Abilities Expo Presents Experienced, Highly Knowledgable Speakers
Here are past Abilities Expo presenters.
Stay tuned for 2022! Please check back three
months before the Expo for the new schedule.
Andre Sam is a comprehensive Disability & Special Needs Planner with SilverTree Special Needs Planning. Upon earning a Bachelors Degree in Economics from the University of Arizona, Andre began a career in comprehensive Disability & Special Needs Planning. Andre has been in the industry for 7 years now working with individuals and families with special needs and disabilities. Andre is currently part of a non-profit organization called the Special Needs Education & Advocacy Project. Through this non-profit organization, Andre gives back by donating his time during evenings and on the weekends sharing his knowledge by providing complimentary educational presentations to organizations and groups who have loved ones that are part of the special needs and disability community.Learn more: https://projectdsnp.com
Anna Mallett has worked the Texas Comptroller's Office for ten years and currently serves as the Outreach Specialist for the state’s new Texas ABLE® Program. She previously worked as a Marketing Coordinator for the Texas Tuition Promise Fund, the state’s 529 prepaid college savings plan. Anna has over 19 years of service with the State of Texas including serving as Grant Program Manager for the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles and Public Relations Manager at the Texas Department of Transportation. Anna holds a BA in Communications from Southwest Texas State University. She and her husband live in Austin and have two children; Brandon 14 and Lainey 2.Learn more: https://www.texasable.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
Conner Lundius has been a dancer since the age of 5. She started choreographing in high school for her dance team, and didn’t stop there. As a captain and choreographer for her university’s dance team, she thought that’s where her dance career would end. At the age of 22, she was injured in a car crash and sustained an L2 spinal cord injury. It was then that she found the Rollettes and decided to keep dancing! Since 2019, Conner has been dancing and choreographing for the Rollettes. Most recently, Conner has been teaching virtual classes biweekly for women and girls with disabilities! She loves to push the boundaries of wheelchair dancing!Learn more: https://www.rollettesdance.com
Debra Kerper’s desire to pursue a career in Travel for Persons With Special Needs & Seniors 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, New Zealand, the British Isles, Israel and Hawaii. Her mantra is “Just Doing It Differently”.
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Edwin Marino has been with Disability Rights Texas since 2008. Prior to that, he was working with Legal Aid of Northwest Texas. His career has always primarily been focused on helping those who have trouble accessing the legal system. He attended the University of Southern Maine, earning a B.A. in Political Science. He went on to earn his M.A. at the University of Houston, focusing on American Government. He earned his J.D. at the University of South Dakota. He is a member of the Texas Bar, the New Hampshire Bar, the Massachusetts Bar and the District of Columbia Bar. His legal experiences have been varied and he has had experience in many areas of the law, including but not limited to, disability law, family law, poverty law, immigration law and juvenile justice law. As a generalist, he has been able to work on a vast number of issues and problems over the years. Although he enjoys litigation and the Courtroom, his ability to resolve problems through face to face negotiation with persons of an opposite opinion is a soft skill that he is most thankful to possess.
Houston Apollos Wheelchair Lacrosse
Wheelchair lacrosse is an extremely diverse and inclusive game played by men and women of all ages and abilities. Houston Apollos is open to new and returning players ready to compete! They play out of the Metropolitan Multiservice Center.Learn more: https://www.facebook.com/HoustonWheelchairLacrosse/
My name is Jackie Gadd, and I am proud to be an Accessible Yoga Ambassador and Instructor. I am part of a growing alliance of teachers who provide classes adapted for differently-abled yoga students. I’m proud to have guided over 2000 mind-body classes since earning my initial certification in 2012, because I am most happy when in service of others. I teach all over San Diego, in schools, and in libraries, and partner with the County and City to bring yoga where it’s needed in our community.
I’ve been teaching chair yoga via Zoom five days a week since COVID restrictions began, and classes are up on my for everyone to try their own practice at home. My training focuses on mindful and functional movement, and includes yoga for seniors, teens, and children and different health/development conditions (e.g., Multiple Sclerosis, pre/postnatal, anxiety/trauma/pain mitigation, behavioral support).My classes rely on student feedback to create a cooperative experience, because everyone deserves the opportunity to find the right practice for their body. I hope you’ll try one of my mind/body experiences at the Abilities Expo this weekend! Both classes at the Expo will be done seated (no need to transfer from a wheelchair/scooter). Learn more: http://byomyoga.blogspot.com/p/about-me.html
Jay Gupta, RPh, MTM Consultant, C-IAYT is the Director of Pharmacy & Integrative Health at a health center in New Hampshire. He is also the President of www.YogaCaps.org and www.RxRelax.com. Jay is a pharmacist, medication expert, DePrescription leader and international speaker. He has been recognized by Cardinal Health, by the National Alliance of State Pharmacy Associations (NASPA) and by Next Generation Pharmacists/Pharmacy Times for excellence in integrative therapies. His clinical trial in 2020 studied the effects of therapeutic telehealth yoga for healthcare professionals during a pandemic and indicated significant reduction in anxiety, depression, insomnia and PTSD symptoms.Learn more: www.RxRelax.com
The Kid-netic Games is an annual weekend athletic event for students ages 2-22 (if still attending high school) with physical impairments such as amputations, spinal cord injuries, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, muscular dystrophy, dwarfism, and other orthopedic impairments. The event allows individuals with physical disabilities to participate in track and field, wheelchair basketball, and power soccer. Also offered are clinics in sports and recreational pursuits such as wheelchair tennis and boccia. The Kid-netic Games provide an opportunity for students with physical disabilities to develop friendships and gain knowledge of various sports, and produces a variety of community resources and networking opportunities for families of students with physical disabilities.Learn more: https://www.region10.org/programs/kid-netic-games/overview/
Kristy Durso, founder and owner of Incredible Memories Travel, is on a mission to change the face of travel for those with special needs. A homeschooling mom who has lived around the world with her active duty military husband and their children, Kristy has traveled extensively and has experienced the shortcomings in accessible tourism firsthand. She became wheelchair bound in 2019, she has a genetic disorder, and a pair of autoimmune disorders. Additionally, all three of the Durso children have special needs. Her daughter the same genetic disorder and over two dozen food allergies, her older son has Asperger’s Syndrome, and the youngest has profound cognitive disabilities. Traveling, educating those in the travel industry about accessibility, and taking care of those with special needs have become Kristy’s passions. When not running her business and traveling, she enjoys holding her extremely spoiled dog.Learn more: https://incrediblememoriestravel.com
Lee Ann Hoffman, B.Occ.Ther., MSc., ATP/SMS., ISWP., CAPS.
Lee Ann has been an occupational therapist for more than 22 years. She obtained her degree in South Africa, and a Master of Science degree in Rehabilitation (posture management) in the United Kingdom. She has worked internationally in a variety of healthcare systems throughout her career. Lee Ann is invested in contributing to the field of Complex Rehabilitation Technologies (CRT) and is a Rehabilitation Engineer and Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA) certified Assistive Technology Professional (ATP) and Seating & Mobility Specialist (SMS). Lee Ann also serves as a co- vice-chair for the RESNA 24-7 Posture Care Management (PCM) special interest group. She is constantly seeking ways to create synergies between the individual, equipment, and the environment. She is a registered Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS) and a member of the International Society of Wheelchair Professionals (ISWP). Lee Ann was introduced to the dynamic members of the Clinician's Task Force (CTF) and instantly connected with the mission and values of the group.
Mark Lichter, AIA, is PVA’s Director of Architecture & Facilites. He has been with PVA since 2002, prior to which he had over 15 years of design and construction experience as a project architect in the private sector. Since being with PVA, Mr. Lichter has successfully ensured maximum accessibility consulting on countless major facilities including many National Memorials, large medical centers, high profile professional and college sports arenas, numerous Federal buildings, as well as residential projects. As a member of the National ANSI A117.1 Committee, Mr. Lichter helps write the most widely used building code on accessibility in the country. He was also selected to serve on the Federal Courthouse Access Advisory Committee where he chaired a task group that developed new accessible courthouse design standards for the Federal Government.
Mr. Lichter has written many articles on the topics of both accessibility and medical center design. He was the technical advisor for PVA’s popular book: Accessible Home Design: Solutions for the Wheelchair User. Mr. Lichter is a licensed architect. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Architecture from the University of Maryland and a Master of Architecture from Virginia Polytechnic Institute (Virginia Tech).Learn more: https://pva.org
Mark R. Thompson, AIA, is PVA's Senior Associate Director of Architecture Services. He joined PVA in 2016 after thirty years of private sector architectural design and construction experience as a lead project designer, business owner and real estate developer. Mr. Thompson developed his architectural expertise delivering public and private projects in the commercial, health care and educational markets valued in excess of $800 million. Since being with PVA, Mr. Thompson has successfully advocated to maximize accessibility on multi-family housing, commercial, 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.
Polly Benson, OTR/L, is a licensed Occupational Therapist with 30 years of experience treating pediatric patients in multiple settings. She earned her degree in Allied Medicine from The Ohio State University. Polly has extensive experience in technology apps and strategies designed to assist clients for achieving therapy goals. She is a distinguished therapist and seasoned continuing education instructor. She volunteers at her church as a high school small group leader and on the neighborhood board for women at the well ministry. She has presented for multiple continuing education companies on courses for fine motor, assistive technology, iPad apps and handwriting.
Recently she has invented a new product called the Legi Liner to help students with improving their handwriting. It quickly prints lines for handwriting, math, music and visual patterning. She is a member of the American Occupational Therapy Association and resides in Atlanta, GA.Learn more: https://www.legiliner.com
Rhonda R. Parker
Ms. Rhonda R. Parker is a retired certified EC-12 Educator, currently a doctoral candidate in
Organizational Leadership(2020), holds a Master’s Degree in Special Education, B.S. in
Rehabilitation Studies emphasis (psychology and sociology). She received a Resolution from the State of Texas as an Outstanding Contributor to Education in Dallas Independent School District. Rhonda completed a Fellowship with the Department of Education. Nominated for Teacher of Year in Dallas Independent School District and Irving Independent School District. She has served as an Employment Consultant, Mentor/Lead Teacher, and Transition Specialist. Subsequently, Ms. Parker is the Founder and Executive Director of Parker Autism Center (PAC), a 501 © 3 nonprofit dedicated to addressing the variety of complex needs of individuals and families impacted by Autism and Asperger’s. As well as, Parker Transition Services, PeopleFirst Training Solutions, and Baking to ImPACt. Her Motto “Everyone Deserves an Opportunity”.Learn more: https://www.parkerautismcenter.org
Rise Adaptive Sports
Recovery, Inspiration, Success, Empowerment. Our mission is to assist persons with physical challenges to Recover, Inspire, Succeed, and Empower themselves and others by providing inclusive adaptive recreational sports programs. To accomplish the RISE mission at the highest level possible, all of the RISE programs are FREE of charge for persons with physical challenges and family members or friends.Learn more: https://riseadaptivesports.org
Terry Gupta, MSW, C-IAYT, YACEP, E-RYT500 is a social worker, nonprofit leader, national speaker and nationally certified educator of yoga teachers. She is the Executive Director of www.YogaCaps.org and the Managing Director of www.RxRelax.com. Her adaptive yoga and mindfulness programs have been recognized as best practice models by the Citizens Bank Foundation, the State of New Hampshire and the New Hampshire Business Review. She received a 2021 AmplifiHER Community Impact Award from the NH Women’s Foundation for fostering resilience in the state of NH during the pandemic.
Travis Davis is a native New Mexican. He was also born with cerebral palsy. Overcoming the odds of adversity, he received two college degrees (B.A. in English from Azusa Pacific University and Master's in Adapted Physical Education from UNM) and is ADA Coordinator certified. In 2015, he gave a TEDx Talk on social inclusion in education. The message was about the importance of having the courage to ask questions about a person's disability and strategies to appropriately do so. Over the years, Travis realized that his disability can be used for a positive purpose. Travis is also a local disability advocate in which he is Chair of ABQ's ADA Advisory Council. In his free time, Travis enjoys writing, volunteering, and recording his Off The Crutch podcast that is about his experiences with cerebral palsy and interviews from local and national disability advocates.
Veronica Cortez is a Vaccine Navigator with Disability Rights Texas. Ms. Cortez is a graduate of St. Mary's University San Antonio with a BA in Music Performance. She also attended the University of Texas Pan American in Edinburg (now UTRGV) and received a degree in Elementary Bilingual and Early Childhood Education. Ms. Cortez has been instrumental in meeting the needs of students and their families for over 25 years. She has built relationships with students and families from Kindergarten to High School and every grade level in between.
Ms. Cortez has worked as a freelance paralegal for over 20 years and is a member of the State Bar of Texas Paralegal Division. Her knowledge of legal review and writing have become an awesome foundational tool for other opportunities to work on behalf of others. Understanding the legal aspects of client concerns has enabled Ms. Cortez to navigate systemic barriers in order to provide information and access to resources that empower the clients she serves.
"Advocating for students and families has taught me so much more than my actual degrees!" -V. Cortez