ABILITY Event Conference

  • Senator Harkin
  • two women
  • sygall
  • steve
  • Joseph Jones


Embracing the Difference Globally: The ABILITY Event

July 26-Aug. 28, 2020  (Virtual)

30 Days of 30 Years

Five weeks with Five Themes

Embracing the Difference Globally: The ABILITY Event is a student led conference that the St. Cloud State University Rehabilitation Studies Program hosts every year.  Metropolitan State and Hamline University are partners for this event.

We are so excited to be able to invite our partners from around the globe! We are celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act by bringing you 30 awesome events for 30 days! Starting on July 26 until Aug. 28 we will have national and international speakers covering a wide array of topics on disability rights.

Register Today

This conference will be completely online. To view any of the 30 presentations, reference the registration button above. Please note that you only need to register once and you can attend all events for FREE. We will also be offering CRC CEU's at no additional cost!

Please join us Sunday-Friday for a month of FREE knowledge, professionalism and fun!

Day One Kickoff Event - 9 a.m. Sunday, July 26

Keynote - Senator Tom Harkin (ret.)

Tom HarkinIn 1974, Tom Harkin was elected to Congress from Iowa's Fifth Congressional District. His energetic, person-to-person campaign carried the day against an incumbent in a long- standing Republican district. In 1984, after serving 10 years in the U.S. House of Representatives, Senator Harkin challenged an incumbent senator and won. Iowans returned him to the Senate in 1990, 1996, 2002, and 2008. Senator Harkin made history by becoming the first Iowa Democrat to win a consecutive second term in the U.S. Senate, and to date is the longest serving elected Democrat in Congress in Iowa history. He retired from the United States Senate in January 2015.

As a young senator, Tom was tapped by Senator Ted Kennedy to craft legislation to protect the civil rights of millions of Americans with physical and mental disabilities. He knew firsthand about the challenges facing people with disabilities from his late brother, Frank, who was deaf from an early age. What emerged from that process would later become his signature legislative achievement — The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The ADA has become known as the "Emancipation Proclamation for people with disabilities." The legislation changed the landscape of America by requiring buildings and transportation to be wheelchair accessible, and to provide workplace accommodations for people with disabilities. To preserve the intent of the ADA after several court rulings weakened its standards, Senator Harkin and Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) introduced the ADA Amendments bill to ensure continuing protections from discrimination for all Americans with disabilities. It was signed into law in September 2008. For his ongoing and dedicated work to people with disabilities around the world, Senator Harkin was twice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

In September 2009, Senator Harkin became chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee. As chairman, he played a critical role in the passage of the Affordable Care Act. In 2015, Senator Harkin and Ruth Harkin established The Harkin Institute for Public Policy & Citizen Engagement at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, to inform citizens, inspire creative cooperation, and catalyze change on issues of social justice, fairness, and opportunity. The Institute works to improve the lives of all Americans by giving policymakers access to high quality information and engaging citizens as active participants in the formation of public policy.

Tom Harkin was born in Cumming, Iowa (pop. 150) on November 19, 1939, the son of an Iowa coal miner father and a Slovenian immigrant mother. To this day, he still lives in the house in Cumming where he was born. In 1968, Tom married Ruth Raduenz, the daughter of a farmer and a school teacher from Minnesota. Tom and Ruth have two daughters, Amy and Jenny, and four grandchildren.

Keynote - Elise Knopf

Elise Knopf pictureElise Knopf is the Rehabilitation Area Manager for the St. Paul Deaf and Hard of Hearing team within Vocational Rehabilitation Services (VRS) under the state of Minnesota’s Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED). She supervises a team of 13 staff, including six Rehabilitation Counselors that provide employment services for people who are deaf or hard of hearing in the seven county metropolitan area. One of the counselors covers southeastern Minnesota and the Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf (MSAD). Elise also provides technical assistance, support and guidance to VRS Administration and staff regarding the provision of quality vocational rehabilitation services to participants that are deaf or hard of hearing statewide.

She has her Master of Arts in Rehabilitation Counseling from Gallaudet University and her Bachelor of Arts in History, with a minor in Women’s Studies from Cornell College. She worked with U.S. Senator Tom Harkin, both in his Washington, DC office and at the Subcommittee on Disability Policy, as a Legislative Correspondent, during the passage of the ADA and has over 30 years of experience in a variety of educational, employment, state, federal and non-profit settings. Elise is also a graduate of the Emerging Leaders’ Institute with the state of Minnesota.

Emcee - Joseph Jones

Joseph JonesJoseph Jones serves as Executive Director for The Harkin Institute for Public Policy & Citizen Engagement. The Institute offers nonpartisan programming, experiences, research, and connectivity focused on the areas that defined the career of Senator Tom Harkin (Retired): people with disabilities, retirement security, wellness and nutrition, and labor and employment.

Before joining The Harkin Institute in 2016, Joseph was Senior Vice President of Government Relations and Public Policy for the Greater Des Moines Partnership.

Prior to moving back to Iowa to join the Partnership team, Joseph served as a Legislative Assistant to Senator Tom Harkin in Washington, D.C. He was responsible for the Senator’s defense appropriations work as well as the full range of military and veterans issues. Additionally, he focused on the Senator’s other appropriations work, housing issues, and advised the Senator on small business and trade. Prior to that, Joseph served as Director of Governmental Affairs for the Iowa Finance Authority; and was the Senior Communications Specialist for Governor Tom Vilsack’s administration. Before that, he was the Chief of Staff and Education Director for Creative Visions Human Development Institute, a non-profit organization targeting at-risk youth in Central Iowa.

In the area of politics, Joseph served as the Iowa Political Director for the 2008 Obama campaign for president and is a past Political Director for the Iowa Democratic Party. Joseph was elected to the Windsor Heights City Council in 2017.

Joseph has engaged in a career-long commitment to public service through volunteerism. He serves on the Board of Directors for the Iowa Association of Business and Industry Foundation, Mid-Iowa Health Foundation, and Greater Des Moines Community Foundation. Joseph is a Trustee on the American Council of Young Political Leaders Board of Trustees. He is a graduate of Leadership Iowa and was named to the Business Record’s “Forty Under 40” Class of 2009. He is currently an active volunteer with Iowa Radio Reading Information Service (IRIS) and Everybody Wins! Iowa.

Joseph is a graduate of the United States Military Academy Preparatory School and earned his BBA in economics from Loyola University New Orleans. He earned a Master of Public Administration degree in public policy and a Certificate in Non-Profit Leadership and Administration from Drake University. In 2014, he was presented Drake’s Distinguished MPA Alumnus Award. He is a graduate of Air Command and Staff College and is also a Fellow of the Truman National Security Project. Currently, Joseph is a doctoral student at Drake University, pursing an EdD in Educational Leadership and in 2018 was the Executive in Residence at the University of Iowa’s College of Public Health.

Joseph is a native of Shreveport, Louisiana. In his free time, he enjoys traveling, reading, cooking, and engaging in international citizen diplomacy and governance. Although Joseph has visited dozens of countries and nearly all 50 states, he is most proud of seeing all of Iowa’s 99 counties. He follows national security issues closely and finds time to spend with his pet tortoise, Matilda, and Newfie, Toula Marie.

President Robbyn Wacker

President Wacker pictureRobbyn Wacker is the 24th president of St. Cloud State University. She began her tenure July 1, 2018.

Wacker is an experienced administrator and a tenured professor with a reputation for leadership of strategic initiatives, encouraging innovation, and advancing student enrollment, retention, and success.

She came to St. Cloud from the University of Northern Colorado (UNC) where she had been serving since 1990 in several capacities — including as provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs and senior campaign advisor in the Office of Development and Alumni Relations.
Wacker holds a doctorate in sociology from Iowa State University, and a master’s and a bachelor’s degree in gerontology from the University of Northern Colorado.

She was selected by the Harvard Graduate School of Education to attend its Management Development Program for leaders in higher education, and she has completed the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) Executive Leadership Academy.

Steve Anderson

Steve Anderson pictureSteve works as the Director of Disability Resources at Hamline University in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Steve works to provide reasonable accommodations and support to students with disabilities. Steve came to Hamline University in September 2014 from Minneapolis Community & Technical College, where he worked as a Disability Specialist. Prior to his work at MCTC, he worked for over 13 years for a non-profit agency that provided vocational and life skills training to adults with a wide range of disabilities. Steve received his Bachelors of Science from Mankato State University in 1988 with a degree in Mass Communications and a minor in Theatre Arts. After graduation from MSU, he worked for an educational theatre company in St. Paul as an Actor/Educator for five years. Steve currently serves as Chair of the Board of Directors for Upstream Arts in Minneapolis.

Five Weekly Themes

Weekly Themes

Week 1: Advancing Disability Rights during the ADA
Week 2: Advancing Disability Rights in the United States
Week 3: Advancing Disability Rights within Black, Brown and Indigenous Communities
Week 4: Advancing Disability Rights Globally
Week 5: Advancing Disability Rights in the State of Minnesota

Themed Session Descriptions and Speakers

Interfaith Reflections and Meditations - Sundays at 9:00 a.m.

The Sunday five week sessions on “Interfaith Reflections and Meditations” will be hosted by faith leaders from the disability community. Each week a faith leader will facilitate a shared community prayer, meditation and/or reflection. Join us to learn more of our communities of faith by hearing the passionate testimonies each week from each leader.

Rev. Calvin Peterson pictureRev. Calvin Peterson’s life was and is filled with challenges. He was the first African American male born with a severe disability, confined to a wheelchair to graduate from high school. His classes were not accessible since many were on the third and fourth floors. Later, Calvin persuaded the State of Georgia to send him to New York where he graduated from Long Island University. The overwhelming challenges he faced to complete his education and other challenges in his life are documented in his autobiography “Nothing Is Impossible”.

Rev. Calvin Peterson was inspired by many people in his life. His grandfather’s commitment to him was one of the reasons Calvin has a burning desire to inspire other disabled, impoverished youth to stay in school. He also wants them to attain employment greater than employment limited to sources such as the Good Will Industry. It saddens Rev. Peterson to know that 30 percent or more of the students drop out of school before they reach 12th grade. Overall, only a third of Georgia’s students finished high school in 2011. Having graduated from all levels of education, Rev. Peterson feels his life and experiences can help change the perspectives and mindsets of disabled and all students, their parents, and caregivers. This can give them additional tools to plan for their future in education and acquiring legal income.

Oshin Jennings pictureRev. Ōshin Jennings is a Deaf Buddhist monk, perhaps the first of his kind, and he has made it his personal mission to use his experiences as a Deaf and disabled practitioner to make the Buddhist teachings and meditation accessible to everyone, especially those with historically limited access.

Ōshin uses his more than 20 years of formal Zen Buddhist training, along with his experiences as a psychotherapist and artist to create warm, dynamic, and inclusive practice spaces that are supportive of all minds and bodies. He was ordained in 2009 in the White Plum lineage of Soto Zen Buddhism. In 2015 he founded No Barriers Zen, a meditation community and social justice organization found online and in the Washington, D.C. metro area. He speaks and leads retreats nationally and internationally, as well as facilitates workshops on meditation, mental health, and creativity, especially where these three intersect.

Ōshin looks forward to connecting and partnering with you to continue to build accessible, inclusive, and equitable spaces.


Jerry Wellik pictureQigong Master Jerry Wellik has been practicing Spring Forest Qigong (SFQ) since 2000. He taught in the Special Education Department at St. Cloud State University (SCSU) for forty years and is currently Professor Emeritus of Education at SCSU. He leads or co-leads several SFQ Practice Groups in the St. Cloud area and is now teaching SFQ in conjunction with the Confucius Institute at SCSU.

Jerry has completed all five levels of SFQ and is Certified Instructor of SFQ Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3. He was awarded Qigong Master in 2015 by Grand Master Chunyi Lin. He is a frequent presenter at conferences and a variety of educational and community venues, joyfully sharing his love and wisdom that has been so central in his life since beginning to learn and practice SFQ.

Wally Waranka pictureMeet Wally Waranka. He’s Lifetrack’s longest Employment Specialist in our Employment for People with Disabilities program and last year he celebrated his 20th anniversary with us.

"As a person with a disability, I struggle a lot with technology. I am thankful that Lifetrack supports and respects me as an individual. They make sure I have everything I needed in order to be a successful Employment Specialist. The experiences I received at Lifetrack are what I want my clients to have, too. I find employers who can support and respect my clients as individuals, and not just as people with disabilities."

Wally’s day-to-day as an Employment Specialist varies depending on the clients. He meets with his clients twice a month for checkups on jobs, conflicts, questions, concerns, and help to resolve issues. Wally helps his clients to be successful by finding ways to help them grow, improve, and find the strengths to advance in life.

“For employees with disabilities, it’s hard for them to move out from entry level jobs and it’s my job to help them advance and gain new opportunities. I love giving advice on how to advance, gain new opportunities, and overcome their disability obstacles. It’s not about me but it’s about what I can to help inspired, motivate, to get others to move and change their lives and make a difference. I am not here to do it for them but to help them get motivated and move forward.”

Wally always encourages his clients to volunteer because it is valuable to employers and they can find more fulfillment in themselves and learn to appreciate their community.

ABILITY x - Mondays at 9 a.m.


The Monday series “ABILITYx” will feature extraordinary individuals with disabilities, or who work to advance the rights of those with disabilities, who are change agents in the world. Each individual presenter has a unique story to share of their own life journey of becoming who they are and what their vision is for making a difference in the world and a better place for all.

Dr. Berberi pictureTammy Berberi, Ph.D., is an associate professor of French at the University of Minnesota Morris and past president of the Society for Disability Studies. A compassionate and student-centered advocate with more than twenty years of experience, Berberi presents and consults on issues related to campus transformation toward better experiences for disabled students and others who have been underserved in higher education. At Morris, Berberi has served as director of the Honors Program and interim director of the Office of Equity, Diversity & Intercultural Programs. Along with collaborators, she was recently awarded “Dreaming Up the Change Disability Makes,” a grant to develop programming in critical disability studies at the University of Minnesota. She is also a team member for the Morris Intercultural Education Initiative. In 2019, Berberi received the University of Minnesota President’s Award for Outstanding Service.

Anastasia Somoza pictureAnastasia Somoza, known to her friends as Tas, began her advocacy work in 1993, when, at the age of 9, she had the opportunity to ask President Bill Clinton to help mainstream her twin sister Alba into the New York City public school system. Anastasia is now leading the inclusion revolution as a human rights defender, speaker, and consultant. On the first night of the 2016 Democratic National Convention, she gave a moving speech about her relationship with Hillary Clinton and Americans with disabilities. Following her appearance at the DNC, Anastasia traveled the country as a surrogate speaker for the Hillary for America campaign. As a passionate advocate for women’s rights, she has received both the Martha H. Ziegler Founders Award (2017) from the Federation for Children with Special Needs, and the Susan B. Anthony Award (2016) from the National Organization for Women. She recorded an interview for Lena Dunham's Women of the Hour podcast, and spoke at Laugh Your Pantsuit Off, a comedy fundraiser, hosted by Ana Gasteyer and Amy Poehler. Anastasia’s international advocacy has brought her to China, where she works to eliminate the abandonment of babies and children with disabilities. The goal of this work is to open a Parent Education and Resource Center that teaches parents in China about children with disabilities and how to care for, nurture, and love them. In March of 2017, she began working with the Center for American Progress to raise awareness about what is at stake for Americans with disabilities in the Trump era, with a focus on healthcare, Medicaid, and poverty alleviation. She ended the year on a high note by joining the company of Off-Broadway's Addy & Uno—off-Broadway's first family musical comedy to celebrate disability, friendship, and kindness— as the show's Consulting Producer.

Jane Dunhamn pictureJane Dunhamn jdunhamn@blackdisability.org

Ms. Dunhamn’s experience in disability related fields spans 50 years. For the past two decades, her work has focused on the intersections of race and disability. She is the founding member and Director of the National Black Disability Coalition. (NBDC)

In her role of Director of NBDC Ms. Dunhamn spearheaded initiatives to establish Black Disability Studies, mentor family members, provide employment references and opportunities for Black disabled individuals, international internships, network with incarcerated youth programs, an intermediary for an ADA lawsuit, support for community Black disabled organizations and provide education, information and referrals for Black disabled people and their families.

NBDC has developed curriculum to promote a more accurate and complex understanding of Black disabled people and their evolution in historical contexts of the United States. Black Disability Studies will create and promote resources for research of much needed study on the Black Disabled experience. Jane is a past board member for the Society for Disability Studies (SDS), the academic arm of disability and served as co-chair of the SDS People of Color Caucus.

Ms. Dunhamn served as Project Manager for Council on Developmental Disabilities where she coordinated the first Partners and Policymaking program. Partners is a national program that teaches best practices in all areas of disability to enable family members the expertise to work with legislators in policymaking decisions that impact their lives.

Ms. Dunhamn also served two terms as a member of the New Jersey State Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (NJ SAC) Ms. Dunhamn, as Sub-Committee Chair, convened experts from the disability and criminal justice communities to provide testimony about the need for and status of accommodations to inmates with non-apparent disabilities in the New Jersey Department of Corrections.

A past member of Black Issues Convention (BIC) she successfully advocated for disability issues within both BIC and the NAACP. In 2009, at her behest, a BIC Board Member and State Senate Leader championed legislation to establish an annual review by the Department of Human Services to study disability related disparities to minority communities. The bill passed into Public Law on January 29, 2015.

Ms. Dunhamn, a nationally recognized speaker, has served in a professional capacity for numerous national organizations including the U.S. Women's Bureau, the Employment and Training Administration, National Federation of the Blind and United Cerebral Palsy Association. She has also lectured at universities, including, Rutgers University, Princeton University, San Diego State, New York University, and University of California.

Ms. Dunhamn now lives in Fayetteville, North Carolina. She is the single parent of an adult daughter with a developmental disability who lives in Arlington, Virginia and is employed by the US Department of Labor.

Steve AndersonSteven Anderson

Steve works as the Director of Disability Resources at Hamline University in Saint Paul, MN. Steve works to provide reasonable accommodations and support to students with disabilities. Steve came to Hamline University in September 2014 from Minneapolis Community & Technical College, where he worked as a Disability Specialist. Prior to his work at MCTC, he worked for over 13 years for a non-profit agency that provided vocational and life skills training to adults with a wide range of disabilities. Steve received his Bachelors of Science from Mankato State University in 1988 with a degree in Mass Communications and a minor in Theatre Arts. After graduation from MSU, he worked for an educational theatre company in St. Paul as an Actor/Educator for five years. Steve currently serves as Chair of the Board of Directors for Upstream Arts in Minneapolis.

Tai Lihua pictureTai Lihua

In 1976, a lively, vocal little girl was born in Yichang city, Hubei province, who would go on to inspire people around the world. At the age of two, Tai Lihua became ill, and due to an overdose of medicine, soon lost her ability to hear. She did not let this dampen her spirits, however; she had dreams and aspirations that she had no intention of abandoning: she wished to perform on stage. Ms. Tai dedicated her time and efforts to practicing ceaselessly, feeling the music through vibrations, and striving to perfect her art, despite her hearing impairment.

At the age of 15, she became a member of the China Disabled People’s Performing Art Troupe (CDPPAT). It is with the guidance of this group of talented and passionate individuals that she was able to truly shine, capturing the hearts of audiences with her grace and dedicated resolve – especially through her presentation of the piece, “The Soul of a Peacock.” Her skills soared through hard work and collaboration with her team, eventually becoming the choreographer and main performer in the dance musical “Butterfly Lovers,” which left the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in awe.

Ms. Tai Lihua excelled to the role of their lead dancer, and is currently the president and top creative mind of the world-renowned China Disabled People’s Performing Art Troupe.

Paul Ajuwon is professor of Special Education at Missouri State University, Springfield, Missouri, where he has been preparing teachers of students with blindness and low vision since 2004. Prior to his current position, he served as Principal of the Idaho School for the Blind, Gooding, Idaho from 2002-2004, and teacher/consultant in Cleveland Public Schools of Ohio from 1993-2002.

Professor Paul Ajuwon hails from Nigeria. After loss of sight around age 8, he attended a residential school for blind children, and was among the first blind children to be mainstreamed in a regular secondary school in Lagos, Nigeria.

Thereafter, he enrolled at Vanderbilt University, Nashville, where he bagged his B.S. and M.S. degrees in English and Special Education. In 1988, he obtained a Rotary International Scholarship for doctoral training in Rehabilitation Studies at the University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Lunch 'N Learn - Tuesdays at 12 p.m.

The Tuesday and Thursday “Lunch ‘N Learn” Sessions will highlight a panel of experts or an individual who align with the theme of the week. Experts from the US and countries around the world will share their passion for purpose in advancing the rights of those with disabilities. Reflections will be shared on the challenges of the ADA from the past, hopes for the present and the dreams for the future for people with disabilities.

Johileny Meran pictureJohileny Merán
Johileny is a Program Coordinator with the National Clearinghouse on Disability and Exchange, working to increase the participation of people with disabilities in international exchange. As an intern with the American Association for People with Disabilities (AAPD), Johileny worked at the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN), promoting inclusion of people with disabilities in emergency response and preparedness. A Dominican immigrant and native Spanish speaker, Johileny has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Global Public Health with a minor in Disability Studies from New York University (NYU), having been motivated to pursue an international disability rights career after experiencing “accessibility shock” during a visit to her home country. She studied abroad at NYU London, England as a Global Equity Fellow, where she was tasked with improving resources for diversity, equity and inclusion. Based on this experience, Johileny created a “London Access Culture Guide to inform students with disabilities how access in London compared to NYC. Johileny enjoys adaptive sports like indoor rock climbing, scuba diving, sled (ice) hockey and writing poetry. 

Katrina Simons pictureKatrina "Trina" Simons has worked on a variety of projects and legislation related to chronic illness, disability, and quality of life. She is passionate about empowering people with developmental disabilities to make informed choices. She enjoys working to promote autonomy across the lifespan.

Simons is a graduate of the MNLEND Fellowship at the University of Minnesota. She was a survey interviewer on the Olmstead Plan pilot survey. She has served on both the State Rehabilitation Council and the Region Ten Quality Council.

Simons began working at the Institute on Community Integration (ICI) in 2017. At ICI, she is a Community Program Specialist, self-advocacy liaison, MNLEND Faculty member, and she coordinates the monthly Self Advocacy Online meetings. Self Advocacy Online works on outreach and policy advocacy for and by people living with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Frances West pictureFrances West is an internationally recognized thought leader, author, keynote speaker, strategy advisor and women-in-technology executive. Frances has held many global executive positions from marketing, sales to business development and strategic partner management. She was IBM’s first Chief Accessibility Officer and received an Honorary Doctor of Science degree from the University of Massachusetts in Boston for her work in accessibility research and digital inclusion. Frances is also the founder of FrancesWestCo, a global advisory company working with public, private, non-profit and start-ups to operationalize inclusion as a core business imperative to drive disruptive innovation.



Tameka Citchen-Spruce pictureTameka Citchen-Spruce is a Detroit native, graduated with a bachelor's degree in Journalism from Oakland University. She is a disability justice activist for people with disabilities particularly those of color. The combination of her knowledge of Journalism, and activism she learned the importance of telling a person's story. Both of her films My Girl Story and short film, Justifiable Homicide, have been nominated and won an award and selected in film festivals. She loves telling stories that give a voice to people and loves advocating for the rights of people with disabilities.



Kristin Burgess pictureKristin Burgess is currently the Director of the Center for Accessibility Resources as well as Community Faculty in the College of Community Studies and Public Affairs at Metropolitan State University in St. Paul, Minnesota. Kristin has a Master of Public Policy degree from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, a Graduate Certificate in Disability Policy and Services, and a Bachelor of Human Services Disability Studies. Kristin identifies as a person with disabilities both apparent and non-apparent. Kristin is an advocate and change agent for and within the disability community. Kristin enjoys serving communities through non-profit board service, being an election judge and an amateur radio operator.



Mohamed Alfash pictureMohamed (Mourssi) Alfash, PhD grew up in suburban Alexandria, Egypt and moved to the U.S. in 1996 and has since been living in Minnesota. He is a long-time dedicated public servant, disability advocate, and a social and organizational justice activist with a focus on equity matters for people with disabilities, new immigrants, racial minority groups, and low-income families. He is always enthusiastic about contribution to promoting equity, diversity and inclusion and to improving the lives of our fellow citizens.

He served as Equity Coordinator with the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS). He has also served as the State Job Vacancy Survey Coordinator and the Disability Employment Expert with DEED where he conducted in-depth research and published articles on disability prevalence, the intersection of disability and race, disability employment, the quality characteristics of the labor force for people with disabilities and race minority groups, and poverty among underserved communities.

Mohamed currently serves as the Vice President of the Board of Directors of Access Press, one of twelve newspapers in the nation focusing on disability affairs, and is a member of a cross agency Direct Care/Support Workforce Working Group. He is an appointed member of the board of directors of the MN Commission of the Deaf, Deaf, Blind, and Hard of Hearing (MNCDHH), and is also appointed member of the MN Statewide Independent Living Council (MN SILC) and is an appointed member of the Metro Regional Quality Council (MRQC). Other public service affiliations include serving in the MN Olmstead Plan Community Engagement Workgroup (CEWG), serving in the Ramsey County Equity Action Circle and the County’s committee in charge of response to COVID 19, and serving as a steward and a certified labor arbitrator with Minnesota Association of Professional Employees (MAPE) for many years.

Mohamed has a PhD on Organizational Development and Management and his dissertation emphasized the perception of organizational justice among employees in the public sector. He also has a master’s degree in public policy/public affairs from the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs, an MBA, and a master’s degree in accounting.

He finds great joy in helping others, and never says “no” to those seeking help as long as there is a way to say “yes.” He also makes time to enjoy his hobbies, which include playing tennis and ping pong, reading, walking and gardening.

Andrea Imhoff pictureAndrea Imhoff works as a Business Systems Analyst in the civil sector contributing enthusiasm for numbers and technology. As a newcomer to disability advocacy, Imhoff digs into self-reflection and conversation to share stories and learn from others over coffee. Imhoff's account hails from the intersection of coming into disability as an adult and learning to navigate nonapparent disability in settings of privilege. Hobbies include enjoying foreign films, biking, and swimming.




Linda Wolford pictureLinda Wolford currently serves as the Interagency Coordinator for the Disability Services Division of the Minnesota Department of Human Services. She coordinates employment, workforce shortage, and other Olmstead initiatives across DHS. She is also a person centered coach. In addition, she was the first co-chair of the Employees with Disabilities Employee Resource Group at DHS. She formerly worked at DHS doing home care policy, working on employment initiatives and consumer directed personal care assistance services under several federal grants.

Linda has spent the majority of her career at the University of Minnesota where she served as a manager for 9 ½ years at the Disability Resource Center and previously as Director and formerly Associate Director of the Diversity Institute where she provided training about many aspects of human difference and diversity. Linda has done numerous trainings, workshops and even keynote speeches on the topics of disability and diversity on both the local and national levels.

Linda obtained her Masters in Science in Counseling Psychology with a Rehabilitation emphasis from St. Cloud State University and a B.A. in Criminal Justice Studies also from St. Cloud State. She has served on the board of numerous nonprofits and in various community service capacities.

Linda is a consultant for Strategic Diversity Initiatives specializing on issues of disability and inclusion. She resides in Roseville, MN and enjoys music, hanging out with friends and traveling (prior to COVID).

Sandra Sermons pictureSandra Sermons has devoted the past two decades to improving the lives of other people with disabilities. Blind since birth, Sandra credits God and her mom for instilling in her courage and resourcefulness. As a person who is blind, her primary challenge is accessing information. Before, it was access to the printed word. These days however, it is access to electronic information. There are so many websites, apps, graphics… that simply do not work with screen readers.

Sandra believes that having a toolbox full of tools is the only way to effectively compete with sighted peers. No one thing can replace the human eye. Sandra is a proficient Braille reader and feels her strong Braille skills helped her get through college and continue to allow her to do her job effectively.

In the advocacy realm, she is involved in the National Black Disabled Coalition (NBDC) and the American Council of the Blind (ACB). The intersection of race and disability is real. Quite often, Disabled people of color do not have the same education, rehabilitation, and employment opportunities as other people with disabilities. However, NBDC’s mission is to change that through a combination of advocacy, legislation, and education.

China / U.S. Deaf School Project - Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m.

The Wednesday “U.S. China Deaf Project” will be facilitated by Drs. Kathryn Johnson and Amy Knopf (Harkin Fellow), St. Cloud State faculty, who have been collaboratively working on advancing the education, employment and accessibility for individuals who are deaf in China. The series will begin with a reflection on the 30 year anniversary of disability policy in China in 2020, followed by a four week series on deaf identify, pre-K-12 education, higher education and employment and accessibility. Colleagues from China who have been working with Drs. Johnson and Knopf will be sharing their experience and expertise through weekly interactive dialogue and discussion. *The Wednesday sessions will be available in Chinese and Chinese sign language via a special link to those who request this. Please email Dr. Kathryn Johnson for this link at kejohnson@stcloudstate.edu.

Amy Herbert Knofp pictureDr. Amy Hebert Knopf is an associate professor and program coordinator for the Rehabilitation Counselor Education program and the Rehabilitation and Addiction Counselor Education program within the School of Health and Human Services at St. Cloud State University. She is also a George H.W. Bush Fellow with the Harkin Institute for Public Policy & Citizen Engagement where she has been involved in researching the impact of WIOA legislation on the employment of consumers with disabilities, and is currently engaged in conducting a cross-cultural comparison analysis of Deaf education and employment between the United States and China. She is also the editor of the Harkin International Disability Employment Journal. Dr. Hebert Knopf is an advocate and consultant who is passionate about meeting Senator Tom Harkin’s (ret.) goal of double the number of people with disabilities in employment over the next ten years. Dr. Hebert Knopf has worked both locally and nationally consulting and conducting research to improve services for people with disabilities in the areas of employment, transition, education, and health. She has a strong background in conducting large scale research investigating employment outcomes. Dr. Hebert Knopf partners with many professionals in her community to address the barriers and attitudes people with disabilities face in seeking employment.

Kathryn Johnson pictureDr. Kathryn Johnson is a professor in the Department of Special Education at St. Cloud State University. Dr. Johnson currently is serving as the Director of the St. Cloud State Confucius Institute Programs. The Confucius Institute Programs are currently working with 16 Confucius Classrooms in the state of Minnesota to support the teaching and learning of Chinese language and culture. The Confucius Institute is also leading the efforts in promoting the inclusion and engagement of people with disabilities in the teaching and learning of Chinese, inclusive of Chinese sign language. Throughout the past 20 years, Dr. Johnson has been working with advancing deaf education in China. This has lead to three schools for the deaf becoming a part of the “U.S. China Network of Schools for the Deaf”, with Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf being awarded a Confucius Classroom in 2019 to support the implementation of this project, in partnership with Delaware School for the Deaf and Iowa School for the Deaf.

Dr. Johnson leads multiple delegations to China for students, teachers, faculty, administrators and community members. Through these people to people exchange programs, she continues to serve as a strong advocate for advancing the education and employment opportunities for people with disabilities in China. To support and strengthen these efforts, she has worked with Dr. Amy Knopf to create a strong network of partners, inclusive of the Zero Project (Vienna, Austria), the Global University Disability Network (AHEAD), the Harkin Institute (Drake University, Iowa), the Thankful Campaign (New York, USA), the China Education Association for International Exchange (Beijing, China) and the global Confucius Institute network. She is also an Honorary Professor at Changchun University and Jilin Normal University in China.

More information on the work of Dr. Johnson the St. Cloud State Confucius Institute Programs may be found at www.stcloudstate.edu/confucius.

Zhiyuan Hou pictureZhiyuan Hou Confucius Institute intern teacher
Zhiyuan Hou is a graduate student at the Special Education College of Changchun University. His major is art design. He loves creating traditional Chinese work of art with his pen and hand crafting. He is a vice president of Taiyuan, Xinghualing District Deaf Association. He is an intern teacher at Delaware School for the Deaf from 2019 to 2020.




Yukun Yuan pictureYukun Yuan Confucius Institute intern teacher
Yukun Yuan loves painting, animation, and later in life working with special effects. He is studying at Changchun University's Graduate School of Animation. He is currently an intern teacher in America, starting in Fall 2019 and ending in Fall 2020. He went to Iowa School for the Deaf (ISD) to teach Chinese sign language and Chinese culture to the deaf students. He currently lives in Qinghai.




Xiaorong Zhou pictureXiaorong Zhou Confucius Institute Visiting Research Scholar
Xiaorong Zhou is a visiting research scholar at St. Cloud State University. She is working with the three other Deaf Chinese intern teachers while conducting research on Chinese Sign Language curriculum and development for both Chinese and American Deaf students. Xiaorong is also thrilled to learn more about the Deaf communities across America and around the world. She has a Master's degree in Rehabilitation in International Sign Language Interpretation from Korea Nazarene University, South Korea and is fluent in seven different languages.



Jiaxin Mai pictureJiaxin Mai Confucius Institute intern teacher
Jiaxin Mai is a Deaf undergraduate student from Zhengzhou Normal University in China. He is an intern teacher at Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf (MSAD) where he is co-teaching Chinese Sign Language, Chinese language and culture. He is also learning American Sign Language (ASL), English, and Deaf Culture within the community.

Lunch 'N Learn - Thursdays at 12 p.m.

The Tuesday and Thursday “Lunch ‘N Learn” Sessions will highlight a panel of experts or an individual who align with the theme of the week. Experts from the US and countries around the world will share their passion for purpose in advancing the rights of those with disabilities. Reflections will be shared on the challenges of the ADA from the past, hopes for the present and the dreams for the future for people with disabilities.

Judith Heumann pictureJudith (Judy) Heumann is a lifelong advocate for the rights of disabled people. She contracted polio in 1949 in Brooklyn, New York and began to use a wheelchair for her mobility. She was denied the right to attend school because she was considered a "fire hazard" at the age of five. Her parents played a strong role in fighting for her rights as a child, but Judy soon determined that she, working in collaboration with other disabled people, had to play an advocacy role due to continuous discrimination.

She is now an internationally recognized leader in the disability rights community. Her memoir, authored with Kristen Joiner, of “Being Heumann: An Unrepentant Memoir of a Disability Rights Activist” published by Beacon Press and audio recorded by Ali Stroker who is the first wheelchair actor to perform on Broadway. Judy was featured on the Trevor Noah show. Judy is featured in Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution is a 2020 American award-winning documentary film, directed by James LeBrecht and Nicole Newnham, produced by the Obama Higher Ground Production and is available on Netflix. She has been featured in numerous documentaries including on the history of the disability rights movement, Lives Worth Living, and the Power of 504 and delivered a TED talk in the fall of 2016, “Our Fight for Disability Rights- and Why We’re Not Done Yet”. Her story was also told on Comedy Central’s Drunk History in early 2018, in which she was portrayed by Ali Stroker. As Senior Fellow at the Ford Foundation (2017-2019), she wrote “Road Map for Inclusion: Changing the Face of Disability in Media”. She also currently serves on a number of non-profit boards including the American Association of People with Disabilities, the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, Humanity and Inclusion, as well as the Human Rights Watch board.

Judy was a founding member of the Berkeley Center for Independent Living which was the first grassroots center in the United States and helped to launch the Independent Living Movement both nationally and globally.

In 1983, Judy co-founded the World Institute on Disability (WID) with Ed Roberts and Joan Leon, as one of the first global disability rights organizations founded and continually led by people with disabilities that works to fully integrate people with disabilities into the communities around them via research, policy, and consulting efforts.

From 1993 to 2001, Judy served in the Clinton Administration as the Assistant Secretary for the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services in the Department of Education.

Judy then served as the World Bank's first Adviser on Disability and Development from 2002 to 2006. In this position, she led the World Bank's disability work to expand its knowledge and capability to work with governments and civil society on including disability in the global conversation.

During his presidency, President Obama appointed Judy as the first Special Advisor for International Disability Rights at the U.S. Department of State, where she served from 2010-2017. Mayor Fenty of D.C. appointed her as the first Director for the Department on Disability Services, where she was responsible for the Developmental Disability Administration and the Rehabilitation Services Administration.

She has been instrumental in the development and implementation of legislation such as section 504, the Individuals with Education Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities advancing the inclusion of disabled people in the US and around the world and fighting to end discrimination against all those with disabilities.

Throughout her life, Judy has traveled on her motorized wheelchair to countries on every continent, in urban and rural communities alike. She has played a role in the development and implementation of major legislation including the IDEA, Section 504, the Americans with Disability Act and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Judy graduated from Long Island University in Brooklyn, NY in 1969 and received her Master’s in Public Health from the University of California at Berkeley in 1975. She has received numerous awards including being the first recipient of the Henry B. Betts Award in recognition of efforts to significantly improve the quality of life for people with disabilities and the Max Starkloff Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Council on Independent Living. She has been awarded numerous honorary doctorates.

Theodoto Ressa pictureDr. Theodoto Ressa is an assistant professor of inclusive education and teacher education at Wayne State University in Michigan U.S.A. and uses a wheelchair. He schooled in Kenya, prekindergarten through the undergraduate program (P-16), and then pursued graduate program at The Ohio State University (U.S.). He has a bachelors and a master’s degrees in special education and a doctorate in teacher education with the focus on inclusive education. Dr. Ressa’s background and experiences in Kenya and U.S. fuel his research interest on college and career readiness of individuals with disabilities in America and Kenya. His scholarly and research interests include disability, access and equity in education; local and global disability movements; culture and social, economic, and political capitals. He has co-authored a chapter, “Treating the incomplete child: How the science of learning disabilities was built for exclusion” in Righting educational wrongs: Disability studies in law and education. He is currently working on the college and career readiness project focusing on youth with disabilities.

Dee Torgerson pictureDee Torgerson

Dee has over 25 years of experience in the Vocational Rehabilitation and Disability field working with a variety of medical, cognitive, mental health and physical disabilities and injuries. She currently serves as the Director of Vocational Rehabilitation Services (VRS) within MN Dept of Employment & Economic Development (DEED). Prior to this, she worked as a VRS Regional Director for 7 years where she oversaw the services and offices in the Metro area. DEED/VRS provides vocational rehabilitation services to over 11,000 individuals with disabilities throughout Minnesota in order to empower these persons to achieve their goals for employment, independent living, and community integration.

Dee has previously served as Director of the Vocational Rehabilitation Unit within the Workers Compensation Dept at MN Dept of Labor & Industry (DLI). She also served as interim Director of the Mediation Unit as well as the data and compliance units at DLI.

In addition to her work with the State of MN for the past 15 years, Dee also has many years of vocational rehabilitation experience working in non-profit and private businesses, as well as running her own businesses. Dee earned her Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology and Rehabilitation. She has also studied and earned certifications in Human Resource Management.

Natasha Jerde pictureNatasha Jerde is the Department of Employment and Economic Development- State Services for the Blind Director. She proudly carries out the mission to facilitate the personal and vocational independence of Minnesotans who are blind, visually impaired, or DeafBlind. She is a University of Wisconsin-Stout alum where she received a bachelor’s degree in vocational rehabilitation and a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling and vocational evaluation. She has a certification in DeafBlindness from Northern Illinois University. Natasha started her career as a vocational evaluator and DeafBlind rehabilitation counselor at State Services for the Blind. She went on to become a vocational rehabilitation supervisor and then the Director of Policy and Program Administration, overseeing policy development, training, quality assurance, and data analytics. For several years, Natasha was also the adjunct sign language instructor at UW-Stout.

John Hoffman pictureSen. John Hoffman

First elected to the Senate in November 2012 and re-elected in 2016, John Hoffman represents residents of Minnesota Senate District 36 which includes the city of Champlin, parts of Brooklyn Park, and Coon Rapids.

Hoffman’s business experience is in both the private and public sector. He has co-founded two companies dedicated to consumer credit and financial management. He is also the Marketing Director and Public Relations Director for ALLY People and Business Solutions, an organization that finds employment opportunities for adults with disabilities.

Hoffman worked at PACER Center, one of the nation’s oldest and most respected Parent and Training Information Centers from 2001 through 2007. Hoffman’s areas of expertise include Natural Environments/Inclusion/Least Restrictive Environments, Special Education Law, Parent Training, Early Childhood Education, and Juvenile Justice. He coordinated PACER Center’s partnership with the National Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center at the University of North Carolina’s Frank Porter Graham Early Childhood Institute. In this capacity, he provided technical assistance to both local and state personnel as well individual families. From 1997-2001 Hoffman was a Technical Assistant/Program manager with Iowa Department of Human Services working with Interstate Compact Laws as well as in their development and response to the Infants and Toddlers Act of IDEA. He also served on the Technical Assistance Team for PART C. Hoffman also served on the Governor’s Special Education Advisory Committee and was appointed by the Senate to a Family Support Sub Committee. Vice President Al Gore also recognized him for his work with Iowa Access in Partnership for reinventing government. 1991-1997 he worked for the Department of Youth Services for Polk County Iowa as a Supervisor of Juvenile Detention Center.

John served, by Mayoral appointment, on the Northwest Hennepin Human Services Advisory Council. In 2001, United States Secretary of Education Rodney Paige appointed him to serve on the Federal Interagency Coordinating Council- a federally mandated council that is charged with advising and assisting the Secretaries of Education, Health and Human Services, Defense, Interior, and Agriculture as well as the Social Security Commissioner in their response to services for Children and Families with disabilities ages birth to six. He was also a Federal Title V reviewer for HRSA (Health Resources and Services Administration) in the U.S Department of Health and Human Services. In 2003 he was appointed to a 3-year term by the Governor of Minnesota to serve on the State Interagency Coordinating Council. In 2004, he was appointed to serve on the MN MCHB Health Advisory Task Force. He served on the Board for directors for Family Voices of Minnesota and Midway Chamber and served as Clerk on the Board of the Metro ECSU (Metropolitan Educational Cooperative Service Unit). He was elected in 2005 and served as Vice Chair of the Anoka Hennepin School Board, which is the largest School District in the State of Minnesota, until being elected to the Minnesota State Senate in 2012.

He currently serves on the Aging and Long-Term Care, Agriculture, Rural Development and Housing Policy, Energy and Utilities, and Human Services Reform committees. He also serves as the chair of the Governor’s Developmental Disabilities Council.

John, his wife, and daughter, reside in Champlin, Minnesota.

Caroline Casey is an award-winning social entrepreneur. Committed to building a global movement on inclusive business for the 1.3 billion people in the world with a disability, over the past two decades she has set up several organizations and initiatives centered on disability business inclusion.

Caroline is also a TED speaker, Ashoka Fellow, Eisenhower Fellow, a past advisor for the Clinton Global Initiative, a One Young World Counsellor and is a Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum.

Jim Abeler pictureJim Abeler is a lifelong Minnesota resident. He graduated from Anoka High School as valedictorian in 1972. From there, he went to Hamline University and the University of Minnesota, majoring in biology and chemistry. He then graduated from Northwestern College of Chiropractic in 1979. He began his family chiropractic practice in Anoka in 1979, and in 1994 he founded the PACT Charter School.

Jim has been married to his wife Barb for 38 years. They have six sons, three daughters-in-law, and six grandchildren.

Jim spent 16 years as a Minnesota State Representative from 1999 to 2015. During his time as a representative, Jim provided state and local leadership as he advocated for his district and the state of Minnesota:

  • Prevented Anoka Technical College closure
  • Worked with local city, Anoka county, and many others to obtain a third lane on Highway 10 in Coon Rapids and the 2022 restructuring of Highway 10
  • Opposed Common Core and attempts by Feds to dictate curriculum
  • Works on behalf of families and persons with disabilities
  • Strong efforts for veterans, police, firefighters and public safety

Jim now appreciates the honor of representing Senate District 35, which includes the northwestern metro cities of Andover, Anoka, Coon Rapids, & Ramsey. He serves as chair of the Human Services Reform and Finance Committee.

Ann Cody pictureAnn Cody oversees the International Disability Rights portfolio at the U.S. Department of State. She is responsible for the Department’s engagement to combat discrimination and abuse against persons with disabilities globally and to promote the rights, respect, and full inclusion of all persons with disabilities on an equal basis with others.

Prior to joining the State Department, Ann oversaw the Washington, D.C. office of BlazeSports America where she shaped the organization’s policy efforts and helped lead its international initiatives. Her Washington experience also includes nearly a decade in governmental affairs advising clients on legislative and regulatory strategies and leading efforts to secure congressional and agency support for disability, local government, health, and sport initiatives.

A Paralympic gold medalist, Ann held leadership positions at the highest levels of the Paralympic movement with the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, International Paralympic Committee, and International Olympic Committee. She is a recipient of the Paralympic Order – the highest honor bestowed by the International Paralympic Committee; George M. Steinbrenner Sport Leadership Award recognizing significant contributions to Olympic and Paralympic sport in the U.S.; the University of Illinois Alumni Association’s Humanitarian of the Year Award; and an honorary doctorate from the State University of New York at Cortland.

Happy Hour with the Arts - Fridays at 4:30 p.m.

The “Happy Hour with the Arts” will highlight talented artist, performers and musicians from the disability community who will share their story and their passion for using their art to make a positive difference in the world.

Gaelynn Lea pictureGaelynn Lea won NPR Music's Tiny Desk Contest in 2016, and she's been on the road ever since playing her unique mix of haunting original songs and traditional fiddle tunes. So far the singer-songwriter and violinist has appeared in 43 states and 8 countries - she's graced the stage of renowned venues like Nashville’s Music City Roots, The Kennedy Center and House of Blues Chicago. Although she most often headlines her own shows, Gaelynn Lea has also opened for Several well-known bands such as Wilco, The Decemberists and the industrial rock supergroup Pigface.

Gaelynn Lea performs from her electric wheelchair. She began playing violin 25 years ago after a creative music teacher helped her to adapt a playing style that suits her frame. Lea holds her instrument like a tiny cello and loops her classically trained rhythms and melodies with her Memory Man pedal to create a “symphonic cacophony that is both glorious in its reach and profoundly introspective”. (Collins de la Cour, Ear to the Ground) Her original songs explore the contrasting nature of existence – dark and light, birth and death, anger and forgiveness, sorrow and joy. Gaelynn Lea’s “music is imbued with a melancholic poetry so potent it must be heard to be believed.” (Boston Globe)

In addition to performing and recording, Gaelynn also does speaking engagements about disability rights, finding inner freedom, and accessibility in the arts. In recent years, she has used her music as a platform to advocate for people with disabilities and to promote positive social change. So far she's been able to share her perspective on PBS NewsHour, BBC World News, The Moth Radio Hour, and through two widely-viewed TEDx Talks. Gaelynn is currently working on a memoir about her touring adventures and disability advocacy that she plans to release in 2022.

Leroy Moore pictureLeroy F. Moore Jr.
From Harvard to The Whitney Museum to Media Engagement for Disability in Johannesburg South Africa, Leroy Moore has more than twenty years of activism, journalism, writing, lecturing on race and disability. Black disabled poet, activist and author of three books on Black Disabled issues from poetry to children books to his recent graphic novel, Krip-HopVol. 1 that was publish in 2019 by Poor Press. After writing Black Disabled Art History 101 in 2017, he was visited more often by Black disabled ancestors who pushed him to write his upcoming book Feb 2020, Black Disabled Ancestors under Poor Press of Poor Magazine. Also in 2020 Leroy under Krip-Hop Nation will be hosting Black Disabled Komics Karacters Summit/Krip-Hop Visual Art Show.

Leroy F. Moore Jr., Founder of the Krip-Hop Nation. Since the 1990s, has written the column “Illin-N-Chillin” for POOR Magazine. Moore is one of the founding member of National Black Disability Coalition and activist around police brutality against people with disabilities. Leroy has started and helped started organizations like Disability Advocates of Minorities Organization to Sins Invalid to Krip-Hop Nation. His cultural work includes film documentary, Where Is Hope, Police Brutality Against People with Disabilities, spoken-word CDs, poetry books and children’s book, Black Disabled Art History 101 published by Xochitl Justice Press.

Moore has traveled internationally networking with other disabled activists and artists. Moore has wrote, sang and collaborated to do music videos on Black disabled men. In July 2019 Leroy Moore under Krip-Hop Nation has organized African Disabled Musicians San Francisco Bay Area Tour with disabled musicians from Uganda, Tanzina and The Democratic Republic of the Congo. In 2020 Leroy Moore will also publish a book about Black disabled young men under SoulfulMediaWorks.
Leroy has won many awards for his advocacy from the San Francisco Mayor’s Disability Council under Willie L. Brown to the Local Hero Award in 2002 from Public Television Station, KQED in San Francisco and in 2014, San Francisco Bayview Newspaper named Leroy, Champion of Disabled People in the Media on Black Media Appreciation Night.

Born in 1967 with cerebral palsy in NYC, Leroy Moore, Jr. was blessed to have a conscious, activist father & mother who instilled a strong sense of identity as a Black and disabled youngster. Thus, Moore’s Krip-Hop Nation is a movement that addresses ableism, or discrimination against disabled artists, esp. Black musicians marginalized because of racism AND ableism.

Susan Sygall pictureSusan Sygall, an internationally-recognized expert in the areas of international educational exchange, international development and leadership programs for persons with disabilities, is CEO and co-founder of Mobility International USA (MIUSA). MIUSA is a non-profit organization advancing disability rights and leadership globally. It has over 2,300 alumni from over 135 countries, building the pipeline of leaders with disabilities.

Susan, a wheelchair rider, has had a personal and professional commitment to disability rights and women's issues for more than 30 years. She has co-authored numerous publications and lectured throughout the world on a variety of topics related to inclusive international development, women's leadership, and disability rights. During the course of her career, she has spearheaded MIUSA's signature program, the Women's Institute on Leadership and Disability (WILD). Through MIUSA, Susan is working with several organizations and foundations to enhance the inclusion of people with disabilities in their internal and external strategies and programs. Susan is a MacArthur Fellow, an Ashoka Senior Fellow, and a Kellogg Fellow. She is a Rotarian who has received a Rotary Alumni Achievement Award, a member of the International Women's Forum, and is a Board Member of InterAction. She has also received the President's Award from President Bill Clinton at the White House for her active role throughout our country and the world in empowering people with disabilities. In recognition of her disability and women's rights activism on the local, national, and international levels, the University of Portland awarded Susan an honorary doctorate in May 2019.

2020 Conference Details

Calendar and Schedule

Calendar - PDF

Schedule of Events - PDF

Schedule of Events - Word (accessible, plain text document)


CEU Registration

CRC and Social Work CEU’s as well as educators’ certificates will be available at NO additional fee for all 30 ABILITY event seminars. If you would like to obtain any of these, please register for the ABILITY Event by clicking the red “registration” button above.

For attendees wanting to earn Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) CEUs for any individual event, please contact pdc@mrid.org for a PINRA form. As a reminder, this must be requested and approved before attending the activity in order to receive education credits for your time invested. If the request is made after the activity, it will not be accepted. Please direct any questions to pdc@mrid.org.

Once registered, please complete the following:

  1. Collect your first numeric code that will be available five minutes prior to the seminar of your choosing.
  2. Collect a second numeric code that will be available at the end of the seminar.
  3. Provide these codes as you complete an evaluation form found here. Please complete an evaluation form for every seminar you attend that you would like CEU credit for: https://stcloudstate.co1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_3pXZJKutwzt9fRX

If you attend every event, you may earn up to about 22.5 CEU’s.

CRC CEU’s will not be able to be reported to https://www.crccertification.com until Aug. 28 or after as all 30 events are only seen as ONE event when being reported. For example, if you attend a total of seven hours of ABILITY events seminars, you would collect 7 CEU’s any time after Aug. 28 (events’ end).

Shortly after Aug. 28, you will receive a certificate for ALL CEU’s you earned while attending the ABILITY event!

Please email Katie Ramos, kjhanson1@stcloudstate.edu, for any further questions.


We are hopeful to host the ABILITY Event Gala on the evening of August 28, 2020.

Currently in the planning stages due to the impact of COVID-19.

We are cognizant in considering the health and safety of our participants and speakers.


Metropolitan State University

Hamline University

St. Cloud State Social Work Department

St. Cloud State University Special Education Department

Middle English Interpreting

St. Cloud State University Student Accessibility Services

National Black Disability Coalition