Group: Speakers

Abraham Venegas

Abraham Venegas, BA (they/him) is a graduate student at the University of Arizona seeking an MA in Library & Information Studies. He came back to school after graduating in 2019 as a Latin American Studies and History major from California State University, Los Angeles. He was born and raised in Los Angeles and excited for his move to Tucson for graduate school. Abraham is a Sonoran Center Diversity Fellow working on the DISCAPAZ: Disability Experiences in the Borderlands project.

Laura Nadine Dooley

Accomplished musician, educator, and autism advocate Laura Nadine Dooley understands firsthand the struggles and triumphs of living with autism. She has spent over 15 years advocating for a neurodiverse educational model after she and her son were diagnosed with ASD in 2006. She developed an approach for teaching music to students with various learning profiles and invented a MusicBoard, inspired by facilitated communication, to make composition and music theory accessible to non-speaking students.

Laura runs Enlightened Audio, an online and in-person hybrid music school with a mission to make music education accessible. She has self-published two books, recorded various albums, and was the main subject of the biographical documentary, The Shadow Listener: A Voice for Autism, directed by John Schaefer. She also composes music for films, including the Astoria Zuker Award-winning documentary LISTEN. Laura continues to post on her blog, The Shadow Listener, where she provides the layered perspective of someone living with autism, teaching autistic students, and raising a son with autism––what she calls a ”3 Shoes Perspective”.

Visit Laura’s website

Brooke Brown

Brooke Brown is a persistent AAC and disability advocate as Ms. Wheelchair Arizona 2022 and State Coordinator for Ms. Wheelchair America. She earned a bachelors degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from ASU where she received the Walter Cronkite Outstanding Undergraduate Award. She a Christian author of three books. Brooke has been asked to speak to many organizations and at community events, sharing her life experiences with cerebral palsy to inspire others. She also runs a creative storytelling ministry called Brooke’s Butterfly Touch, which teaches storytelling techniques to inspire hope and healing from hardships, while eliminating stigmas and misconceptions of people with disabilities.

Judith Schoonover

Judith Schoonover, MEd, OTR/L, ATP, FAOTA is an OT and former teacher. A nationally and internationally recognized speaker, Judith presents on school-based occupational therapy, transition, literacy, play, and assistive technology, and has authored numerous articles and chapters. She is passionate about creating accessibility solutions from easily found materials. Judith serves on the National Joint Committee (NJC) for the Communication Needs of Persons with Severe Disabilities; she is a Strand Advisor for The Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA) and is a managing editor for the Assistive Technology Outcomes and Benefits Journal. Judith is a recent recipient of the Joy Zabala Spirit Award.

Ann Knettler

Ann currently Directs the Center for Disability Resources (CDR) and is the ADA & 504 Compliance Officer at Delaware State University, she also teaches in their Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership and Masters of Public Administration Programs. As a member of the Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD), Ann has served on the Standing Committee for Professional Development and currently represents the Association as a member of the Board of Directors for the Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education (CAS) where she has co-authored and updated policy and standards for the entire field of higher education and currently sits on their Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee.  She is a published researcher and experienced educator.  Ann regularly presents and consults at the national level on topics such as ableism, able-body privilege, assessment and the use of data as an advocacy tool, the high school to college and college to career transition for students with disabilities, disability policy reform, strategic planning, creating and using policy and standards as guidance in the non-profit field, program review, community needs assessment, and the social justice model of disability.  

Her research interests include Independent Living Theory, EEO policy and policy reform, crisis management, the legal relationship between equity and access, the social justice model of disability, use of technology to increase access, the breadth and depth of diversity and inclusion, and fostering inclusion and collaboration in communities.  Ann received a Masters of Arts in Counseling in Higher Education with an emphasis in Mental Health from the University of Delaware and a Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership in Higher Education from Delaware State University. Her dissertation focuses on the lived experiences of ableism and able-body privilege by students with disabilities in higher education and the impact that experience has on their receipt of an accessible and equitable education.

Cody Clark

During our networking reception on Wednesday evening, magician and disability advocate Cody Clark will be preforming.

Using his experience with autism, Cody takes a personalized approach to his shows to ensure everyone feels included, combining the art of magic with a message that our differences are nothing to be scared of, but simply a different way of thinking.

Erika Palm

Erika N. Palm, PhD, MA, CCC-SLP has practiced as a Speech-Language Pathologist since 1999 in home, school, and clinic settings. She currently works for the Institute of Human Development providing Early Intervention services in Arizona, including on the Navajo Nation. Erika earned her PhD in Interdisciplinary Health in May of 2023. Her research interests include a variety of topics focusing on health equity and disability. In her newly reacquired free time, Erika enjoys hiking, playing the piano, knitting, gardening, and spending time with her two children.

Virginia Thompson

Ms. Thompson is the Director of Cross Disabilities with Arizona Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired. She has a Master’s Degree in Rehabilitation Counseling from the University of Arizona. She has over 20 years of experience in working with a wide range of disabilities, both in the private and government sector as a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor, Vocational Evaluator, Assistive Technology Specialist, and Special Support Provider for the CVHL population. In addition, Ms. Thompson has worked as a presenter with a focus on Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and CVHL with an emphasis on embracing differences and the richness of each culture, in addition to addressing assistive technology to address barriers.

Megan Viesselman

Megan is the Training Coordinator with the Arizona Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired. She is experienced in presenting on disability inclusion, etiquette, and assistive technology for a wide spectrum of disabilities.

Mo Buti

With over 32 years of experience, Mo is a practiced professional in the field of disabilities providing services and support to those with disabilities, their families & schools. She managed autism programs/services for over 6,000 students as Director of Autism & Intellectual Disabilities at Chicago Public Schools. She was also a special education teacher, autism itinerant, and special education administrator. Mo possesses a M.Ed-BD, M.Ed-ADMIN, QIDP certification, Director of Special Education degree/certificate from Illinois and her Type 75 Administrator certification. Mo is a dynamic, international speaker and well-respected authority on autism, intellectual disabilities, behavioral strategies, educational strategies, & more!

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