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.

Janice Bradford

Janice Bradford is a Vocational Rehabilitation Supervisor located at the East Washington office in Phoenix, Arizona. She has been employed with VR for 23 years. Her career with VR started as a VR counselor with the SMI population at the behavioral health clinics, and she became a supervisor in 2014. Janice has a background in special education teaching, independent living skills, job coaching, creating enclaves for DDD programs, regional occupational programs in California, and job development and placement. She is passionate about the success of all people with disabilities being successfully employed and self-sufficient.
Janice has a BA in Special Education and a master’s degree in Special Education and Rehabilitation Counseling .

Melissa Van Hook

Melissa Van Hook is an Arizona native and an Arizona State University graduate
with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology. She is the owner of ASD Maverick
Consulting, a business where the focus is to improve the outcomes for individuals
with autism, particularly in achieving competitive, integrated employment.
Melissa has 22 years of experience in the world of autism and other disabilities. A
Co-Founder of East Valley Autism Network and the Chair for the Arizona
Developmental Disabilities Planning Council, Melissa has worked closely with
others in the autism community to pass several key pieces of legislation, including
the autism insurance bill, Steven’s Law, in 2008.

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