Session Descriptions & Speaker Bios:

Session Title: The Pilots of the Future

Session Description:  In this session, representatives from organizations who were awarded funding for an assistive technology pilot project from the Illinois Division of Developmental Disabilities will share information about nature and scope of the proposals they submitted.  Project leaders will discuss the type of technology, rationale for pursuing that particular product or service, and what they learned from the process.  In addition to learning about the successes and challenges associated with each project, attendees will also have the opportunity to connect with organizational representatives to ask questions about and gain insights into the process of adopting technology.       

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.

Speaker Bio:  Brendan Sears is the Assistive Technology Specialist with the Arc of the Quad Cities Area. He brings experience in Assistive Technology gained working with Residential Life programs at Fort Lewis College and Saint Ambrose University where he developed accommodations and support for students living on campus. Brendan has designed and hosted improv based communication programs for individuals with a wide range of disabilities for The Upfront Theater and Comedy Sportz Quad Cities. Brendan earned his M.S. in Leadership and Communications Coaching from Bellevue University.

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:  A Personal Journey of Success:  The Story of Todd Stabelfeldt

Session Description:  Todd will share his personal journey of acquiring and using assistive technologies to achieve independence in his own life.  He describes this process as a journey because it did not happen overnight - it took years of dedication and hard work to get to where he is at now.  However, Todd recognizes the importance of successfully addressing one challenge at a time.  Success builds upon success and so on.  Such is the impact that assistive technology has had on Todd’s life – from home to work and so much more. 

Speaker Bio:  Todd Stabelfeldt speaks and writes about his life experiences of using assistive technologies which has spanned over three decades. An expert in technologies for the spinal cord-injured, Todd regularly contributes to New Mobility magazine. As a gifted computer technologist, he also participates in usability testing efforts for technology companies. He has been a featured keynote speaker at various events including Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference and the GeekWire Summit. Todd resides in the Puget Sound area of Washington with his wife Karen and is an entrepreneur: founder and CEO of C4 Consulting. Learn more about Todd and his many accomplishments:

Session Title:  Creativity Encouraged

Session Description:  In the heart of the pandemic, the Illinois Council on Developmental Disabilities and the Illinois Arc joined forces and established a grant.  The purpose of the grant was to help mitigate the adverse effects that the pandemic was having on the psychological and physical well-being of people with disabilities.  In today's session, you'll learn about how people and organizations were able to implement technologies purchased with this grant money in creative ways to improve the lives of people with disabilities.

Speaker Bio:   Kimberly Mercer-Schleider is currently the Executive Director of the Illinois Council on Developmental Disabilities.  Prior to taking the role with the Council, Kimberly worked as the Transition Manager for the country’s 3rd largest school district, working to educate families and school administrators on best practice when bridging the gap between secondary and post-secondary settings.  Prior to both of those roles, Kimberly started out as a teacher, but most importantly a family member of a person with I/DD.  Kimberly has a passion for supporting systems change that results in individuals with disabilities having access to all facets of a full and engaged life of their choice.  She has a background in Special Education, creating integrated housing models, person centered planning, and large system administration.  Kimberly holds degrees in Special Education and Nonprofit Business Management.

 *Note:  Not all sessions and speakers are listed at this time.  Please check back periodically for updates.