletes to work together in a mainstream activity for all abilities and strengths and spirit. Seeing a need for energetic, outgoing persons to have an outlet for their abilities, we formed our ParaCheer organization to provide that spirited opportunity. In 2019, we achieved the ultimate honor - becoming World Champions and winning the Gold Medal for the USA! We focus on making the maximum of strengths and abilities of all our members. Our members and volunteers provide the momentum that helps us show the power for all activities.
Learn more: https://paracheerspirit.org
Rick Niksic retired from an nationally known Elder Law Firm in 2015 where he had worked with Seniors’ end of life issues, Medicaid, and programs for aging Veterans. Rick spoke all over the country to groups supporting seniors as well as groups confronting aging issues. After spending too much time on the golf course Rick joined Greenhouse Medical Cannabis Dispensaries doing Education and Outreach. It was a good fit as the people interested in Medical Cannabis were health care professionals, seniors and veterans that Rick had served in the past. As a veteran Rick has a natural propensity to help veterans in need of assistance. “Seeing people in pain, of all ages, finding relief with a safe and natural medicine is the most satisfying part of this job and makes coming to work every day a true pleasure.”
Sarah Bennett returned to the Chicago Lighthouse in February of 2018 to fulfill the role of Assistant Director of Employment Services. She brings a wealth of knowledge through both her education and expertise in Vocational Rehabilitation across both the non-profit and private sectors. Ms. Bennett possesses a Bachelor's of Communicative Disorders with a Rehabilitation Services emphasis from Northern Illinois University and a Master's in Rehabilitation Counseling from Northeastern Illinois University.
Having completed not only her 9 month clinical internship rotations with the Chicago Lighthouse, Sarah also served as a member of the Employment Services staff from 2013-2015 as a Job Placement and Rehabilitation Counselor. She now leads that team of counselors and specialists that she once called coworkers, interns and even clients in making a difference in the lives of people with disabilities and Veterans.
SOUL Harbour Ranch Animal Therapy Program
Jodie Diegel RN, MBA is the Founder and current President of the SOUL Harbour Ranch Animal Therapy Program, as well as past President and Founder of Mane in Heaven. The SOUL Harbour Ranch Animal Therapy Program, located in Barrington, is a non- profit organization whose mission is to enrich lives by promoting the unconditional love and healing of the human-animal bond, while advocating for animal therapy standards of excellence. We offer the Barrington-area’s most experienced animal-assisted miniature therapy equine teams who have been visiting since 2013.
“I believe a difference is made when there is a soul-to-soul connection” (between humans and animal) said Jodie and it is through her passion for animal therapy that individuals throughout the Chicagoland area are able to receive care and experience that incredible soul-bond with her animals.
Through working with volunteer animal handlers, Jodie and her team bring miniature horses and dogs to locations such as Rush University Medical Center, The Garlands, Markland, GiGi’s Playhouse and Barrington High School.
As the co-owner of Extended Home Living Services and To the Top Home Elevators, Stephen Crandall has a long history in designing solutions to help customers live as independently as possible. He and the staff at EHLS have been making homes accessible since 1991 and are a national leader in accessibility lifts and home elevators. Stephen has a broad business background, including a variety of overseas assignments. He completed his undergraduate studies at Texas A&M University and earned an MBA from the Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University.
Tracy Williams has her degree in Nutrition and Dietetics from Dominican University. She is a five-time recipient of nutrition education grants from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She enjoys public speaking, writing on nutrition topics. She enjoys debunking myths related to nutrition issues for all people no matter how they may experience life. She has presented at non-profit organizations, schools, rotary clubs, garden clubs, libraries, as well as a few churches. She is a strong advocate for all diversity in the world around, especially for people with disabilities because she happens to have cerebral palsy. You can connect with her on Facebook, LinkedIn and her website. Her website is www.tracysplate.com. She loves to inspire people to life a healthier lifestyle.
When one life ends another begins. After being told he would never walk again and should basically give up Vincent began working to show that there is always hope. It wouldn't be until six years later that he would be able to demonstrate that anything is possible through adaptive sports, specifically paratriathlon, and dance. "Dancing and racing saved my life for with them both I have gained more strength and capabilities than I ever imagined possible." After being able to perform again with his new abilities, Vincent has decided its time to help others with disabilities discover what dance can do for them. He comes to the Abilities Expo as an ambassador to help those with and without disabilities discover what dance can do for them. He also comes to help disabled and non-disabled folks see that they aren't so different at all.
Wayne W. Broadfield, III, AIA is PVA's Associate Director of Architecture & Facilities. He joined PVA in 2018 after seventeen years of private sector architectural design and construction experience as an associate and senior project manager of an award-winning firm in Washington DC. Mr. Broadfield has been involved with local AIA component leadership as past-president of the Potomac Valley chapter in 2016 and currently sits on the board of directors of the AIA Maryland. He also is the current Mid-Atlantic region director of the Young Architects Forum, a program of AIA National's Center for Emerging Professionals. Since being with PVA, Mr. Broadfield has successfully advocated to maximize accessibility on government and healthcare projects serving veterans throughout the United States. He has also provided technical assistance to veterans and civilians who are planning renovations to their homes specifically focused on improving accessibility.
Mr. Broadfield is a licensed architect in Maryland and holds a Bachelor of Architecture degree from Jefferson (Philadelphia University + Thomas Jefferson University).
We Adorn You
Painters from "We Adorn You" have been face painting for Abilities Expo shows since 2009! They are based out of Los Angeles and New York City and have been in operation since 2007. Their experienced California-based artists will travel to your home or event site, whether in Los Angeles or somewhere throughout Southern California. Each event is unique and they can tailor to any theme, style or idea; children and/or adult birthday parties, bar/bat mitzvahs, company picnics, photo shoots, trade shows and many more!
Learn more at www.weadornyou.com