Mon - Thurs: 9:00am - 5:00pm | Fri: 9:00am - 4:00pm


Keynote Speakers

Lydia X. Z. Brown

Lydia X. Z. Brown is an advocate, educator, and attorney addressing state and interpersonal violence targeting disabled people living at the intersections of race, class, gender, sexuality, faith, language, and nation. Lydia is Policy Counsel for Privacy & Data at the Center for Democracy & Technology, focused on algorithmic discrimination and disability, as well as Director of Policy, Advocacy, & External Affairs at the Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network. They are founding director of the Fund for Community Reparations for Autistic People of Color’s Interdependence, Survival, & Empowerment. Lydia is adjunct lecturer/core faculty in Georgetown University’s Disability Studies Program, and adjunct professorial lecturer in American Studies at American University’s Department of Critical Race, Gender, & Culture Studies. They serve as a commissioner on the American Bar Association’s Commission on Disability Rights, chairperson of the ABA Civil Rights & Social Justice Section’s Disability Rights Committee, and the Disability Justice Committee’s representative to the National Lawyers Guild, National Executive Committee. 

[Photo: Black and white image of a young East Asian person with glasses smiling and laughing, looking slightly away from the camera. Photo by Colin Pieters.]

Ronnie Cohn

Ronnie began her career around the time that the first class action lawsuit was initiated on behalf of people with developmental disabilities who were living in a deplorable institutional setting.  Her first job was as a direct support person in a classroom setting with people who had moved out of the institution, the Willowbrook State School.  For the next ten years she worked with Willowbrook class members in numerous positions and it was that experience that set her professional path for the next thirty years.

Over the following five years Ronnie was the executive director of an advocacy agency in California and consultant to other states regarding developmental disabilities, special education and transition services.

When she returned to New York, Ronnie was hired as staff to the Special Master in the Willowbrook Case, the focus of which at that point had become closing that institution and developing capacity in the communities throughout NYS to meet the needs of those leaving Willowbrook.  When the Special Master’s office closed in 1993, following the signing of a Permanent Injunction in that case, she was named the Independent Evaluator for the Willowbrook Class. Ronnie still remains in that role, working cooperatively with the plaintiffs, defendants, families, class members, advocates, providers and others responsible for insuring that the members of the Willowbrook class receive and benefit by their court ordered entitlements. 

During this time Ronnie has also been consulting on eight other class action suits in six states: evaluating services in both institutional and community settings; assisting in transition planning; developing and implementing  protocols for compliance reviews;  training service coordinators; working with advocacy groups and quality assurance entities; developing systemic plans; and spending time with individuals who receive services to determine whether or not all of the efforts by consistently well-meaning professionals and others are actually benefiting those for whom we all work.

John Dickerson

John Dickerson has spent the last 48 years seeking change.  The first 42 years with The Arc – the last 32 as Executive Director of The Arc of Indiana. In 2016 he formed Quillo a new software platform designed to change the way we support people with disabilities, their families and staff that support them – with technology and positive psychology.  Change was always created by many not one person, and John is quick to credit those around him that shared a vision of what could be – not just what was.  When Indiana closed all of its large institutions, it moved to transition from long waiting lists to dramatically expanding services that supported people in the community;  moving from 12,000 people served to today over 45,000 Hoosiers. It was the act of many working together around a common goal: advocates, providers, people with disabilities and families.  John was recently named an Essential Change Agent by the National Historic Recognition Project: 2000-2020.  Even more important to him than any recognition are the young people today who have a completely different life ahead of them because of all of what you have done and will do tomorrow to create the next change – the life we want to live.

Nicole Jorwic

Nicole has demonstrated a commitment to working toward systems change that will create equal access, improved supports, and full lives for all individuals with disabilities, which is in alignment with the mission of The Arc. Nicole has served in various roles to this end, including her appointment as a Senior Director of Public Policy. Nicole served as the CEO/President of the Institute on Public Policy for People with Disabilities where she continued the Institute’s mission to improve the lives of people with disabilities and assisted the leadership of the state of Illinois in developing public policy driven best practices. Nicole is also an accomplished special education attorney and an advocate for students with disabilities.

Russell Lehmann

Russell Lehmann is an award-winning and internationally recognized motivational speaker and poet with a platform of autism and mental health. A graduate of MIT’s “Leadership in the Digital Age” course, Russell sits on the national Board of Directors for The Arc, is a council member for the Autism Society of America, the Youth Ambassador for the mayor of Reno, Nevada, and has also sat on the Nevada Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities as well as the Nevada Commission on Autism Spectrum Disorders.

Russell showed signs of autism as a newborn, however he was not formally diagnosed until the age of 12 after suffering through 5 weeks in a lock down psychiatric facility. 

In 2018, Russell was named as Reno-Tahoe’s “Most Outstanding Young Professional Under 40”. In 2019 & 2020, Russell lectured for the prestigious King’s College of London and the Mohammed bin Rashid Center for Special Education in Abu Dhabi, respectively. 

Russell currently travels the world spreading hope, awareness and compassion in a raw and dynamic fashion, while also setting his sights on erasing the stigma and stereotypes that come with having a disability. Russell’s passion is to be a voice for the unheard, for he knows how difficult and frustrating it is to go unnoticed.For more information about Russell and his work, visit his website at and follow his journey on Instagram and Facebook.


Allison Stark

Allison Stark is the Director of the Division of Developmental Disabilities, DHS and has committed her entire career to serving individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Allison most recently served as the President and CEO of Orchard Village, a nonprofit in the North Chicagoland area providing an array of community based services to individuals with I/DD. Prior to her 12 years with Orchard Village, Allison was a Program Manager at Resources for Living in Evanston, and a Home & Community Based Services Waiver Case Manager for Adult Care Management in Lafayette, Colorado. Allison holds a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Colorado, Boulder, and a Master’s degree from the University of Chicago.  


Ruth Aguilar

Ruth Aguilar has over fifteen years of combined experience advocating for people with disabilities. She holds a B.S Psychology from the Illinois Institute of Technology and Professional Graduate Studies in Non-Profit from Harvard University. Ruth’s professional experience stems from working previously in an ISC Agency and then as a Self-Directed Assistant serving the community with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Moreover, with her personal expertise as a mother of a teen girl with Rett Syndrome and Seizure Disorder, Ruth brings a wealth of knowledge to the families by assisting them in how to obtain services and understanding their options by being assertive, yet professional. Ruth is inspired by her husband and her daughter to be a servant leader who helps those around her without hesitation.

Katie Arnold

Katie Arnold is the Executive Director of the Sibling Leadership Network (SLN), a national nonprofit with state chapters whose mission is to provide siblings of individuals with disabilities the information, support, and tools to advocate with their brothers and sisters and to promote the issues important to them and their entire families. Also, Katie works as the Director of Community Education in the Institute on Disability and Human Development at University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), Illinois’ University Center of Excellence in Developmental Disabilities.  Her work is anchored to her experience growing up with her sister with intellectual disabilities.  Katie grew up in New Jersey as the second oldest of five, including her sister with intellectual disabilities. Her sibling experience has shaped her worldview and influenced her career path.

Brittany Bartlett

Brittany Bartlett is a recent graduate of Project SEARCH at Sedgebrook. She came to the program from the Special Education District of Lake Co. (SEDOL) with an interest in food service. Brittany completed internships at Sedgebrook as an Activities Assistant and a Prep Cook. She earned high praise from her supervisors for her positive and friendly attitude, her strong work ethic, and her attention to detail. Brittany began her job search at the beginning of the pandemic but that did not prevent her from obtaining independent employment. She evaluated several job offers and took a position at Culver’s as a Prep Cook. Brittany has since taken a position in the front of the house at Culver’s and hopes to continue expanding her skills as she makes her career with them. Culver’s is thrilled to have Brittany on their team and customers have already started asking for her by name.

Michele Bowen

Michele Bowen has worked at Human Support Services (HSS) in Monroe County for over 4 years and currently serves as the Employment Services Manager. At HSS, Michele has led the work of creating the new Building Futures Program, which provides transition planning and services for individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities as they move from secondary to post-secondary life in the areas of work, community living and play.   Michele was integral in bringing the first ever Practical Assessment Exploration System (PAES) Lab to Monroe County to help individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities identify their strengths and challenges in different career fields along with assessing their interests in those fields. She also leads the Employment Services initiatives at HSS that provides job coaching and training services to over 100 individuals annually. Michele has her Bachelor of Science in Education, with certification in Mild/Moderate Cross Categorical K-12 and Elementary Education 1-6. She has a wealth of experience and knowledge, serving as a paraprofessional, a Special Education Teacher with the Fox C6 School District and Special School District of St. Louis County, and parent to a 28-year-old son with special needs. Michele’s desire to help her son live his best life has fueled her passion for serving individuals with disabilities and ensuring that they have access to high quality, person-centered programs and services in order to reach their highest potential.

Diana Braun

As a eight year old child, Diana Braun found herself living in a state-run nursing home in Freeport, Illinois. Taken away from an abusive family, Diana and her brothers and sisters were scattered. At 12, she was sent to the Dixon Developmental Center. She vowed to one day close state run institutions and has devoted her life to doing just that. In her own words, “Institutions are not a safe place to be.” At 19, Diana left Dixon. After meeting Kathy Conour at a sheltered workshop, a friendship began that lasted 42 years. She took on the ambitious job of personal assistant to her friend and housemate, Kathy Conour. In 2008 Diana and Kathy received the Justin Dart Award from the Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities in Illinois. Since that time, Diana’s activist commitments have led her to be president of People First, a self-advocate group, and a member of the Illinois Council on Developmental Disabilities. Recently, she served on the board of the Illinois Arc, an organization involved in advocacy for people with intellectual disabilities. Illinois is one of the states that still has a large number of people living in institutions, so Diana has her hands full with her advocacy work.

Casey Burke

Casey began his career of service as Direct Support Professional at a rural Illinois Intellectual / Developmental Disabilities provider during his time as an undergraduate at Northern Illinois University. After receiving his BA from NIU, he advanced in the field, engaged in roles such as Life Skill Instructor, Case Manager & Administrator – eventually assuming the role of Director, overseeing Community Day Services and Employment Programs at several large Chicagoland organizations. Casey is a champion of Employment First, a Certified Employment Support Professional (CESP) and part of several efforts to enhance the availability, quality, and scope of employment related supports for individuals with disabilities. Casey currently serves as the Director of Employment for Little City Foundation and a contractor for the Division of Developmental Disabilities. 

Janet Burke

Janet Mark is the guardian of her younger brother John who has significant motor and mild intellectual disabilities.  As a young man John attended community college, Thresholds and Community Enterprises.  After their father died in 2007 John successfully moved to a Trinity Services CILA home and behavioral health day program.  Janet has been a member of Supporting Illinois Brothers and Sister since 2010.  John currently lives with Janet and her husband in Naperville with Trinity Services’ Family CILA and counseling supports.  Janet is a retired high school teacher.  

Becca Burrow

Becca Burrow is from Bridgeview, IL. She is a member of the Garden Center Dream Team, a self-advocacy group facilitated by Garden Center Services. Becca is the chairperson for the Going Home Coalition Communications Committee. She has previously done presentations with Blue Tower Solutions’ Leanne Mull and has previously presented at Speak Up and Speak Out Summit.

Jesus (Chuy) Campuzano

Born and raised in Chicago. At a young age I had to fight for my rights.  When it comes to activism I have been a part of different movements across Chicago and Illinois getting to know the different types of groups that are out there and doing advocacy when it comes to disability and social justice.  At the beginning of this year I started playing around with zoom because I heard so much about it. Watching videos and also learning some tricks of my own and let me tell you if you really want to learn about zoom just wait till I show you what I have learned.

Reagan Carey

Reagan Carey is an Associate Director at CTF Illinois. She has been employed with CTF for 20 years. For the past 8 years, she has been the director of The Autism Program (TAP) at CTF. Reagan is a recent Partners in Policymaking graduate and is the project director of The Southern Illinois Transition Program which is funded through the ICDD.

Darcy Chamberlin

Darcy J. Chamberlin is a principal with the Chamberlin Law Group in Oak Brook, Illinois, where she concentrates on estate planning, probate and trust administration. She received her law degree from Indiana Univeristy in Bloomington, Indiana. Ms. Chamberlin is a fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Concsel (ACTEC), a member of the Special Needs Alliance (SNA) and a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA). She has written and lectured extensively on estate planning topics and has been a featured speaker on special needs trust planning since the inception of the Illinois Institute of Continuing Legal Education (IICLE)’s annual Elder Law conference as well as a IICLE’s annual Special Needs Trust conference. She is a former Board Member of Community Support Services, Inc., a nonprofit organization providing supportive services to persons with developmental disabilities and their families.

Matt Cohen

Matt Cohen is a private attorney with 35 years experience representing children and adults with disabilities and has represented thousands of students in disputes with public schools and higher education institutions in Illinois and other states. He is founding board member of COPAA (and currently serves on the COPAA board) and served as the chair of the Illinois Attorney General’s Committee on Special Education for over 25 years, as well as serving on many other not-for-profit boards. Matt has conducted hundreds of trainings for parents, advocates and educators throughout the United States. He is the author of “A Guide to Special Education Advocacy: What Parents, Advocates and Clinicians Need to Know” and has authored many articles on special education and mental health law.

Tara Conley

Tara Conley has been working in the field of ID/DD for more than 25 years. She started as a support worker, QIDP, and has been an Independent Service Coordinator. Through her work as a QIDP and Independent Service Coordinator, she helped people with disabilities and their families understand and navigate the state and national service system. Tara’s realization of the need for support of siblings came when she met other siblings, like herself, while doing support work. Tara is a certified Sibshop facilitator who has mentored other Sibshop facilitators to start their own programs in Illinois. Tara is the visionary and original co-founder of Supporting Illinois Brothers and Sisters (SIBS), and was involved in the inception of the Sibling Leadership Network (SLN) also founded in the same year. Tara has served on the Arc of IL Board, the UIC consumer advisory/LEND committee, the Sibling Support Project’s Advisory Committee, and serves as the current Vice President on the board of SIBS.  Tara received the Arc of IL Outstanding Family Advocate Award in 2005, not only for her advocacy with her brother but also for the development of sibling support in IL. Her most recent endeavor includes acting as an independent consultant for the SIBS Sibling Support Project in partnership with the SLN with an investment from the Illinois Council on Developmental Disabilities. Tara shares her sibling experience in the book Thicker than Water: Essays by Adult Siblings of People with Disabilities.   

Annette Doherty

Annette Doherty is the Project SEARCH Manager/Job Developer at Clearbrook. She participated in the launch of Project SEARCH at Sedgebrook, a unique, one-year, school-to-work program that takes place entirely at the workplace, Sedgebrook Senior Living. Annette continues to work with Project SEARCH partners on improving and expanding the program. She has led the team in job development with outcome awards for 100% placement since the program began in 2016. Her daily duties include working with the interns on job search training, job skills training, and job development as well as working with supervisors to develop internships at Sedgebrook. Due to the pandemic, Annette pivoted to develop internships at an alternate site, SEDOL, and to create and implement remote vocational skills training.

Shana Erenberg

Dr. Shana Erenberg is the co-founder and Executive Director of the Libenu Foundation, which provides housing, vocational training, recreational programs, and respite services for children and adults with disabilities. She is also the Chairman  Emeritus of the Department of Education and a professor at the Blitstein Institute of Hebrew Theological College/Touro University in Chicago. Dr. Erenberg maintains a private practice for the diagnostic evaluation, remediation, and advocacy of children and adults with disabilities. In addition, Dr. Erenberg serves as a consultant and provides professional development for teachers in numerous day schools and public schools in metropolitan Chicago and throughout the United States. Dr. Erenberg is the co-chair of the International Consortium of Jewish Special Educators and a frequent conference presenter. Dr. Erenberg is the founder of the Keshet Sunday School and served as its director for twenty years. Dr. Erenberg has also served as a Level I Due Process Hearing Officer, and continues to do advocacy and due process work. Dr. Erenberg has a doctorate in Communication Sciences and Disorders from Northwestern University, with specializations in Learning Disabilities and Related Disorders, Neuropsychology, and Language Disorders. She holds Professional Educator Licensure in Elementary Education and multiple areas of Special Education.

Denise Fisher

Arts of Life simply would not be what it is today without Denise. As one of the co-founders, Denise. As one of the co-founders, Denise was inspired to open Arts of Life because she saw a lack of opportunities for supporting people with intellectual/developmental disabilities and wanted to promote equity and leadership. Denise has a BA in Education from Eastern Illinois University and has supported the advocacy and leadership of people with disabilities her whole life, starting in elementary school where her mother worked as an aide in the special education system. Denise first developed the Collective Decision-Making model in 1995 while working in support of people with developmental disabilities on the residential side of service and has been perfecting it with the Arts of Life community since 2000.

Tina Fogarty

Tina has served as Trinity’s Chief Operating Officer since 2018, overseeing the organization’s day-to-day operations, its specialized residential services and assistive technology initiatives, and its involvement in the Illinois Crisis Prevention Network and The National Association of QDDPs. Tina joined Trinity Services in 2016 as its Director of Specialized Residential Services. Her expertise is serving people who exhibit challenging behavior. Tina has worked in the field of human services for 25 years and has extensive experience working with people who have a dual diagnosis of a developmental disability and a mental illness. Prior to joining Trinity, Tina worked at Neumann Family Services for 22 years. As Neumann’s Vice President of Programs and Services, she helped to develop, implement and lead a wide range of programs. The focus of those programs included residential, learning, employment, clinical and case management services. In addition, she has served young adults with a dual diagnosis who were transitioning to community-integrated living arrangements (CILAs), or group homes, after receiving services from the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. Tina has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from North Central College and a master’s degree in gerontology from Roosevelt University. In her spare time, Tina enjoys softball, volleyball, golf and gardening.

Amy Fox

Amy Fox is the Director of the My Full Life educational platform offered by Center for Independent Futures. She is based in Evanston, IL and serves a national audience of instructors, coaches, families, participants, agencies and schools in supporting life skills development through the person-centered process. Fox is an innovative and experienced leader with a successful history in education, healthcare,and non profit engagement. She has worked in a variety of consulting and strategic positions to create consensus, innovative initiatives, education, and strategic direction. Fox has long been connected to children and adults with varying abilities through teaching therapeutic riding and creating educational curriculum platforms, and is also a parent to a phenomenal child with Down Syndrome. She loves achieving results through active collaboration with private and public partners and finding solutions to complex problems. Her work in education has been recognized by the Florida Surgeon General, Maria Shriver, Illinois House of Congress, NPR, and TIME Magazine. She holds a BA from Michigan State University in English and a minor in Economics.

Nora Fox Handler

Nora Fox Handler is a committed sister to her three brothers with intellecutal disabilities. She is a passionate advocate for people with disabilities and their families and shares her family’s experience in the published work, Thicker than Water: Essays by Adult Siblings of People with Disabilities. Handler services on multiple governing boards including the National Sibling Leadership Network and The Arc of Illinois. Handler is on the Advisory Committee of the Sibling Support Project and is an advocate advisor of the Rehabilitation Research & Training Center on Aging with Developmental Disabilities (RRTCADD) and the Institute on Disabilities and Human Development at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Annie Gabuzzi

Annie is 31 years old and lives in Glenview at home with my mom & dad & brother who is moving out soon. She is smart, friendly and has a job at Open Arms Day Care. Among her favorite things to do are riding her bike, working on puzzles, watching Wheel of Fortune. She especially loves watching ALL Hallmark movies!! Playing with her niece Marion makes Annie happy. She also enjoys playing with and walking her dogs, Suki, Molly & Emmy.  Her favorite foods are pizza, pasta, my mom’s enchiladas but most of all BACON! Annie’s  favorite sport is baseball and is a fan of the Cubs. Her special talents are solving Wheel of Fortune answers before her family does and making Rainbow Loom bracelets.

TJ Gordon

Timotheus “T.J.” Gordon, Jr. is an autistic researcher-activist at UIC’s Institute on Disability and Human Development. Through his writing, blogging (as the Black Autist), and speaking opportunities, he talks about disability and autism acceptance in the black community, media representation of people with disabilities, and promoting healthy and open sexuality in the disability community. Gordon is a 2020-21 SARTAC Fellow, helping Broken Winggz and Advance Your Leadership Power (AYLP) at Access Living with the disability pride project called #DisabledIAM. T.J. Gordon is also a co-founder of Chicagoland Disabled People of Color Coalition (also known as Chicagoland DPOCC), which is a group of people of color with disabilities in the Chicagoland area that promotes inclusion and disability pride in communities of color.

Hollis Gorrie

Hollis Gorrie received her Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Illinois State University and Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology from the Illinois School of Professional Psychology. She has worked at Clearbrook for nearly 20 years in many roles, most currently she is the Assistant Vice President of Programs, overseeing Clearbrooks Home Based Services, Respite Program, Supportive Housing, and the newly formed Community Mental Health Center.

Valerie Granberry

Valerie Granberry is a self-advocate and peer mentor with Individual Advocacy Group (IAG) based in the Quad-Cities area.  She has various hobbies, including volunteering, making jewelry and shopping on Amazon.  She enjoys helping in the community and has done volunteer work with the JB for Governor Campaign, East Moline Police Department, River-Bend Food Pantry, New Hope Center and local animal shelters.  Valerie has been employed by IAG and is working on finding other customized employment opportunities.

Katherine Hamann

Katherine Hamann grew up not knowing one of her sibs. Margaret Doering had lived in state institutions since she was two years old. Their unfolding story made Katherin an advocate for people with I/DD and their families. Margaret has lived successfully in a CILA for over 9 years. Katherine has worked for most of that time for The Arc of Illinois, directing their Family Transition Project.

Mariel Hamer-Sinclair

Mariel Hamer is an experienced human service professional with administrative experience in special education, home services, vocational rehabilitation, and state and federal benefits counseling. Mariel started out working in the Department of Human Services, Division of Rehabilitation Services Home Services Program as a Case Manager. A short time after, she accepted a position as a Community Work Incentive Coordinator (CWIC) under the Social Security Administration (SSA) Work Incentive Planning and Assistance Program (WIPA). She became very interested in special education transition services and pursued a position as a Transition Specialist for Chicago Public Schools. She was promoted to Transition Manager in 2016. Mariel is currently the Associate Director of Program and Policy for the Illinois Council on Developmental Disabilities. She received her Master’s degree in Human Service Administration, Social Services in 2015 from the University of Illinois at Springfield.

Annette Hammortree

Annette Hammortree has been providing comprehensive financial planning services for over 34 years in the Chicagoland area and around the country.  Annette specializes retirement planning and special needs planning. She has been featured in numerous local and national articles as well as educational platforms for her expertise in both areas.  Her passion for serving the special needs planning community arose after having her son, Shane.  Shane was born 16 weeks premature and spent 6 months in the NICU.  As a result, he has Cerebral Palsy, Low Vision, Hydrocephalus, Developmental Delays and is a cancer survivor. Annette is a recognized leader in her field and sought-after speaker.  She currently sits on the Board of Directors for DayOne Pact Inc, the Northern Illinois Special Recreation Board of Directors, Advisory Committee for Clearbrook McHenry, Chair of St. John’s Endowment Board, Board of Directors for Prairie Community Bank and is a member of Education to Empowerment for McHenry County College. Annette is also a member of NAIFA, AALU and Women in Financial Services. Her firm is a member of the Chamber of Commerce’s for Marengo, Crystal Lake and Rosemont. Annette has two children; a daughter, Nikki, who lives in Milwaukee and her son, Shane, who is currently 28 and lives at home with her.

Megan Harrigan

Harrigan has been with Arts of Life since 2014. She holds a B.S. degree from Western Illinois University in Photography with minors in Art and Journalism. Harrigan also has an A.A.S. degree in Digital Media and Design. Her artwork has been exhibited in galleries and museums across Chicago and Illinois. She is also an adjunct profession in the Digital Media and Design department at the College of Lake County.

Mark Jak

Mark has a brother who is dually-diagnosed with an intellectual disability. He is passionate about helping others understand the challenges faced not only in advocating for their siblings, but also finding the resources and tools to help brothers and sisters become educated in the resources available to help them and their families thrive. Mark Jak joing the Envision board as Vice-Chair in 2017 after serving as Board Chair and board member of Neumann Family Services since 2011. He currently chairs the Program Committee team and is a member of the Merger and Acquisitions committee. Mark is a Realtor with @properties in Chicago and prior to real estate has served in various leadership roles within the telecommunications industry including Ameritech, AT&T and RCN. HE is a graduate of the University of Michigan with a BA in Art History. He lives in Chicago with his husband Jack.

Kimberly Johnson

Kimberly Johnson is the proud mother of a young adult son living with  Autism Spectrum Disorder- ASD.  Kimberly is a disability/legislative advocate, due process and IEP liaison and is well versed in the Department of Human Services Waiver programs as it relates to options and the Ligas Consent Decree.  

Professionally, Kimberly works at Chicago Public Schools (CPS) as a Parent Involvement/Engagement Specialist. This position works with families, schools, district staff, and community partners to create, support and monitor accommodations and supports for diverse learner students with IEP and 504 plans. She has also worked as a Ligas Family Advocate and is involved in Going Home Coalition and other legislative reform, spending time in Springfield with legislators to bring stories to the forefront. Kimberly has been involved in the Chicagoland Autism Connection Parent Support Group for over 16 years and now serves as President. She is also a Partners in Policymaking faculty member and serves on several Boards and Committees including The Arc of IL., The State of IL. Development Disability Advisory Council,  Founder, CAC Trailblazers-Self-Advocate group, Blue Tower Solutions, State of IL.  Criminal Justice Task Force and Q Source Kidney Advisory Board to name a few.

Brittany King

My name is Brittany Renee King. I am many things; a mother, sister, and a survivor. My daughter and I are still in search for a place to call home, but because of the state of our society we are living with family. I’ve been a member of the disability community since 2010. Being a leader within the community has granted me the adapt Woman of the year award, the Van Hecke Award, and many opportunities within the City.  Moving forward I hope to accomplish so much more as a mother and advocate. Fighting for rights now will pay off in my daughter’s future. I also hope to obtain an office at the state level.

Sherry Ladislas

Sherry Ladislas oversees Trinity Services’ Development Office and is responsible for special events, grant writing, community relations, and external publications. She has been part of Trinity Services since 2000. She has served on the Illinois Autism Task Force since its inception in 2004 and is a member of the Autism Provider Exchange (formerly Advancing Futures for Adults with Autism) and the Illinois Association of Fundraising Professionals. Sherry earned her Master’s degree in organizational leadership from Lewis University. Sherry, her husband, and their three dogs live in the south suburbs. They are the proud parents of two adult children and two grandchildren. One of their sons and their granddaughter have autism.

Dawn Lamp

Dawn Lamp is the Executive Director of Coleman Tri-County Services, Inc. where the focus is creating more opportunities for individuals with disabilities. She holds a Master’s Degree in Behavior Analysis and Therapy from Southern Illinois University and has been a co-presenter at the following Annual Conventions: American Psychological Association, Southeastern Psychological Association, and The Association of Behavior Analysis.

Nafia Lee

Nafia Lee is the Going Home Coalition Manager for the Arc of Illinois. Nafia has previously worked for the Arc of Central Alabama as a QIDP, an Employment Representative for the Marriott Foundation for People with Disabilities and a Program Leader for an adult day program at the Fox Valley Special Recreation Association. She also has a professional background in the nonprofit sector with a focus in communications. Nafia participated in the prestigious James H. Dunn Fellowship program in the office of former Illinois Governor Pat Quinn as a press assistant when closures of some of Illinois’ state operated development centers were introduced. Her interest in working in advocacy stemmed from the fellowship.  She is excited to learn from advocates across the state about community living and work to make the desires of all Illinoisians a reality reflected in public policy and budget priorities. 

Kathy Lyons

Kathy combines experience in business, law, and education with a passion for social justice. She works with families and organizations to create inclusive housing solutions and build more inclusive communities. Previously the Executive Director of the Moran Center for Youth Advocacy, Kathy has also worked at the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board, at Loyola University Chicago School of Law, and as an employment lawyer in private practice.  As a parent advocate for her son with disabilities, Kathy began work with the Illinois State Board of Education and with Evanston schools more than 20 years ago. Kathy received her JD degree from Loyola University Chicago School of Law, and her Bachelors of Business Administration (BBA) from the University of Michigan.

Megan Madigan

Megan has been Director of Direct Services for Center for Independent since January 2015, having been with Center for Independent Futures since 2008. Megan received her BA in Political Science from Loyola University in Chicago in 2008. Her earlier roles with Center for Independent Futures included work as a Life Skills Tutor, Community Life Coordinator, and Community Builder at the Harrison Street residence. In December 2015, Megan completed a Certificate in Nonprofit Management from Axelson Center for Nonprofit Management at North Park University in Chicago. She has more than 10 years of experience supporting individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities dually-diagnosed with mental illness, and collaborating with mental health providers mutually engaged in their care.

Phil Milsk

Phil Milsk, J.D. is an attorney from New Lenox. He has worked tirelessly over the years on behalf of people living in poverty as well as people with disabilities. For many years, he worked for Land of Lincoln Legal Services in Carbondale. Since 1990 he has been a champion in Springfield working with legislators to ensure that legislation for disenfranchised people is passed to help them better their lives. The many groups he has worked for includes: The Arc of Illinois, Illinois Association of Social Workers, School Social Workers, Gifted Education, the Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities, the Illinois Assistive Technology Program, the March of Dimes, Community Schools (to mention just a few). He has served on numerous committees and councils over the years including the Attorney General’s committee on special education and the Governors’ Employment First. He is a past Due Process Hearing Officer and is currently a consultant for Legal Council for Health Justice and in the past has often represented families involved in due process.

Genevieve Nutley

At age 20 Genevieve Nutley survived a car accident with many injuries. During her rehabilitation she discovered her gift as a painter through art therapy. Genevieve recalls the profound emotion of painting a night sky the first time she was given a paint brush to counter her isolation from the outside world due to being hospitalized for months. Genevieve has been self-taught since then and has participated in various shows and galleries. Every year she is a participating artist in Shirley Ryan’s AbilityLab’s Art in Motion, a showcasing that fundraises for art therapy. This show is very close to her heart. Genevieve is attracted to bright colors of acrylics along with themes of living as a disabled Latinx. She paints many self-portraits with surreal and abstract themes. Every new self-portrait is a chance to instill her experience as a disability advocate; the personal is political. Genevieve feels it is her job in the world to share her unique struggle of “living through an able lens” through her art. She hopes to evoke the beauty of overcoming pain, and challenge viewers to feel and appreciate her voice through her visual works on canvas. She has earned her Associate’s Degree in Arts and is currently attending Northeastern Illinois University to finish her Bachelors degree in Women’s, Gender and Sexually Studies.

Lori Opiela

Lori is the Vice President of Community, Day and Transition Services at UCP Seguin.  She is the immediate past Chair for Intersect for Ability.  Lori earned her B.A. in Psychology from Eureka College, and her M.S. in Rehabilitation Administration from the University of Illinois. She has extensive experience as a surveyor since 1997 for CARF.  Lori has also made several presentations to business classes at DePaul University, on developing and managing earned income initiatives within a non-profit organization.  

Jae Jin Pak

Jae Jin Pak is a social justice advocate, educator, and ally with over 25 years of experience.  He has worked on issues of domestic/sexual violence prevention ant-trafficking, mental health, disability, anti-oppression and cultural competency.  He has conducted thousands of hours of trainings with diverse communities and professionals.   His core values and approaches are recognizing intersectionality between issues and communities and building partnerships. Jae Jin is the Project Specialist for the IL Self Advocacy Alliance.  He serves on the Statewide Independent Living Council of IL, IL Imagines Chicago Team, and The National Human Trafficking & Disability Working Group Steering Committee.   He is a graduate of Northern Illinois University and an IL LEND Fellow.

Teresa Parks

Teresa Parks, MSW, is the Director of the Human Rights Authority, a division of the Illinois Guardianship and Advocacy Commission. In this position, she oversees a state-wide program that investigates allegations of rights violations committee against persons with disabilities by disability service providers. Parks hols a Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University of Illinois in Champaign/Urbana and is National Certified Guardian through the Center for Guardianship Certification. Parks has been at the Commission for 30 years working in its human rights programs before becoming the Human Rights Authority Director. Parks has prior work experience with a nursing home ombudsman program assisting nursing home residents with rights complaints, a case coordination service for senior citizens setting up in-home services to prevent premature nursing home placement and the Mental Health Association of Illinois Valley serving as program manager for mental health programs. She has also served on various disability-related boards, including the Heart of Illinois Down Syndrome Association, a Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Disease Association, a Parent Advisory Committee for an Interagency Council for Early Intervention, the Illinois Guardianship Association and Family Matters Parent Training and Information Center, a statewide organization that educates parents on special education rights. She also serves on Committees for Illinois Imagines, an organization addressing sexual violence against women with disabilities, the Woodford County Special Education Association and Aces for Woodford County, a county-based parent support group for parents of children with disabilities. Parks is the parent of two children, including a son with disabilities. Parks is also a recent graduate of Partners in Policy Making and was recently appointed to the Illinois Council on Developmental Disabilities. She also services on the board of the Illinois Association of Microboards and Cooperatives.

Shirley Perez

Shirley A. Perez is the Program Director of the Ligas Family Advocate Program and the Family Support Network. Ms. Perez has thirty-five plus years of advocating and working with individuals and their families  living with disabilities. She is a business graduate of Metropolitan Business College and Kaplan University. She operated her own business, worked at an ISC Agency where she advocated for and assisted families in locating services by navigating the State system. In conjunction with the City of Chicago, Federal Home Loan Bank and The Illinois Housing Development Authority, she implemented a home-buying program for individuals with developmental and physical disabilities. She has worked as a Special Project Advocate with the Illinois Life Span Project; met with families/guardians to explain the transition process and listen to their concerns as their family members’ transition into the community from State Operated Developmental Centers. She continues to share updated information with families, sell-advocates and providers through presentations and conferences so that they can be both an informed and effective advocate!

She currently serves on the Quality Care Board of Directors and various Department of Human Services Committees and is an active volunteer in both her community and church. She is the proud mother of an adult daughter (Tamekia), who lives in the community with supports. Her philosophy is, “everyone can succeed with the right supports!” She can be contacted at

Jennifer Phillips

Jennifer Phillips is an accomplished special education professional with more than 25 years of experience in classroom, recreational and residential settings. She is currently the Chief Executive Officer of Keshet.  She has extensive experience as an administrator, trainer, consultant and direct service provider. Phillips began her career with Keshet in 1994 as a one-on-one summer camp counselor. This experience motivated her to become a special education teacher and she subsequently spent 18 years teaching before leaving the classroom.  She most recently held the position of Chief Program Officer for Keshet and she oversaw all of Keshet’s service areas – Education, Recreation, Adult Programs, Residential and the Pritzker Pucker Inspire Center. Phillips was responsible for 340% growth in enrollment in Keshet’s camp and recreation programs over the past four years.  Her leadership contributed to Keshet’s model of inclusive summer camps with JCC Chicago to be recognized as an industry best practice. Phillips is regularly called upon by other camps and community centers for consultations and to lead trainings about inclusion. She believes in the power of inclusion and works tirelessly to ensure that people with disabilities have meaningful lives in their home communities. Phillips received a B.S. in Elementary Education and Special Education from National Lewis University. She is currently in the second year of the Masters in Jewish Professional Studies at Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership. Phillips lives in Highland Park with her husband, Scott, and two sons, all of whom are active volunteers and supporters of Keshet.  

Sara Riechert

Sara Riechert is an associate attorney with Chamberlin Law Group in Oak Brook, Illinois. Sara obtained a B.B.A. from the University of Cincinnati in 2003. She graduated from Salmon P. Chase College of Law in 2007 and was admitted to the bar in Ohio that same year. After relocating to Illinois, she became licensed to practice law in Illinois in 2011. Sara practices in the areas of estate planning, estate and trust administration, and guardianship. Prior to joining Chamberlin Law Group in January 2018, Sara primarily practiced in the area of family law in the western suburbs.

Carole Rosen

Carole is on the board of directors of Collaborative Community Housing Initiative, a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating inclusive housing solutions. She served as a Governor appointed member to The Illinois Council on Developmental Disabilities from 2014 until 2020, during which she was a member of its Executive Committee and chaired its Community Housing and Inclusion Committee. Her diverse background in advocacy includes currently serving on The Going Home Coalition, whose mission is to end the segregation of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities residing in Illinois state institutions. Additionally, she has served on New Trier Township’s Funding Committees and has organized community wide events promoting affordable, community-supported, inclusive, accessible housing. Her driving belief is that Community is strengthened by diversity and inclusion, and whether analyzed from an ethical or economic viewpoint, community housing and inclusive solutions for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities must evolve. In addition to having her Masters of Arts in Interior Design degree (MAID), she is a Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS) with additional course work in Universal Design through the National Association of Home Builders. She is also an award winning photographer, whose work has been featured in numerous regional and national photography exhibitions. Carole and her husband have a daughter with developmental disabilities, as  well as a son.

Benji Rubin

Attorney Benjamin (Benji) Rubin, Brian’s youngest son, Mitchell’s “little/big” brother, has been a member of the Law Firm since 2010. Benji graduated from the University of Illinois College of Law, Magna Cum Laude, received his undergraduate degree from Northwestern University, and his Graduate Law Degree, an LLM (Tax), with honors, also from Northwestern University. Benji is a member of the Academy of Special Needs Planners, a member, by invitation, of the Special Needs Alliance (the national not for profit association of special needs planning attorneys with membership by invitation only), is Chairman of the American Bar Association Special Needs Planning Committee, serves as the President of SIBS (Supporting Illinois Brothers and Sisters), the Illinois chapter of the national Sibling Leadership Network, an organization of adult siblings of individuals with intellectual disabilities, developmental disabilities and/or mental illness. Benji is a member and officer (Treasurer) of the Board of Directors of The Arc of Illinois, is a member of the Clearbrook Associate Board, an organization serving more than 8,000 individuals with disabilities, including his brother, Mitchell, serves on the Board of Directors of DayOne PACT, which serves as Trustee of Special Needs Trusts as well as Guardian for individuals with intellectual disabilities, developmental disabilities and/or mental illness, serves on the Board of Directors of the Foundation of The Special Education District of Lake County (SEDOL Foundation), serves on the Advisory Council of Encompass (Encompass in partnership with Jewish Child & Family Services, Jewish United Fund, JVS Chicago, JCC Chicago, Keshet, and The Center for Enriched Living and Center for Independent Futures). Benji is also a Faculty Member for the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education (IICLE) on the topic of special needs planning, as well as a Speaker for the American Bar Association and the Illinois State Bar Association on those topics. Having Mitchell as a brother profoundly shaped who Benji is today, and thus the type of law he chose to practice. His personal experiences as a sibling offer a unique perspective into the responsibilities that come with caring for a sibling with special needs. Now as an adult, those sometimes present and future responsibilities he has regarding his brother’s care are a concern that he shares with all brothers and sisters of individuals with special needs.

Brian Rubin

Attorney Brian Rubin, the founder of Rubin Law, a former IRS Agent and former IRS Attorney, has been a practicing attorney since 1976, has been married to his wife Linda for the past 42 years, is the parent of three children (41, 38, and 34), one of whom, Mitchell, has Autism. Brian’s law practice, for nearly four decades, since 1982, when Mitchell was one year old, has been dedicated to serving the legal and future planning needs of his fellow Illinois families of children and adults with intellectual disabilities, developmental disabilities, and/or mental illness.  Brian is the Immediate Past President (2017-2018) of the Special Needs Alliance, the national, non-profit, association of experienced special needs planning attorneys (membership is by invitation only), served on the Special Needs Law Section Steering Committee of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, was a Charter Member of the Academy of Special Needs Planners, and is a Faculty Member and Text Book Author for the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education (IICLE) on the topic of special needs legal and future planning, as well as a Speaker for the American Bar Association and the Illinois State Bar Association on those topics. Brian has been elected as a Fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel (ACTEC) and has received the highest attorney rating from Martindale-Hubbell, AV® Preeminent™, and AVVO’s highest attorney rating of Top Attorney.  Brian is a Past President of The Arc of Illinois (2007-2011), served on The Arc of Illinois Board for 15 years (2004-2019), is a Past Chairman of the State of Illinois Statewide Advisory Council on Developmental Disabilities (2002-2004), is the Immediate Past Chairman of the State of Illinois Autism Task Force (Chairman 2005-2015) established by the Illinois Legislature in 2005, serves as a member of the State of Illinois Guardianship & Advocacy Commission since 2013, served on the State of Illinois Department of Human Services Office of Inspector General Quality Care Board for 6 years, among many other State of Illinois Committees and Commissions.  Brian has been a member of the Board of Directors of Clearbrook (an organization serving more than 8,000 individuals with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities, including his son, Mitchell) since 1989, is a member of the Board of Trustees of Life’s Plan, Inc. which serves as Trustee of both Pooled Special Needs Trust and individual Special Needs Trusts, is a member (Past Chairman) of the Board of Directors of the Special Leisure Services Foundation, the foundation supporting the Northwest Suburban Special Recreation Association (NWSRA), served as the founding Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Foundation of The Special Education District of Lake County (SEDOL Foundation), served on the Board of Directors of KESHET (Jewish Parents of Children with Special Needs), serves on the Advisory Council of Encompass (Encompass in partnership with Jewish Child & Family Services, Jewish United Fund, JVS Chicago, JCC Chicago, Keshet, and The Center for Enriched Living and Center for Independent Futures), served for 7 years on the Board of Directors of Pact, Inc., now known as DayOne Pact, which serves as Trustee of Special Needs Trusts as well as Guardian for individuals with intellectual disabilities, developmental disabilities and/or mental illness, and served on the Board of Directors of Northpointe Resources, also an agency serving individuals with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities.

Linda Sandman

Linda Sandman has over 30 years of clinical experience working with adults with disabilities, including mental health, intellectual and developmental disabilities (ID/DD). She is an experienced trainer and consultant to agencies and organizations working with people with disabilities. Linda is passionate about promoting inclusion and full participation in community life for people with disabilities. She is bilingual (Spanish/English) and bicultural and is also deeply committed to promoting diversity and empowerment for all.

Sherri Schneider

For over 35 years, Sherri Schneider, President of Family Benefit Solutions, Inc., QIDP, and the mother of a child with some special needs, has been tirelessly dedicated to helping individuals with special needs and their families to obtain and maintain the government benefits they so desperately need (including SSI, SSD- Medicaid, Medicare, SNAP…etc.).  Her vast experience has enabled her to establish and maintain open, productive relationships with the government agencies involved in the entire decision-making process.  Families and professionals find her interactive workshops to be invaluable as they attempt to navigate the government benefit arena.  Sherri is also a member of the faculty of the IICLE (Illinois Institute of Continuing Legal Education) and is the Board President of The Arc of Illinois.

Michelle Schwartz

Michelle Schwartz, Clearbrook Transition Outreach Specialist, has provided outreach to students in Special Education moving from secondary education to adulthood in Chicago and the greater Chicagoland area since 2010. Through collaboration and outreach to parents, school personnel, and area programs, Schwartz provides much needed linkage to information and resources to help navigate students post high school transition, including access to the service delivery system in IL. Schwartz supports students with intellectual/developmental disabilities with linkage to appropriate funding and program resources to help them lead satisfying lives in the communities where they live. Schwartz holds a B.A. in Psychology from DePauw University, post B.A. internship at the University of Chicago Orthogenic School, and coursework in Educational Psychology at the University of Chicago. Prior to providing Transition Outreach Services, Schwartz spent 18 years at a community agency in Chicago where she last served as Dir of Day and Residential Services for Adults with Intellecutal/Developmental Disabilities.

Shira Schwartz

Shira Raviv Schwartz has been a classroom teacher working with diverse learners for over 25 years. Her background in Structured Word Inquiry and certification as a SLANT (Orton Gillingham) reading specialist, strong classroom management skills, and clear grasp on social/emotional and behavioral issues in students have informed her advocacy work. Shira has a keen understanding of the supports needed for students struggling with dyslexia, autism, intellectual disability, executive functioning, anxiety, ADHD, SLD, developmental delay, emotional and behavioral challenges. Shira is the mother of 3 children, her youngest, who is profoundly dyslexic has been in and out of 7 schools before the age of 11 and is now a high school junior working towards independence. Through her personal and professional experience as an educator and advocate and having worked in a myriad of school settings, Shira has developed a solid understanding of students’ needs, knows how to obtain educational services and supports for struggling students, and can provide ideas and strategies that parents can use to be their child’s best advocate. When not advocating in over a dozen school districts, Shira serves on the board of Everyone Reading Illinois (formerly the Illinois Dyslexia Association) and is active in working on legislation in the areas of special education, dyslexia and diversity/inclusion at the state level.

Barry Taylor

Barry Taylor is the Vice President for Civil Rights and Systemic Litigation at Equip for Equality, where he has worked since 1996. At Equip for Equality, he has overseen many individual and systemic disability discrimination cases including successful federal ADA suits against the National Board of Medical Examiners, the Chicago Police Department, and the Chicago Transit Authority. He is currently co-counsel in seven class actions, including lead counsel in Ligas v. Norwood, providing community services to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Prior to coming to Equip for Equality, Barry was the AIDS Project Attorney in the Midwest Regional Office of Lambda Legal working to advance the civil rights of people living with HIV/AIDS. From 1988 – 1993, Barry was a litigation associate at the Chicago law firm of Peterson & Ross. He is a 1988 graduate of the University of Illinois College Law, where he also received his undergraduate degree in 1985. 

Chris Viau

Chris Viau’s work straddles the line between abstract and representational. This is due to his planned, yet dynamic, brush and line work. Upon first glance, one sees a blend of colors and textures that reveal themselves as lush landscapes or weathered coastlines. “My favorite thing about being an artist is I can let my wild imagination show. The images that inspire me are landscapes. I feel that making landscapes is the best way to show my talent as an artist. Mostly I use watercolors for the background. I use pastel, acrylic, or colored pencils to give my artwork detail.” Viau approaches art-making with a high level of enthusiasm and is eager to experiment with new techniques. In addition to painting, he is a published poet. His first book, Chicago Seasons, was published in 2011. His second, Being in Harmony with Nature, was published in 2015. Viau’s art has been featured on studio merchandise, local galleries, and the Arts of Life partner, He also acts as the studio archivist, cataloging the many pieces of art produced in the studio. “In five years, I see myself as a role model for young adults with disabilities. I will most likely still be doing art and writing poems.

Susan Walter

Susan Walter is an independent transition consultant. She recently retired from the Multi-Tiered Systems of Supports (MTSS) Network, administered by Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE). Prior to merging with the Network, Susan was the Statewide Transition Consultant for the ISBE, Special Education Services Division and worked in that capacity from 2007 through 2014. Prior to this position she was the Training and Technical Assistance Coordinator for the Transition Outreach Training for Adult Living Project (TOTAL) and the Illinois Systems Change Transition Project, both of which were federal secondary transition grants administered by the Illinois State Board of Education. Over the past 20 years, she has developed a variety of transition-related training materials including person-centered planning, self-determination, transition-focused IEP’s and collaborative teaming and has traveled around the state to reach educators, parents, students and community providers. Most importantly, Susan is the parent of a young adult who has a disability that requires significant supports and services and she adds that perspective to enhance her work.

Anne Ward

Anne Ward is Director of Publications for High Tide Press. High Tide publishes books and media for leaders and practitioners at every level in Human Services. In 2020, we published A New Plan: Using Positive Psychology to Renew the Promise of Person-Centered Planning for People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. In 2021, we are introducing an application for phones and tablets so that every person can have their plan—including their most important goals—available to them at any time.

Rachel Weisberg

Rachel Weisberg is an experienced disability rights attorney who has represented hundreds of clients in individual and systemic disability discrimination cases under Titles I, II and III of the ADA, and analogous state and local laws. Rachel enjoys providing in-depth client counseling services, as well as direct advocacy services through negotiation and representation in administrative and judicial forums. Rachel also manages EFE’s Employment Rights Helpline, which aims to expand employment opportunities by providing legal and practical advice to applicants and individuals with disabilities. Rachel is a frequent trainer on the disability rights laws and speaks regularly at national conferences and webinars. Prior to Equip for Equality, Rachel worked for the Illinois Attorney General’s Office, Sidley Austin LLP, and clerked in the Northern District of Ohio. Before law school, Rachel worked as an ADA technical assistance specialist at the Mid-Atlantic ADA Center, and during law school interned with EFE and the Disability Rights Section of the U.S. Department of Justice. Rachel is a graduate of Northwestern University School of Law and the University of Michigan.

Laurie Williams

Laurie is the founder and president of Collaborative Community Housing Initiative. Laurie and her husband Rick have one adult son Zachary, who inspired Laurie to form CCHI. Laurie is leading this grassroots movement for inclusive living options with a group of volunteer families and stakeholders throughout the country.   By collaborating with educators, organizations, housing specialists  and urban planners, CCHI is encouraging public dialogue regarding inclusion, as well as creating space for community problem solving regarding affordable housing for people with I/DD.   By researching and visiting various living models around the world, Laurie learned that creating neighborhoods where everyone can thrive is possible!  Laurie is  committed to building a more equal, diverse, inclusive and welcoming community for people of all abilities.  In addition to working full time as a Corporate HR Director and Recruiter, Laurie is involved in the National Fragile X Association as an event organizer, speaker and mentor. 

Susy Woods

Susy Woods is the Public Policy and Education Liaison for the Illinois Assistive Technology Program. In this job she attends I.E.P. meetings with families to support them and is a lobbyist at the state level for several disability groups including I.A.T.P., the Arc of Illinois, Social Workers, Gifted Ed, March of Dimes, and Community Schools.  She also does trainings for both schools and parent groups on IEPs, Assistive Technology, Transition, and Sex Ed. She has been involved in disability advocacy for 34 years and has also worked in Early Intervention and as Director of Disability Services at the University of Illinois Springfield.  She has a master’s degree in Women’s Issues and Public Policy where her research was on Sexual Abuse against Women with Disabilities and Public Policy and a doctorate in Educational leadership, concentrating on the way female students with developmental disabilities are educated.  She is past chair of the Illinois State Advisory Council on Special Education and continues to serve on the Council as chair of legislation and comprehensive withdrawal, public policy chair on The Arc of Illinois board, public policy chair and past president of Impact CIL, program chair on the Statewide Illinois Transition Conference, legislative chair of NAMI SW and serves on the Illinois Imagines state team. She has a son with a developmental disability and health issues and a granddaughter with a psychological disability. Susy has attended numerous trainings over the years to stay on top of changes in the law and best practices. She also does numerous tranings each year on both educational rights and sex education and why it is important and necessary for both parents and professionals. She has done training not only for schools and staff and parents but also for such groups as Department on Aging, DRS staff, and Public Health departments.

The views and content expressed by the speakers during this convention are those of the individual providing them in their individual capacities only – not necessarily of The Arc of Illinois. All liability with respect to actions taken or not taken based on the contents of this convention are hereby expressly disclaimed by The Arc of Illinois.

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