Session Descriptions & Speaker Bios

Session Title:  Real-Life Stories: Using Smart Home Technology for Independence

Session Description:  Amazon Echo, Ring doorbell, smart cameras, and smart lighting… there is a lot of buzz around smart home devices, but how do you know which ones will work for you? Hear from three people with disabilities as they discuss how smart home technology is helping them to live safer and more independently.  They will be talking about:  

• How they identified which smart home devices to get.
• Who assisted them in the process of identifying the devices.
• How they funded the purchase of those devices.
• How were the devices installed.
• What is working for them.
• What problems have they encountered.
• What devices they plan to add next.

This webinar will provide valuable information for individuals with disabilities, their families and supporting professionals on how to best support people with disabilities in implementing smart home technology for safer and more independent living.

Speaker Bio:  Michael Anderson has been a legislative advocate for The ARC of Philadelphia since 2015. He meets with lawmakers from the Philadelphia area at local, state, and federal levels to make the case for legislative changes that will improve the lives of people with disabilities. Mr. Anderson is also a member of Pennsylvania Assistive Technology Foundation’s (PATF’s) Smart Home advisory committee. In a previous life, Mr. Anderson worked for three years as a statistician for the Philadelphia 76ers. He has also worked on several political campaigns. Mr. Anderson is a proud graduate of Lower Merion High School and received an associate degree with a concentration in journalism from Edinboro University. Currently, he is co-owner of a home in Merion Station, PA. Mr. Anderson has cerebral palsy and is a wheelchair user.

Speaker Bio:  Alexa Brill graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Sociology from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania in 2013. She has worked for The Arc of Pennsylvania since 2014 as their Social Media and Website Manager. Alexa serves as the President on the Board of Self Advocates United As 1 (SAU1). She also serves on the Smart Home Advisory Committee through the Pennsylvania Assistive Technology Foundation (PATF). Alexa is very passionate about advocating for the rights of people with disabilities, as well as helping to make sure they have access to the right technology. She wants to help people learn about and access the technology they need to be as independent as possible.

Speaker Bio:  George Russo is an assistive technology assistant at Easterseals. George has been a part of Easterseals since 1996 as a client, a volunteer, an ambassador for PRC, and now as an employee. He has an associate degree in Computer Science from Miami Dade Community College. For the past year, he has served on the Smart Home Advisory Committee through the Pennsylvania Assistive Technology Foundation.

Speaker Bio:  Susan Tachau is co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Pennsylvania Assistive Technology Foundation (PATF), a statewide non-profit organization. PATF has helped more than 4,400 individuals with disabilities and older Pennsylvanians finance the assistive technology they need with loans of $44 million. Susan serves on the Boards of Directors for the National Disability Institute, the National Disability Finance Coalition, the PA Statewide Independent Living Council, and the Technology Subcommittee of the National Council on Independent Living. In 2021, Susan was awarded both the AARP Purpose Prize and the Ned Gramlich Lifetime Achievement Award for Responsible Finance from the Opportunity Finance Network. Ms. Tachau received a B.A. from Colorado College, a M.A. from the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University, and an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Colorado College. Ms. Tachau and her husband are the parents of three adult children, one of whom has cerebral palsy.

Session Title:  Be Creative:  Innovative Application of Mainstream Technologies

Session Description:  Technology is a tool that we all use to navigate our schedules, utilize our homes, and access information.  Using technology has become a way of life - a vehicle to provide greater independence and increase choice.  In this session, attendees will learn how to creatively utilize existing, mainstream technologies to support individualized needs.  This is an interactive presentation so participants are encouraged to bring real life examples of current needs for discussion and real-time problem solving!

Speaker Bio:  Laurie Dale is the owner of Personal Technology Solutions. She has pioneered the use of assistive technology to improve the everyday lives of the people with disabilities and is responsible for integrating new innovations that revolutionize the way companies support people with disabilities. Her goal: let folks do it for themselves. Laurie works to create new bridges between technology and individuals with disabilities, identifying and determining what will best allow them to increase their independence. This includes the creation of the TIP (Technology Innovations for People) Squad. The TIP Squad, made up of individuals with cognitive disabilities, offers unique peer to peer mentoring and training in the technology field. Laurie has worked in the field of technology for 25 years and has been serving people with varying disabilities for over 30 years. Laurie has seen first-hand how technology can change a person’s life – by putting it back in their own hands.

Session Title:  Creating a Technology-First Organization

Session Description:  Technological solutions are critical in virtually every industry. When we look at the challenges facing providers, there is an increasing understanding that technology is and will be a fundamental component of current and future services and supports.

This session will highlight the importance of incorporating technology into an organization’s strategic plan by including it in person-centered planning. It will highlight how Keystone Human Services is approaching this process by adopting an organizational approach to implementing its technology-first initiative. The session will also provide information on how a strategic technology goal must also be supported by Direct Support Professionals (DSPs). Fundamental to being a technology-first company is the DSPs’ supporting role in ensuring that any enabling technology is developed for the individuals accepting services. DSPs are critical in this role. The session will present ways to develop an organizational “culture of curiosity” to assist in adopting and growing enabling technologies.

Finally, the speaker will also share the lessons learned in moving from a company that was an early adopter of assistive technologies to a large multi-state organization looking to provide technology-first services and supports.

Speaker Bio:  Greg Wellems serves as the Executive Director of Intellectual Disability Services for Keystone Human Services’ Pennsylvania and Delaware regions. His career began 30 years ago as a direct support professional. Before joining Keystone, Greg worked as the Chief Operating Officer for Imagine!, a Colorado-based service provider. He is a strong advocate for incorporating technology into human services and led the development of smarthome models for supporting individuals with cognitive disabilities. Greg has been on the Board of Directors for ANCOR, the Life Enrichment Trust, and the Longmont Symphony Orchestra. He is currently a member of the Pennsylvania Office of Developmental Programs (ODP) technology task force and residential strategic think group.

Session Title:  Behind the Curtain:  A Practical Guide to Implementing & Integrating Remote Supports & Other Technology Into Your Organization

Session Description:  Introducing and implementing new ways to provide services can be a daunting task.  Even if you are convinced that the new model will address multiple issues that you and or your organization are facing, just that conviction is not enough. So many key stakeholders, both internal and external, have questions, doubts, and reservations that must all be identified and addressed in order for any different service model to stand any chance of success.  Looking through the programmatic and organizational lens, this session will focus on and share real life experience in identifying all the various stakeholders, ways to address their concerns, techniques in building momentum, how to move forward in constructive and positive ways, and key “lessons learned”.  No matter where you sit on the organizational chart in your social service or state agency or if you are a self-advocate, guardian, or family member, the presentation will be informative and provide “take-aways” that will be beneficial and of interest.

Speaker Bio:  Neal Meltzer is the former Executive Director of Waban, an organization in Maine that provides a broad spectrum of comprehensive services for children and adults with intellectual and other disabilities. During his 15-year tenure in that role, he leveraged technology and innovation to increase the quality of care, broaden program offerings, enhance communication, increase organizational efficiency, and address unmet needs by doubling the number of individuals served. Prior to this, Neal was a senior administrator for Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services where he had responsibility for Intellectual Disability and Mental Health services in Maine’s two most populated counties, comprised of half the state’s population. In addition, he also participated in many state-wide initiatives including helping to develop and implement the Department’s first IDD and Mental Health Management Information System and co-authoring Maine’s Strategic Plan to End Homelessness. Since retiring, he has continued his advocacy efforts by providing consultative and advisory services to various organizations.

Session Title:  The World of 3D Printing

Session Description:  Ever wondered if you could take an idea or design and have it made to try right in front of your eyes? Well, you are in the right place. 3D printing is a technology that has more recently become less expensive as well as easier to use! In this session we will be talking about the pros and cons of 3D printing to give a better idea of what you can make as well as some of the limitations that exist. We will also be discussing the cost and difficulty of getting into 3D printing (Hint: It is much less costly and difficult than you are likely thinking!) There will also be time to answer any questions you may have about 3D printing.

Speaker Bio:  Tammy Murner is the Director of Innovation and Assistive Technology at Black Hills works.  In her 30 years with the company, she has fulfilled a variety of roles ranging from residential support to job coaching to maintenance assistance.  Her wide-ranging experience allows her to view every challenge from multiple perspectives, leading to well thought out plans and decisions that directly impact the attainment of personal outcomes for people she supports.  Tammy believes that an assumption of competence and focus on abilities is critical to helping people achieve their dreams.     

Speaker Bio:  Tyler Drey is a 3rd year Mechanical Engineer at the prestigious South Dakota School of Mines and Technology.  A self-professed lover of 3D printing, Tyler believes in pushing the boundaries of what is possible.  His experience working with 3D printers ranges from designing parts for a robotics team to rapid prototyping at 3M.  In his current role as an intern with a provider agency, he develops products for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities