Session Descriptions & Speaker Bios:


Session Title:  The Internet of Things – new opportunities for persons with disabilities.

Session Description:  The latest trend in technology is the Internet of Things (IoT). This includes a wide variety of technology including personal in-home voice assistants, mobile tech, and so much more. With these devices come new opportunities to meet the needs of individuals with disabilities. This session will focus on how these devices can be used to assist individuals with organization, productivity, independence, and communication at work and home.

Speaker Bio:  Brian Norton currently serves as the Director of Assistive Technology and is responsible for the day-to-day operations the INDATA Project and Clinical Assistive Technology. He utilizes his many years of experience to provide direction, leadership and training to a diverse and highly skilled team of AT specialists. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Anderson University and is a RESNA-certified Assistive Technology Professional (ATP) and a Certified Ergonomic Assessment Specialist (CEAS). He hosts a popular podcast and radio show called “ATFAQ – Assistive Technology Frequently Asked Questions” and is well known for his creative application of technology in the areas of job- and education-related accommodations.


Session Title:  Inclusive Tech: Apps for Life

Session Description:  During this session, the participants will learn how mobile technology can enhance and simplify everyday life for people with disabilities. A variety of skills will be addressed including cognitive and social development, daily living, and more. The apps highlighted will range from free to paid versions with subscription fees and will address a range of needs of those with cognitive disabilities. Information will be briefly shared on the use of our app search tool to help participants explore more helpful apps for their unique situation.

Speaker Bio:  Amy Fuchs is the Program Coordinator for BridgingApps, a program of Easter Seals Greater Houston. She holds a BA in Psychology and a M.Ed. in Early Childhood Special Education from Auburn University; as well as a Texas teaching certificate. She taught in public elementary schools for 13 years in a variety of classrooms including resource, co-teach, inclusion, and adaptive behavior settings. During her tenure, she had the privilege of working with students of varying abilities, including autism, behavior disorders, learning and developmental disabilities, and physical differences. She co-founded an advocacy group with a speech pathologist in 2016, serving families in the Houston area, with the primary focus on educating and empowering parents to be their own advocates. As Program Coordinator, she writes blogs for educators, magazine articles for parents, and app reviews on behalf of BridgingApps. She also works to educate the community by sharing mobile technology tips to improve the lives of people with disabilities of all ages, from children being served through early intervention to seniors as they age in place and work to maintain independent lifestyles.


Session Title:  Empowering Abilities Through Technology with Low Cost Assistive Technology Solutions

Session Description:  Assistive technology is all around us and many of these tools available for little or no cost.  This session will explore such assistive technologies commonly used at Donka, Inc. - a non-profit organization located in Wheaton, IL - that provides computer training and job readiness services to persons with disabilities.  These tools enable users to complete tasks more quickly, easily, or independently in a variety of settings - from home to work to the community.    

Speaker Bio:  Sam Moore is Donka’s Program Manager.   Donka is a non-profit organization located in Wheaton, IL,  that provides computer training and job readiness services to persons with disabilities.  She has a Microcomputer Specialist Degree with an emphasis in Microsoft Office and programming.  Sam has a passion for working with technology and individuals with disabilities.  

Speaker Bio:  Jared Crimmins is a Donka Computer Training and Assistive Technology Instructor.  He is a Computer Science major and has an interest in programming code.  He enjoys working with the staff and students at Donka. 


Session Title:  Build & Inspire!

Session Description:  Back by popular demand, the "Build & Inspire" session is sure to be a crowd favorite again this year.  We're taking your creativity to a whole new level with the use of a new technology that can be used in countless ways to support people with a wide spectrum of abilities.  We don't want to ruin the surprise, but know that we'll provide you with the building blocks to successfully use this piece of technology with the people you support.  Plus, you'll leave the session with a gift that is sure to inspire ideas for future applications.   

Speaker Bio:  Richard Harrington has worked with people with disabilities for over 20 years.  He is a founding member of the Technology Enhancing Capabilities Lab (TEC Lab) - a division of Trinity Services, Inc.  Prior to coming to Illinois, Richard was employed by a community support provider for 14 years fulfilling a number of roles - from a direct supporter to case manager to assistive technology professional.  In his position as an AT professional he was responsible for researching, developing and implementing a wide variety of assistive technologies for people with developmental and physical disabilities.  Richard is a self-proclaimed “gadget guy,” who has a passion for helping people be as independent as possible. His open-minded approach and extensive knowledge of assistive technology make him a highly sought after resource for the people served, families and staff members. Richard is an experienced speaker at regional and national conferences.

Speaker Bio:  Connie Melvin is a founding member of the Technology Enhancing Capabilities Lab (TEC Lab) - a division of Trinity Services, Inc.  She also serves as the Director of the National Association of QIDPs - a member association dedicated to providing cutting edge tools, information, and resources to disability professionals across the country.  Prior to coming to Illinois, Connie developed an assistive technology program from the ground up for a large community-based provider and spearheaded the initiative for assistive technology adoption in another state, which resulted in a number of successful pilot programs as well as the implementation of highly regarded best practices.  In addition to her work in the area of assistive technology, Connie has served a case manager, staff trainer, and supervisor of residential services.  A lifelong student herself, she recognizes the value in providing learning opportunities to others and, as a result, has designed and hosted several regional and national conferences dedicated to this purpose.  Connie is a highly sought speaker and consultant.  She is graduate of the National Leadership Consortium on Developmental Disabilities and earned her MA in Counseling Psychology & Education.  


Session Title: The Pilots of the Future

Session Description:  In this panel discussion, organizations who were awarded funding for an AT Pilot Project from the Illinois Division of Developmental Disabilities will share information about the proposal they submitted and report on any progress they may have had since beginning the project.  Representatives from each organization will discuss the nature of the technology, rationale for pursuing that particular product or service and what they learned from the process.  

Speaker Bio:  Erica Gibson is New Star’s Community Day Services Administrator, overseeing several programs including two Community Day Program sites, a community immersive Without Walls Program, and the agency's Transportation Department.  Erica is also responsible for the management and implementation of a multi-year Tech Coaching Grant for The Arc for the last four years.  Erica has a Bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies with a focus on Human Development and has 15-years of experience working with individuals with I/DD. She has been with New Star for 12 years in the roles of Recreation Supervisor, Day Program Manager and now Administrator.

Speaker Bio:  Stephen Kray is the Residential Director for Avenues to Independence. He graduated from Augustana College with a degree in Psychology. He’s worked with people with ID/DD for over 16 years. Stephen began his career working with teens with ID/DD in an inpatient mental health facility. Ten years ago he began managing community based group homes for adults with ID/DD at Avenues to Independence. He is passionate about creating environments where adults with disabilities can thrive and live as independently as possible. Avenues has been a perfect fit for Stephen to pursue this. Stephen lives in Des Plaines with his wife, two year old daughter, and two dogs.

Speaker Bio:  Connie Melvin is a founding member of the Technology Enhancing Capabilities Lab (TEC Lab) - a division of Trinity Services, Inc.  She also serves as the Director of the National Association of QIDPs - a member association dedicated to providing cutting edge tools, information, and resources to disability professionals across the country.  Prior to coming to Illinois, Connie developed an assistive technology program from the ground up for a large community-based provider and spearheaded the initiative for assistive technology adoption in another state, which resulted in a number of successful pilot programs as well as the implementation of highly regarded best practices.  In addition to her work in the area of assistive technology, Connie has served a case manager, staff trainer, and supervisor of residential services.  A lifelong student herself, she recognizes the value in providing learning opportunities to others and, as a result, has designed and hosted several regional and national conferences dedicated to this purpose.  Connie is a highly sought speaker and consultant.  She is graduate of the National Leadership Consortium on Developmental Disabilities and earned her MA in Counseling Psychology & Education.  

Speaker Bio:  Amanda Carroll, has a bachelors degree from Western Illinois University in Elementary Education. She has worked at Kreider Services for almost 7 years in various positions, starting out as a DSP. She currently is the Day Services Manager, before that she was a QIDP. She has been fortunate enough to complete the IARFuture Leadership class in 2018. She enjoys helping people and making them smile. Amanda was selected to lead this project for Kreider Services as it was her initiative that moved the agency forward in using technology to assist staff and technology to allow individuals to enhance their lives.