RE:CON 2021

Sessions and Presenations
at This Year’s re:con


re:con 2021 Presentations and Summaries

LUNCH KEYNOTE – Diversity, Equity and Inclusion; What, Why and How

PRESENTED BY:  Jim Bitterle


This keynote will explore the speaker’s journey as a white male, understanding what Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) is, why having a DEI plan matters, and how to create your own DEI plan as well as being brave AND realistic.

BREAKFAST KEYNOTE – Vulnerable Leadership

PRESENTED BY: Dr. Carolyn Jefferson-Jenkins

Inclusive Leadership is a combination of Daring to Lead, Authenticity and Vulnerable Leading. This presentation will compel you to reflect on who you are as a leader, and challenge you to accept the dare to use vulnerable leadership as your superpower in this rapidly changing environment.

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Learn more about the presenters, their background, education and experience.

Presenter Bios

LUNCH KEYNOTE – Diversity, Equity and Inclusion; What, Why and How



This workshop will focus on ways of integrating prevention tools in assisting individuals who live with differing abilities and those professionals who support them. Bystander intervention programs often do not consider the unique lived experiences and challenges of those from these communities. This training is built on the foundations of MCEDSV’s Great Lakes model: trauma informed, survivor centered, and intersectional. This training will cover the foundational understanding of what sexual violence is, with recognition to the intersectionality of those from these communities. Trainers will then walk through both peer-to-peer bystander intervention techniques and professional policy and procedures that encourage prevention of sexual violence.

This training if done in person or virtually will take into account neurodivergence, differing lived experiences, and learning styles. This will include 508 compliance for all materials given out.

HIDDEN :: PRESENTATION TRACK: Independent Living/Disability Specific

BREAKFAST KEYNOTE – Vulnerable Leadership



This workshop will focus on ways of integrating prevention tools in assisting individuals who live with differing abilities and those professionals who support them. Bystander intervention programs often do not consider the unique lived experiences and challenges of those from these communities. This training is built on the foundations of MCEDSV’s Great Lakes model: trauma informed, survivor centered, and intersectional. This training will cover the foundational understanding of what sexual violence is, with recognition to the intersectionality of those from these communities. Trainers will then walk through both peer-to-peer bystander intervention techniques and professional policy and procedures that encourage prevention of sexual violence.

This training if done in person or virtually will take into account neurodivergence, differing lived experiences, and learning styles. This will include 508 compliance for all materials given out.

HIDDEN :: PRESENTATION TRACK: Independent Living/Disability Specific

WELLNESS KICKOFF – How to re:fuel and re:invigorate


Starting the event with wellness in mind, this presenter will focus on techniques for practicing self-care in an office setting. By using chair and standing yoga, participants will learn how to re:fuel and re:invigorate their lives.

STEP Innovation Stage

PRESENTED BY: Jeanette Hoyer, Goodwill Industries of West Michigan

Tri-Share Child Care Program

Affordable child care is one of the biggest barriers to employment and quality child care can change the trajectory of a child’s life. It’s time to change the culture around child care to ensure both affordability and quality are accessible to all. Hear about how the Tri Share Pilot Project is working to do just that.

PRESENTED BY: Travis Atkinson, TBD Solutions

An Ideal Crisis Continuum

In your darkest hour- what is it that you need, what re your desires to feel safe and climb out of the space you are in? An ideal crisis continuum is developed with persons served at the center of it all. It is built to be person centered, to provide timely access, and to be cost efficient. There are pockets of greatness in Michigan, and there are elements of greatness we can still work to achieve.

PRESENTED BY: Georgia Mason, Key Opportunities

Innovative Culinary Program

CHEFS (Culinary & Hospitality Experience/Food Service). It teaches front and back of house restaurant operations that include greeting and seating guests, serving food and beverages, following recipes, and ServSafe practices for food preparation and storage. Each month, the CHEFS team of seven participants and their job coaches host a five course dinner for ticket holders. The program and events occur in the fully equipped restaurant owned by Key Opportunities. The Chefs Community Instructor is a graduate of the culinary arts program at the Michigan Career and Technical Institute (MCTI) and also participated in Key Opportunities Youth Programs during high school.

PRESENTED BY: Anthony Marcellini, Services to Enhance Potential

What is a Progressive Art Studio

What is a progressive art studio and how a self-directed studio art program provides platforms for self-actualization.

PRESENTED BY: Susan Fitzmaurice

I Love You, Lead On

The pandemic had a silver lining How Zoom changed a planned one-day celebration into 9 weeks of daily education and on-line community building – accessible to all in ways never experienced before. How it was done and its success will be described.


The ASPPIRE Social Coaching Model

Navigating social situations can be challenging for many adults with disabilities. For over 10 years, ASPPIRE has supported their participants through Social Coaching. These small facilitator-led groups meet weekly to discuss topics such as: communication skills, self-advocacy, coping with anxiety and stress, etc.

PRESENTED BY: Jessica Diener, Peckham

Managerial Rotation Program

Join Jessica Diener of Peckham as she shares how a conversation on her professional goals and career direction, signed her up to be a guinea pig for a pilot managerial rotation program. Jessica will share how the pilot came to be, as well as her current experience while actively navigating this developmental learning opportunity.

On Demand Sessions – Accessed Through LMS

Accessible and Engaging Virtual Presentations

PRESENTED BY: Kellie Blackwell


The Michigan Assistive Technology Program (MATP) has been providing virtual presentations throughout the pandemic and during this session, we will share our “special sauce” with you; our recipe for accessible, fully inclusive, & engaging trainings! We are excited to share our knowledge & our tips with you as well as answer questions you may have. All this and more! This session will be interactive with time for questions, resource sharing, and brainstorming!

Accessible and Inclusive Social Media Practices

PRESENTED BY: Kellie Blackwell


This presentation will focus on key principles which allow participants to enhance social media accessibility, breaking down barriers and improve digital media communication. Discussion topics will include generating alt-text for photos, appropriate use of emojis and hashtags, the need for closed captioning, and making sure content represents different identities.

Accessible Digital Information



Every business, organization, governmental entity, school, place of worship rely on digital means to relay information about products, services, programs, etc. Ensuring the information you develop and distribute electronically is critical to optimizing the biggest audience. Information developed that is distributed electronically, email blast, social media posts, website, application, if not made accessible, has a big impact on individuals with disabilities who are users of the computer/internet.

Addressing the Direct Care Worker Crisis: Statewide Initiatives, Provider Options

PRESENTED BY: Clare Luz, PhD & Emily Dieppa


There is a critical shortage of Direct Care Workers (DCWs) that is threatening Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS). Providers across the state are feeling the pain daily of having to turn away individuals needing support, and the ongoing, costly challenge of recruiting and retaining a quality workforce. It is estimated that Michigan needs 34,000 more DCWs than we currently have. The turnover rate among DCWs exceeds 80% annually with an associated average annual cost of over $170,000 per agency. The shortage and rampant turnover rate are the result of multiple factors including rapid population aging, fewer family caregivers, longer life expectancy, and DCW jobs characterized by low wages/benefits and a lack of guaranteed hours, training, and respect. This dire situation has a dramatic impact well beyond HCBS. It affects Michigan’s businesses, health systems, economy, and citizens. The need to grow and stabilize this workforce is urgent. This session will focus on major initiatives at the state level to address the shortage, policy priorities, long-term goals and strategies, short-term options for providers to consider, and the business case for these options.

AT and Disability Pride



Disability is a natural and beautiful part of human diversity. When it comes to Assistive Technology (AT), any tool or device that helps people with disabilities do things, devices are not always designed with personalities and style preferences in-mind. Getting comfortable with using AT can be an adjustment. During this session, we will share about and demonstrate AT devices that will meet the needs of a diverse spectrum of people on their journey of disability (and AT) pride. Specifically, we will cover the use of AT devices in these everyday situations: 1) while traveling, 2) to use for school & work, 3) while dining out, and 4) for personal care. All participants will learn about AT and the services provided by the Michigan Assistive Technology Program (MATP).

AT for Community Living

PRESENTED BY: Kellie Blackwell, MA, CRC & Aimee Sterk, LMSW


Presenters from the Michigan Assistive Technology Program (MATP) at Michigan Disability Rights Coalition (MDRC) will discuss and demonstrate: the changes and updates to the MATP, the importance of choosing the right Assistive Technology (AT), and highlight the benefits of AT, while providing practical, real-life examples of how AT can help.

Breaking Down Barriers: Easing Eligibility and Certification for NLS/BTBL Service

Stephanie Wambaugh


The National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled (NLS) made a long-awaited change in February of 2021 to ease eligibility requirements for patrons with reading disabilities. In addition, NLS now also accepts typed and/or electronic signatures of certifying authorities, enabling the application process to be submitted completely online. The breakdown of these barriers for applicants means a smoother, faster, and overall, more accessible experience getting signed up for audio and/or braille books through the Michigan Braille and Talking Book Library (BTBL). Join this presentation to learn about the new eligibility language and certification requirements, as well as reading trends established in the pandemic that has put our service in higher demand than ever before.

Building an Engaging Community Involvement Program

PRESENTED BY: Lisa J. Friedrich, PhD & Jeanette Brown


Come explore the best practices that Dutton Farm has developed for building a group community-based program that has its foundation in the guidelines of HCBS Final Rule (2014). We believe the Final Rule provides direction as well as structure for appropriate community-based programs.

Not only is the movement toward increased community involvement for disabled individuals necessary based on the HCBS Final Rule guidelines (2014), but it is also best practice for meaningful life engagement. The challenge is to build a group community-based program that is solidly based on inclusion, choice, and dignity. Successful programs thrive as participants both learn from and enjoy their activities in the larger community. This session will give professionals a chance to explore the meaning and importance of community involvement as they discover a memorable method for enhancing an existing program or starting anew. Discussions include key pillars of consumerism, volunteerism, building relationships, and health/safety. This session is also designed to share materials/protocols for nurturing participant interest, aligning curriculum, meeting learning goals, vetting locations, and providing transportation.

COVID, Schools, and the ADA

PRESENTED BY: Susan Fitzmaurice 


COVID-19 and its variants has changed the world. Children and teens were not considered at high-risk in the early days of the pandemic. They now are. What has changed? How have we responded? How does Federal ADA law address the needs of children and teens that are disabled or immune-compromised? Have the facts in hand to protect yourself and your students. Other ADA life-saving protections will be briefly reviewed, such as allergies, services animals, and paths of travel.

Difficult Conversations Made Easy – 3 Steps to Mastery

PRESENTED BY: Leslie C. Fiorenzo


Leaders are frequently involved in difficult conversations. We all avoid conversations that are conflictual or uncomfortable. Often, those are exactly the conversations we need to have. Are you struggling to discuss an important issue with a colleague, customer, direct report, or your supervisor? Then this session is for you. You will leave with a road map and tools in your tool- box to use as you navigate the conversation you’ve been avoiding.
This session is designed to give professionals 3 tools to immediately take back to their workplace to use and share with other leaders. They will be able to create a structure that is easy to follow and implement, identify the words to get the conversation off to a positive start and how to create allies instead of enemies.

Emerging From Our COVID Cocoons: Creating Workplaces That Nurture Post-Traumatic Growth



This presentation will explore the research on post-traumatic growth and provide tools for supporting employees as they return to in person work in a world that is so different from what they left.

Employment Concerns Related to COVID



Participants will receive the latest legal updates related to the rights and responsibilities both Employers and Employees as return to work trends increase during the COVID-19 Pandemic. The following concerns will be covered: (1)Temperature Screening; (2) Mask Mandate/Social Distancing; (3)Testing Mandate; (4) Vaccines, Mandates, Reasonable Accommodations; (5) Individuals with Long Covid.

Enhancing Remote Service Delivery: The Avail Pilot

PRESENTED BY: Sarah George, Carla Dean, Kimberly Pietrylka-Miller, Mychal Fearncombe & Sam Sweet


Avail is a robust, evidence-informed, interactive online platform combining Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) tools, evidence-based interventions and technology to provide customized, remote job coaching for individuals who have intellectual disabilities, Autism, Brain Injury and other cognitive disabilities.

Peckham, Services To Enhance Potential (STEP), New Horizons, and Community Enterprises of St. Clair County have formed a partnership with support from Incompass Michigan to pilot Avail in 2021. Hung Jen Kuo, Assistant Professor at the Michigan State University College of Education, is a research partner on the project, evaluating Avail on its usability and efficacy in helping people become more independent in their work tasks. This pilot provides an innovative way to address the digital divide facing people with significant disabilities and to support remote service delivery at a time when we are all looking to expand our remote service capabilities.

This presentation will describe the partnership, the product, the research study design, and preliminary data.

Ethical Decision Making

PRESENTED BY: Linda Hedenblad


Acting ethically means so much more than not stealing the pens. We make decisions each day that reflect on our moral and ethical character. The problem is that we rarely take time to reflect on these decisions. Instead, most of us go through life acting and reacting within flexible ethical limits that are unconsciously impacted by our own self-interest. Ethical thinking needs to be cultivated. Each day we are faced with ethical decision making, often reacting in favor of our own self-interest. In order to become more ethical, we need to look closely at our own behavior and make a conscious effort to improve.

Grow Your Own: Touching the future with University Interns

PRESENTED BY: Terrie Hylton, PhD


University internships are beneficial for rehabilitation services, students, universities, and the profession. Learn how private and public rehabilitation services can be a host agency for interns at the bachelors, masters, and doctorate level. This session will explain how to find, supervise, train, and document internships for academia and utilize for agency secession planning.

It Matters (period)

PRESENTED BY: Sarah Britton, David Bates & Amanda Garza


With many tensions in today’s culture, it is critical as a non-profit to provide programming that is welcoming, inclusive, and aware of societal clashes. Programs need to be mindful of the perspectives and feelings of all cultures as they enroll in programs. With Black Lives Matter movements and police brutality issues being in the forefront of the media, people serving programs need to be informed, transparent, and reactive to show compassion & inclusiveness. This presentation will provide a large overview of the complex movements and how people serving agencies can respond and support their participants.

For many, the protests of summer 2020 shined a bright light on many of the racial and gendered inequities in our society, and highlighted the need to carefully consider how diversity, equity and inclusion are navigated in the world of work. In response to this deeply charged and meaningful moment in our history, agencies and companies need to take action and make a commitment to stand for equity for all people. Summer 2020 represented something of a cultural reckoning as millions took to the streets across America and around the globe to protest the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, Elijah McClain and countless other Black Americans.

In a July 2020 survey, 49% of workers responded that their companies had directly addressed the news related to the death of George Floyd, whether through public statements, internal discussions or donations. The same survey noted that 76% of American workers believed that racism was a problem in American workplaces, with 64% of African Americans workers expressing the sentiment that racism was a problem within their own workplace (Forbes, April 14, 2021). Come and learn about the history behind the forward culture momentum and everyday practices companies/agencies can implement immediately to provide the best experience for everyone. Additionally, attendees will hear directly from alumni youth as they share their personal experience with law enforcement and their perspectives of what needs to happen to spark change.

Keys To Job Placement Success: A Customized Approach To Achieve Outcomes



We are going to review the key components of customized employment. We will identify how to target if a customized approach will meet the needs of the participants you are serving. We will unlock how you customize a job description based on meeting an employer’s unmet needs. Services and supports are put in place to ensure that the employer and employee are able to work successfully together. An in-depth review of the key elements of customized employment will take place. We will unlock the components of the Discovery process and how the documents created during Discovery are a key to customized employment success. We will outline the plan for customizing employment and provide the audience with tools and tips for future use. We will wrap up with the employment development process and identify the ways in which the customized approach leads to long term community placement success.

Learn, Make and Do: What’s NExT in Transition Career Exploration

PRESENTED BY: Terrie Hylton, PhD


STEP TRANSITION and PRE-ETS Services are offered within the Navigating Employment eXperiences Together “NExT” series. Career exploration services are pivotal milestones for young adults to be familiar with career options before HS graduation. This presentation will describe and demonstrate disability sensitive ways career exploration can be presented to provide students with learning opportunities with professionals, making STEAM projects, and doing job simulations that are fun, exciting, and virtual.

Michigan Redistricting 101

PRESENTED BY: Chip Werner, Lauren Baker, Charles Beall, Edward Woods III, and Joan Gustafson


This presentation will discuss the 2018 Proposition 18-2 known as the ‘Voters Not Politicians” ballot proposal and the development of the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission. Presenters will review the impact of gerrymandering and the current process to create fair and equitable representation through committee of independent citizens and community feedback.

National Rehabilitation Association – State of the Association



National Rehabilitation Association celebrates its 100th Anniversary in 2022. A rich history and challenging present and a promising future will be shared. Topics covered will include

1. NRA’s new strategic plan which will be discussed with progress to date noted.
2. Advocacy and Public Policy Updates
3. Improvements to membership services
4. Participants views on the future focus of the National Rehabilitation Association will be

This presentation will share an overview of the Biden Administration’s approach to Disability issues; pending legislation in the US House and Senate related to the mission of NRA such as the Relaunching America’s Workforce Act, WIOA reauthorization, Raise the Wage Act and H.R.1 – “For People” Act.

Natural Disasters and Pandemics: Emergency Preparedness for People with Disabilities

PRESENTED BY: Jessica Hester, PhD, CRC


Natural disasters and pandemics have increased in number and intensity, devastating families and communities, and two of the most recent examples in Michigan are the Midland flood and COVID-19 pandemic. Basic preparedness and recovery efforts can be overwhelming, and having a disability puts a person at high risk during these events. In natural disasters, local, state, and national agencies have often either not considered people with disabilities (PWD), or consulted with them during the planning process. This has led to complications during evacuations, at shelters, and throughout recovery operations. Pandemic emergency preparedness plans for PWD are even more limited. Equitable assistance for PWD before, during, and after emergency events is manageable, but only if PWD are included in the planning process. This session will outline strategies and resources for developing emergency preparedness plans for and by PWD.

Natural Supports: Considerations and Implementation of a Person-Centered Approach to Self-Sufficiency

PRESENTED BY: Kayla Patino & Erin Shannon 


This presentation aims to increase knowledge and understanding of natural supports by first defining the term and outlining the importance to an individual’s independence. We will discuss considerations when attempting to identify supports, the benefits of natural supports versus systemic or formal supports and creating a person-centered support plan.

Overcoming Barriers to Achieve Long Term Community Placement Success



We will explore common barriers to job placement and long-term community placement success. We will dig into strategies that can assist with overcoming employment barriers. Through the process of rehabilitation, we can determine methods for assisting with difficult to place clients, the goal and intent of the discovery process, job development, job carving and job placement. We outline the process for the development of SMART goals while utilizing a person-centered approach. Strategies are reviewed to identify not only the keys needed for successful placement but also allowing room for growth and advancement. We pay special attention to the underserved populations and the unique techniques required to help all individuals despite their ability achieve short term and long term vocational success.

The Second Sex? Women and Disabilities 2021

PRESENTED BY: Rosanne Renauer


This presentation addresses the current status of women and the impact of disability on gender, identifying major influences and discrimination experienced by this special population. Intersectionality theory and identity terms ( race, ethnicity, gender, economic status, age, sexual orientation, and disability) will be discussed within a historical and current cultural context. A 2020 qualitative study, the Flint Women’s Study, investigated the needs, hopes, dreams and strengths of 100 women including women with disabilities, young and older women, LGBTQIA and new mothers and provides a foundation for this presentation. Advocacy and other strategies designed to address meaningful positive social and cultural change for women is addressed.

Transition Services in a Virtual World

PRESENTED BY: Mary Jane Shafto and Traci Comer-Scarsella 


This presentation will cover the process of addressing transition student needs while increasing access through a virtual platform including delivery of transition services, virtual access, and the Google platform. We will share the process we developed during the pandemic that includes; use of technology such as Google Classroom, Docs, Forms, & Sheets, Zoom and Meets, online game applications such as Kahoot and Quizlet, and various additional websites such as Virtual Job Shadow. We will also discuss our process with the set-up, facilitator responsibilities, communication through email and Google Classroom, user instruction documents for technology, accessibility of documents, participation agreement, and examples of possible porch drop-offs of materials. Finally, we will cover the delivery of information and assessment; including pre/post tests to measure understanding of material, use of icebreakers, and use of online activities with breakout groups, online discussions, online assignments, and online videos.

Transitions: A Collaborative Approach to Achieving Successful Outcomes

PRESENTED BY: Jenipher Guerin and Sarah DeLand 


Transition programs, in their traditional form, are generally focused on meeting the student’s needs as they are seen through the lens of an educator. With the passing of the Work Force Innovation and Opportunity Act, more emphasis is being put on addressing the students future employment needs at a much younger age. Students with 504 or special education designations require more time and support to meet milestones, WIOA has awarded funding to address those needs.

We are suggesting that schools transform their transition program to allow community rehab partners to provide training to these students starting at age 14 and progress through a curriculum that will address skills and behaviors that allow them to be better equipped to enter the workforce when they exit school. Our proposal will be to have a dual partnership with our agency, bringing the expertise of a BCBA along with our vocational staff to assist us with addressing some of the unique challenges someone on the spectrum endures in an employment setting. By introducing ABA therapy to the students in a vocational themed presentation we can decrease problem behaviors; In turn we will increase language, effective communication, attention span, focus, memory and social skills.

Historically individuals (with and without neurotypical diversity) generally tend to lose their jobs, not because they can’t perform the essential functions of the job, because they have some issue stemming from a problematic behavior or inability to effectively communicate with supervisors or co-workers. With our proposed new approach we will be providing the students with the tools that they need to practice, taking those skills to school supervised work based learning environments, so that they can be observed and adapted for when it comes time to enter the “real world”.

Understanding SSA’s Disability Benefits While Working



Gain understanding of how SSDI/SSI disability benefits are affected while working. Also, become aware of the different work incentives that SSA has to offset the individuals wages. This workshop will also provide information regarding individual benefit counseling across the state through the Work Incentive Planning & Assistance (WIPA).

Using the MiWorks! Business Resource Network to Improve Employee Retention

PRESENTED BY: Cherie Johnson, Alan Osburn, Stormie Jacobs-Wakemup, & Bret Hyble


Community rehabilitation organizations across the country are struggling with high turnover rates for Direct Support Professionals. The MiWorks! Business Resource Network (BRN) is a tool designed to assist companies leverage resources, ensuring their employees’ personal needs are met and therefore, improving workplace engagement. In this presentation, MMI and Great Lakes Bay Michigan Works will share their collaboration and the positive impact this partnership has had on both turnover and employee satisfaction in the central Michigan area.

Valuable Workforce Solutions for Persons with Disabilities

PRESENTED BY: Belinda L. Jones BA, MA, LLPC, Lakisha Foreman & Myla Lyons


This session will focus on working in a virtual world and related challenges for persons with disabilities. The Customer Service Training Center will share their process for helping individuals transition from training to work in a virtual world and highlight success stories from clients.

Working in a virtual world is different for people with unique abilities. Standardized testing for employment is one example. Employers are unable to see the value of people early in the application process, barring people with disabilities from fair consideration.

Visual, audible, and simulated aspects are folded into our curriculum to accommodate the many learning styles that fit our clients best in virtual learning.

To mitigate the intense transition from training to performing work that leads to independence for our clients, we meet their struggles with support through regular meetings in our Supported Employment phase.

Thank You to our 2021 Sponsors!


Logo - STEP Services to Enhance Potential


Logo Work Skills Corporation


Meijer Peckham

new horizons

Logo New Horizons Rehabilitations Services, Inc

Judson Center

Logo - Judson Center
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re:con Awards

BOOM is a statewide award ceremony recognizing individuals with a disability who have excelled. The goal of the BOOM Awards is to provide stereotype-busting role models for people with disabilities.

Boom Awards

logo apex awards

The apex awards recognize outstanding achievement in the following categories: Outstanding Employer, Outstanding Community Partner, Transformational Leadership, and Lifetime Achievement.

Apex Awards