Andy Arias (Los Angeles and San Francisco) is an advocacy professional who gives trainings at universities, high schools, and to Congressional leaders on ADA compliance and the inclusion of people disabilities and others from diverse backgrounds and communities. He has received several awards for his presentations on LGBTQ diversity and disability equality. He is member of many boards and commissions related to creating greater visibility and advancement for diverse communities and sits on the President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities. Andy advocates in the entertainment industry by creating visible pathways as an actor and stand-up comedian. and he is often asked to consult with producers and directors in creating greater media visibility of people with disabilities. He has also produced several small projects that have brought attention to persons with disabilities and the LGBTQ community.
Amy Brenneman (Los Angeles event) divides her time evenly between acting, producing and political activism. Her list of theater credits spans from Lincoln Center Theater to Yale Rep and her film and television history includes award-winning roles on NYPD Blue, Judging Amy, Fear, and currently The Leftovers. Amy co-founded The Cornerstone Theater Company, which specializes in site-specific community-based original theater pieces centered on themes of social justice, with largely local cast and crew. She produced and directed the documentary The Way the World Should Be about the trailblazing work of the CHIME Institute and its mission of inclusive education. Most recently, she and her husband Brad Silberling executive produced Heartbeat for NBC. Amy has taught drama and creative process at the CHIME Charter school, which specializes in educating children of all abilities. She has received numerous honors from organizations including Women in Film, the California State Assembly, the National Children’s Alliance, the Chime Institute, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, the Help Group and the Producer’s Guild of America. She recently received the Eleanor Roosevelt Award from The Feminist Majority for her ongoing commitment to reproductive rights. Amy traveled to Peru as an ambassador for CARE and has been the keynote speaker for NARAL, Cal-TASH, The Council for Exceptional Children and on the steps of the Supreme Court during oral arguments. Amy is married to writer/director Brad Silberling and has two children, Charlotte (15) and Bodhi (11).
Brent Elder, Ph.D. (Los Angeles and San Francisco) is a first year assistant professor at Rowan University. Elder’s research focuses on the development of sustainable inclusive education practices in under-resourced schools. Specifically, his work utilizes a critical disability studies lens to examine the intersections of disability, poverty, and education. During the 2015-16 academic year, he conducted his doctoral research in Kenya as a Fulbright scholar. Elder has published in the International Journal of Inclusive Education, Disability and the Global South, Disability Studies Quarterly, Societies without Borders, and the Journal of International Special Needs Education. He is also a co-founder of Tangata Group, an international NGO focused on enhancing the rights of persons with disabilities around the globe. In the Spring, he will teach courses on collaboration for inclusive education and clinical experiences in special education. When not teaching, he enjoys traveling, live music, and spending time with family.
Micah Fialka-Feldman (Los Angeles and San Francisco) is a national speaker, self-advocate and pioneer who fights for disability justice and inclusion. He is part of the first wave of adults with intellectual disabilities who attended college and has been fully included in school and community. Micah earned a Certificate in Disability Studies at Syracuse University in 2015 through InclusiveU. He is a Teaching Assistant in SU’s School of Education and works at the Taishoff Center as the Outreach Coordinator. Micah is one of the subjects featured in Dan Habib’s upcoming documentary, Intelligent Lives (working title). In May of 2014, Micah was appointed by President Obama to President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities.
Kathleen Gee, Ph.D. is a full-time, tenured Professor in the Special Education program at California State University, Sacramento (CSUS) where she coordinates the Moderate/Severe Credential Specialist program and teaches in the Graduate program. She has extensive experience and publications in the areas of personnel preparation, innovative demonstration, research, and technical assistance. Kathy has been working in the field of special education since 1978. Her areas of expertise include inclusive education, positive behavioral supports, instructional strategies, and augmentative and alternative communication. She is particularly known for her work with individuals with the most complex support needs in inclusive settings. As a previous president of TASH: Equity, Opportunity, and Inclusion, she is keenly aware of the issues and needs of children/youth/adults with the most significant disabilities.
Dan Habib (Los Angeles and San Francisco) is the creator of the award-winning documentary films Including Samuel, Who Cares About Kelsey?, and many other films on disability-related topics. Habib is a filmmaker at the University of New Hampshire’s Institute on Disability. His current film, Intelligent Lives (working title) will launch in early 2018. Both Including Samuel and Who Cares About Kelsey? were nominated for Emmy awards. Including Samuel has been translated into 17 languages and is used as a teaching tool worldwide. In 2013 he received the Justice for All Grassroots Award from the American Association of People with Disabilities. In 2014, Habib was appointed by President Barack Obama to the President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities. Habib and his wife, Betsy, live in Concord, NH, with their sons Isaiah, 20, and Samuel, 17.
Dr. Beth Myers (moderator, Los Angeles and San Francisco) is the Executive Director of the Taishoff Center and the Lawrence B. Taishoff Professor of Inclusive Education at Syracuse University, teaching in the Inclusive Elementary and Special Education Program and leading graduate students in a Special Education Consultant internship program. Beth holds degrees in elementary education, special education, and literacy from St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia and the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania. Professor Myers helped create a best-practice inclusive program in the Lower Merion School District in Pennsylvania and opened a regional center for autism services in 2006. She has created dozens of programs with individuals and families, including the Advancement Square group for adults with developmental disabilities, The Teen Project for adolescents, the Awesome Summer Days program for school-age children, and the SAIL Supported Adult Independent Living program. Myers conducted research to study the autobiographical works of adolescents with autism, which won the 2012 Ralph C. Preston Award for Scholarship and Teaching Contributing to Social Justice and Educational Equity.
Carrie Rosen (Los Angeles event) is a writer on Speechless on ABC. An episode she co-wrote, “R-A-Y-RAYCATION,” was nominated for a Writers’ Guild Award for best episodic comedy. Prior to Speechless, she was a writer on Faking It (MTV) and Chasing Life (ABC Family). Carrie grew up in Westchester County, New York and graduated from the USC’s School of Cinematic Arts.
Cheryl Theis is an Education Advocate in the Parent Training and Information Center at the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund (DREDF). She has a background in case management, consulting, advocacy and program development for students with disabilities. She has a BA in Social Welfare and an MA in Anthropology, both from UC Berkeley where her research focused on the transition to adulthood for individuals with neurological difference. Her previous experience is as a researcher, project coordinator and interviewer for both Stanford University and the California Department of Health Services on Autism and related projects, looking specifically at the impact of stigma on the transition to adulthood. She also has experience as a life skills and college prep teacher and co-developed and implemented a transition support program and Careers and College curriculum for students with disabilities. Cheryl has worked as an advocate for students and families in their interactions with the Regional Center of the East Bay, the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation, and college disability support programs. She has extensive experience as a speaker and trainer on issues related to educational access and support for students with disabilities, especially during the transition to adulthood. She works in collaboration with state and local stakeholders, including Regional Center, Public Health, the CA Foster Youth Education Task Force, local community based organizations and the Developmental Disabilities Council in that effort. She trains parents, professionals and activists to use the laws that protect and support the education access of students with disabilities to improve outcomes in graduation, college and employment and community engagement. Cheryl also has significant expertise related to appropriate support for students with psychiatric disabilities. She most recently has focused on addressing the school to prison pipeline challenges for students with disabilities in underrepresented and vulnerable communities. She works to address disparities for youth with disabilities and to increase meaningful inclusion across all settings, including child welfare, juvenile justice where implementing individualized education plans is very challenging. In addition to her professional experience, Cheryl is the mother of five children, two with disabilities, and is a foster and adoptive parent. She enjoys working directly with youth and families, but also through state and federal policy efforts at the macro level. She is committed to helping parents and youth with disabilities navigate an often challenging educational terrain by developing effective advocacy skills, and prioritizing the key values of the disability rights movement that focus on increasing opportunities, decreasing stigma and challenging the pervasive ableism that limits so many young people.