Last updated: August 30. 2013 6:39PM - 1812 Views

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National experts, policy-makers, professionals and community leaders will share a stirring message of possibilities at the 12th annual Northeastern U.S. Conference on disABILITY “Real Rehabilitation Renaissance: Ignited by Inspiration and Innovation.”

The conference will take place Oct. 2 at The University of Scranton’s Patrick and Margaret DeNaples Center. The conference is hosted by the University’s Panuska College of Professional Studies with the support of the Edward R. Leahy Jr., Endowment and is intended for representatives of agencies, organizations, colleges and universities in the northeast United States. The conference will focus on employment, transition and independent living.

Janet LaBreck, the newly confirmed Commissioner of the Rehabilitative Services Administration for the U.S. Department of Education, will provide the opening keynote address. The Rehabilitation Services Administration provides leadership and fiscal resources to assist state and other agencies to provide vocational rehabilitation, independent living and other services to individuals with disabilities. Prior to her current position, she served as commissioner of the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind (MCB), where she served in a number of positions since joining MCB in 1985. She also served as an adjunct professor at Assumption College, Worcester, Mass.

Another featured speaker, John Ficca, program director of Hands On Educational Services Inc., who taught hospitality/culinary management, partnered with Hyatt Hotel Corporation and the Florida Division of Vocational Rehabilitation in 1998 to develop a reality-based, hospitality training program for persons with disabilities. Hands on Education @ Hyatt began at one hotel in Florida and now includes 30 Hyatt Hotels in nine states. Ficca will present “Effective Public/Private Partnerships are Like a Good Marriage” at the conference.

The conference will close with a 4:30 p.m. presentation of “Handicap This! Stage Show,” an entertaining and inspirational presentation that seeks to dispel misunderstandings about cerebral palsy and other disabilities and underscores the possibilities people possess to overcome obstacles. The performance features Mike Berkson, founding member of Handicap This!, inspirational leader of the Keep On Keeping On Foundation, and aspiring film-maker and novelist, who was born with cerebral palsy.

“Fear not. I may have problems. But I have no complaints,” Berkson said on the Keep on Keeping On Website. “I find ways to cope. I never dwell on my limitations. Instead, I ponder unlimited possibilities.”

Also featured in “Handicap This! Stage Show” is Tim Wambach, founding member and production manager of Handicap This! and president of the Keep On Keeping On Foundation. He is the author of “How We Roll,” a book describing his relationship with Berkson. In August of 2005, Wambach ran 717 miles between Orlando, Fla., and Chicago, Ill., to raise awareness for cerebral palsy.

In addition to the acclaimed keynote speakers, the 2013 conference features sessions led by state and nationally recognized leaders, including remarks by U.S. Senator Robert Casey Jr. The sessions provide information on interagency collaboration in research and practice, the risk of addition for persons with disabilities, and incorporating alternative microfinancing and financial education to obtain assistive technology, among other topics.

Continuing-education units are available for certification and licensure in the counseling, social work, marriage and family therapy, education, human resources and allied health professions. Registration is required to attend the conference, however, the 4:30 p.m. of Handicap This! is free and public.

Honorary chairpersons are Edward R. Leahy, ’68, H’01, and Patricia Leahy, interim executive director of the National Rehabilitation Association.

Additional information about the conference can be found at scranton.edu/disabilityconference, or by emailing the conference co-chairs Rebecca Spirito Dalgin, Ph.D., associate professor of counseling and human services, (rebecca.dalgin@scranton.edu), faculty specialist, education, or Lori Bruch, Ed.D, (lori.bruch@scranton.edu), associate professor of counseling and human services.

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