Abilities Expo Presents Experienced, Highly Knowledgable Speakers
In order to bring you a stellar conference program, we have selected presenters whose individual lives are as relevant to the Community as the issues they are addressing. The majority of our speakers hold advanced degrees in their field. 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.
Special Needs Financial Planner Allison Schaberg is a passionate advocate for the special needs community. Through her company, Consolidated Planning Group, Allison provides advice, education, and financial planning consultation services for families who care for those with disabilities. As a parent of children with special needs, she understands your concerns. As a financial planner with over 25 years of experience, she has helped many families successfully plan for the lifelong needs of their family members.
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.
Ayita Wheelchair Dance
Ayita is a dance class for children who use wheelchairs. Our mission is to inspire, encourage, and build confidence. We are located in Fort Worth, Tx.
Hi, I'm Brandy and I am a Mobility Coordinator and Travel Training Specialist with Metro. I was born and raised here in Houston and I've always enjoyed the freedom of using public transit. I'm also an advocate of clean air and healthy living so naturally I love taking the bus and rail to places I enjoy. Before I came to METRO, I worked at St. Joseph Hospital as a Unit Coordinator in the Day Surgery department. I have been employed by Metro for 6 years now, however, I have been using public transportation for over twenty years (since the age of 14). I have a devoted husband of 13 years that also works for Metro and I am a mom of 6 boys. I am a native English speaker and a self-taught Spanish speaker. I have traveled to several different countries, but Houston will always and forever be my home. I enjoy working with all people and I consider it a delight, not a profession.
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!
Houston Sword Sports
Houston Sword Sports is a fencing club dedicated to bringing the Olympic and Paralympic sport of fencing to the people of Houston. Founded in 2015, we offer classes to kids, teens, and adults of all ages in all three fencing weapons: foil, epee, and saber. We incorporate wheelchair fencers into our regular practices, allowing fencers of all ability and experience levels to enjoy this fast-paced and exciting sport.
Twitter and IG: @HoustonSwords
Founded in 1886, the YMCA of Greater Houston has always been a place where all people can find hope, fellowship and healing. Programs that meet the needs of the Greater Houston community: The Y is focused on impacting everyone in our community. That's why we offer a variety of programs, classes, and services. YMCA programs bring people together to develop strong, positive relationships with others in their neighborhoods and communities.
Hello, my name is Jamie Williams and I am a native Houstonian who works for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in Houston, Texas. There, I am a mobility coordinator who teaches seniors and people with disabilities how to successfully navigate METRO's bus and light rail systems. I have been employed with the agency since 2006. I began my career at METRO in the dispatch department for METROLift Paratransit. Since then, I have held a position in METROLift customer service department where I assisted with the eligibility process for paratransit services. It has been with great pleasure that I am able to serve the disabled community with their transportation needs.
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.
Jeff Bourns is a former competitive amputee tennis player and Adapted mobility tennis instructor. Bourns competed at International level tournaments and events in a newly organized category of play in tennis, Adaptive Standing Tennis. Adaptive Standing Tennis is tennis for individuals with physical challenges such as amputations, cerebral palsy, or hemiparesis who play the sport ambulatory. Jeff retired in 2019 with a World Rank of 4 in his category and was the first American to compete Internationally in this newly emerging category of organized tennis.
Karen N. Hyman
Karen N. Hyman is the Houston District Director for the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (0FCCP). Ms. Hyman began her federal service in Dallas with the Office of Worker's Compensation in 1986. She joined OFCCP as an Equal Employment Opportunity Specialist or Compliance Officer assigned to the Houston District Office in 1988, therefore she has been with the agency for 33 years. She has over 22 years of experience as a Compliance Officer, 5 years of experience as an Assistant District Director, and 6 years as a District Director with the Agency. During her tenure with the Agency, she has consistently resolved systemic discrimination cases resulting in large financial settlements. Ms. Hyman has a Bachelor's Degree in Marketing from the University of Southwestern Louisiana ("University of Louisiana at Lafayette") in Lafayette, LA.
Katey Tidwell, originally from Alabama, has been dancing since the age of five. After moving to Houston in 2002, she studied at The Humphreys School of Musical Theatre, The Tribble School at Masquerade Theatre, and with Penny Tschirrhart in the IB Dance program at Lamar High School. Katey received her BA in Dance from The University of Houston in 2013 where she was a member of the UH Dance Ensemble. Katey works with The River Performing and Visual Arts Center and the Houston Ballet where she teaches dance to children with disabilities. She has been teaching with Houston Ballet's Education and Community Engagement Program since 2013.
Kelly L. Green
Kelly L. Green joined Help Hope Live as its executive director in November 2017. The daughter of a transplant recipient, Kelly not only believes in the mission of Help Hope Live, she once used the service and it "completely changed her life." She feels honored and proud to lead an organization that provided hope and help to her family during her mother's journey to transplant in 2007. Kelly describes herself as a mother, a daughter of her hero, a battle-tested unifier, and a thought leader. She has more than 20 years' experience working in and leading nonprofit organizations and has dedicated her life to civic engagement. In the last decade, Kelly has proudly served as the CEO of Variety – The Children's Charity; director of Montgomery County, PA Voters Services; and deputy director for the Institute for the Study of Civic Values in Philadelphia. In 2018, Kelly was recognized with Main Line Today's Women on the Move Award for redefining success around Philadelphia's Main Line and western suburbs. Kelly is a connector, a person who needs to infuse each day with a lesson and inspire others to be the one makes someone else's day just a little brighter. She places value in small acts of kindness. She is a self-proclaimed activist, but most people just see her as someone who believes everyone deserves dignity and respect. She knows firsthand how broken our healthcare system is and is determined to help place medical needs in reach to those in need!
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.
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.
Michael T Sanders
Michael Sanders is currently the head of partnerships for NTI@Home, www.ntiathome.org, a non-profit that helps individuals with disabilities and family caregivers back into the workplace. NTI@Home partners with Fortune 500 organizations to provide work-at-home jobs to individuals with disabilities nationwide. As a TEDx speaker, Michael has presented impactful workshops related to the job search, disability rights, DE&I initiatives, and how to achieve success in work-at-home positions. He is also a founding member of both the Boston Inclusion Community and the Into the Streets Program, increasing disability awareness throughout the United States.
Move United uses the power of sport to push what's possible for people with disabilities, confronting ignorance, fueling conversation, and inciting action that leads us to a world where everyone's included. Sports make us more—more determined, more powerful, more ourselves. Sports have the power to change the world, pushing people further and bringing people closer. And sports shift the narrative from disabled to this abled. To this end, Move United's vision is that every person, regardless of ability, has an equal opportunity to participate in sports and recreation in their community. Our mission is to provide national leadership and opportunities for individuals with disabilities to develop independence, confidence, and fitness through participation in community sports, including competition, recreation and educational programs. Since 1956, Move United has been redefining disability by providing year-round sports and recreation opportunities to people with a wide range of disabilities offering more than 60 different adaptive sports. Through our national network of more than 180 local member organizations, Move United serves over 80,000 individuals with disabilities of all ages each year.
Dr. Oga Obie
Dr. Oga is a U.S. board-certified emergency physician, a cannabis herbalist (also called a cannabinologist),and an endocannabinologist (a scientist who studies the endocannabinoid system). Dr. Oga the President ofthe Association for Cannabis Health Equity & Medicine (ACHEM) and a founding board member of Texans for Safe Access (TSA). Dr. Oga is also an international public speaker on holistic lifestyle medicine, cannabis health and cannabis medicine. Dr. Oga's true passion is teaching. Today she hosts brainstorminghealth sessions with clients where together they explore ways to enhance their health and change their lives for the better. Dr. Oga also educates health professionals interested in creating an eclectic clinical practice; one that merges traditional healthcare with non-traditional, holistic practices in order to help patients achieve total wellness.
ParaCheer Spirit Wolves are cheerleaders and dancers with and without disabilities, working together, side by side, to promote the visibility of ParaCheerleading as a new division and para sport of Cheer.
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
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".
My name is Samantha. I was injured in 2012 when I fell from a 3 story apartment and as a result, I have a T12 spinal cord injury. I have been on the dance team since 2014. Joining the dance team was and has been the best choice I have made. Dance was something that I always wanted to do and always caught my attention before my accident, but it was never something I actually pursued. About after a year into my injury, I realized how short life is and how I should be spending it by doing what I love and basically just taking chances in life. I don't think I could have fallen in love with dance if it weren't for the girls on the team. They have made this journey unforgettable & the bond that we have is unbreakable.
Sonny Mullen is from the Philadelphia area and spent the first part of her career in New York City working in television. She joined Help Hope Live in 2016, first working in the Finance Department and now proudly serves as the Outreach Manager. In this role she has helped build the Outreach department with the goal of bringing Help Hope Live's mission to a wider audience.
Growing up with a younger brother living with GRIN1 Disorder, Sonny has a personal connection to Help Hope Live's mission. She is happy to use her experiences, both at home and with Help Hope Live, to connect and speak with individuals in the disability community all over the country, with the goal of helping them safely fundraise for their medical and related expenses.
STARskaters is a 100% volunteer organization of players, instructors, parents and hockey referees - all sharing their love of skating with those who never thought they could enjoy the coolest sports in the world!
STARskaters was founded in 2008 by Sugar Land, TX businessman Jim O'Neill.