2009 Conference for People with Disabilities

The 2009 annual Conference for People with Disabilities welcomed more than 300 guests at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Indianapolis Nov. 16 and 17. Themed “Invest in People and Share in the Profts,” the two-day event engaged attendees with inspiring presentations and informational workshops, encouraging participants to invest in themselves and their communities by improving their individual skills.
  • Conference transcripts and handouts
  • Article - Breaking down Capitol Hill barriers
  • Article - Indiana lobbyists explore state's legislative landscape
  • Article - What if? What else? Why not?
  • Article - Leading Hooser advocates honored at awards luncheon
  • Conference Photos
  • Breaking down Capitol Hill barriers

    Starting things off at the Conference for People with Disabilities, Andrew Imparato, president and CEO of the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), inspired attendees to infuence change. His forward-thinking presentation about federal legislation stressed the importance of bringing people with disabilities into the policymaking mix.

    “If you’re going to make disability policy, make sure people with disabilities aren’t just involved, but are in the driver’s seat,” said Imparato.

    Imparato addressed several signifcant policy areas for people with disabilities that the AAPD is actively involved in:

    Voting rights

    The AAPD played an integral role in the 2003 passage of the Help America Vote Act. This legislation required that every polling place in the nation be accessible so people with disabilities could vote privately and independently. The bill mandated that electronic voting machines be available for people with disabilities in all polling places, but this has caused some debate about the need for a paper trail, according to Imparato.

    “Unfortunately, it’s taking a while for the election equipment industry to produce machines that provide equal access for people with disabilities and provide a paper trail,” said Imparato. “But I think it’s only a matter of time before the technology catches up.”

    Accessible technology

    The Coalition of Organizations for Accessible Technology, which the AAPD helped create, introduced legislation now called the 21st Century Telecommunications and Video Accessibility Act (H.R. 3101). This bill modernizes technology standards of older laws, including Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act.

    “If you have a video with content that is captioned and you’re showing it on a Web site, the captioning should carry through to the Web site,” said Imparato. Issues like this have come about in the wake of the proliferation of the Internet, he explained.


    Imparato applauded the passage of the ADA Amendments Act, which overturned Supreme Court decisions — many of them related to employment — that had narrowed the scope of the protected class under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

    To illustrate the employment challenges people with disabilities face overall, Imparato referenced the federal government — the nation’s largest employer. According to Imparato, people with disabilities make up only 0.88 percent of the federal government’s workforce. However, he expects more opportunities with President Barack Obama’s new administration.

    Imparato also addressed the need to modernize the four largest programs serving the disability community: Social Security and Supplemental Security Income, Medicaid, Medicare and Vocational Rehabilitation. To learn more about the AAPD or subscribe to its newsletter, visit http://www.aapd.com/.

    Indiana lobbyists explore state's legislative landscape

    An esteemed panel of Indiana lobbyists discussed state-level disability policy issues at the conference, sharing their insights and ideas with attendees. Each panelist offered important and interesting information.

    John Cardwell, director of The Generations Project, http://www.generationsproject.org/:

    • Indiana’s budget is very tight, but that doesn’t mean policy changes won’t occur. It’s important to continue your advocacy efforts. 
    • When the economy suffers, home- and community-based services (HCBS) tends to appear in legislation because HCBS is cheaper than institutional services. 
    • Area Agencies on Aging should be given the opportunity to determine HCBS eligibility on the spot.

    Nancy Griffin, disability advocate and consultant: 

    • The welfare system needs to be addressed so the process for obtaining Medicaid and food stamps is simplifed and standardized. 
    • State-employed caseworkers should be put back into the Medicaid system. 
    • We need a suffcient staff of adequately trained and courteous representatives in the local welfare system.

    Steve McCaffrey, president and CEO of Mental Health America of Indiana, http://www.mentalhealthassociation.com/

    • Possible cuts to Medicaid could mean less access to mental health needs. 
    • Discrimination against people with psychiatric disorders needs to be addressed. “Psychiatric disorders are disabilities,” said McCaffrey. 
    • We need to reduce smoking among people with mental health conditions. According to McCaffrey, people with mental health conditions live 25 years less than others, mostly due to smoking.

    Kim Dodson, associate executive director of the Arc of Indiana, http://www.arcind.org/

    • This will be a short legislative session, starting Jan. 5 and ending March 15, or sooner. 
    • Employment is a necessary topic that needs to be addressed, since 80 percent of people with disabilities are unemployed, according to Dodson. 
    • The Arc of Indiana is focusing some efforts on the criminal justice system, trying to ensure that people with disabilities are treated fairly both as victims and suspects of crimes.

    What if? What else? Why not?

    Charlie and Maria Girsch, award-winning toy designers, authors and widely sought-after creative consultants, opened the conference’s closing session with this inspiring quote: “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at will change.” Charlie and Maria delivered a compelling, interactive presentation that encouraged audience members to unleash their creativity by participating in group activities.

    The Girschs’ book, “Fanning the Creative Spirit,” focuses on inventive creativity, or as they affectionately describe it, “inventivity.”

    “The surest way to predict the future is to invent it,” said Charlie Girsch. “Experts agree that creativity is innate, not related to intelligence, and can be awakened or enhanced at any time.” To prove this point, Maria Girsch gave conference attendees a no-fail creativity test by asking “Were you ever a child”?

    Rather than focusing on “are you creative,” the Girsches encouraged audience members to focus on “how are you creative.” Using the C.A.R.E. Profle®, developed by Al Fahden, you can fnd your own individual type of creativity: Creator (thrives on generating ideas), Advancer (moves ideas through the system), Refner (insures that ideas are workable) and Executor (makes ideas happen). The Girsches assure that no one type of creativity is better than any other and some people are a blend of types, but real teamwork and collaboration occur when the creative strength of each person is acknowledged and utilized.

    Some blocks to creativity include habits, fear and assumptions. To “get into the habit of getting out of the habit,” the Girsches encouraged conference attendees to cross-train their brains through Stretch-ercises™, simple exercises that take you out of your daily habits, thereby forcing the brain to make new connections and opening your mind for creative risk taking. Examples include moving your watch or ring to a new hand for a day, brainstorming alternate uses for a toothpick or paperclip, or doing all of the scrabble, jumble and crossword puzzles in a daily newspaper.

    For more information on the Girsches or the path to creativity, please visit http://www.creativitycentral.com/.

    Leading Hooser advocates honored at awards luncheon

    The Governor’s Council honored two outstanding Hoosier disability advocates and an exceptional Disability Awareness campaign at the annual conference awards luncheon. Each year, the Governor’s Council presents Community Spirit Awards to individuals and groups from around the state. The Distinguished Leadership Award recognizes people with disabilities and/ or parents of children with disabilities for outstanding advocacy efforts. The Disability Awareness Month Award recognizes individuals and organizations conducting noteworthy Disability Awareness campaigns.

    2009 Distinguished Leadership Awards

    Person with a Disability

    Karen Vaughn, Indianapolis, was honored for her work as a 17-year advocate for people with disabilities. A 1992 graduate of the Council’s Partners in Policymaking program, Karen’s advocacy work includes testifying before legislators, public hearings and congressional subcommittees about issues related to the inclusion of people with disabilities. Her accomplishments include working with others to secure a $2.4 million grant to improve para-transit, acquiring $39.4 million for transitioning individuals from institutions, passing Medicaid Buy-In legislation and developing an Olmstead Plan in Indiana.

    Since 1993, Karen has run her own business, Vaughn & Associates Consulting Services, which uses a trans-disciplinary approach to offer training related to issues of concern for people with disabilities and their families, consumers and professionals.

    Parent of a Child with a Disability

    Amy Borgmann, Greenfeld, was recognized for her advocacy efforts on behalf of children and adults with disabilities. After the birth of her son, who has cerebral palsy, and after meeting other families raising children with special needs, Amy recognized the need to share information and offer support. A founding member of Families United for Support and Encouragement (FUSE), Amy has been giving her time and talents to the organization since 1996, and she recently resigned her position as board president to take on the role of development director for FUSE.

    Amy is a 2001 graduate of the Council’s Partners in Policymaking program, and her work touches the lives of families in a way that empowers children to share their individual gifts with others.

    2009 Disability Awareness Campaign Award

    Brooke Cain and Tami Housholder, special education teachers at Kendallville Middle School, received awards for organizing and implementing the school’s 2009 Disability Awareness Day, which included a school-wide essay contest, community speakers and a wheelchair basketball game. Brooke and Tami’s hard work has evolved from fve lesson plans and 30 volunteers to 20 lesson plans, more than 50 volunteers and a school-wide event where students learn to accept the differences in all people.

    Activities for 2009 Disability Awareness Day included raising more than $2,000 to help a local student obtain a service dog. Students also wrote approximately 100 letters to their state senators to support a law permitting service dogs in all public buildings.


    Conference Material

    Additional transcripts and handout material from the conference will posted as it becomes available. If you would like to be automatically notified of updates, use the "Subscribe for e-mail updates" link at the top of this page. 

    Keynote Presentations

    Federal Policy and Legislation and the Disability Agenda
    Presented by Andy Imparato, AAPD

    Cash In On Your Creative Spirit
    Presented by Charlie and Maria Girsch

    Plenary Sessions

    Equity for All: State Legislative and Policy Panel
    Panelists: John Cardwell, The Generations Project; Kim Dodson, The Arc of Indiana; Nancy Griffin, disability advocate and consultant; Steve McCaffrey, Mental Health America of Indiana

    Health Care Reform: A High Stakes Game
    Presented by Liz Savage, Disability Policy Collaboration
    Panelists: Kim Dodson, The Arc of Indiana; Nancy Jewell, Indiana Minority Health Coalition; Julia Vaughn, Citizens Action Coalition; Donna Gore-Olsen, Family Voices; Sarah M. Stelzner, M.D., Indiana chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics


    Emergency Planning and the Disability Community
    Presenter: Steve Cain, president, Indiana Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster 

    Pathways to Prosperity: Economic Strategies for Success
    Presenters: Sherwyn Kerbo, Financial Foundations, John Boner Community Center; Jacqueline Troy, Housing & Community Development Authority

    Exercise Your Options: Finding Affordable Housing
    Panelists: Deborah McCarty, Back Home in Indiana Alliance; David Kaufmann, Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority; Paul Neumann, USDA, Rural Development; William Shaw, U.S. Department of Housing

    • PowerPoint Handout: PDF