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AUCD - Opening Plenary: Be the Change: Perspectives on a More Inclusive Movement

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Monday, November 18, 2019 8:30 AM - 10:00 AM

Location: Grand North/Central

Session Description


Watch the AUCD 2019 Opening Plenary





Don't miss this dynamic panel of next-generation leaders as they discuss the future of disability rights and ways that our network can help them lead and have an impact. What are some of the research questions that need to be answered that support the disability agenda moving forward? What's the best way for clinicians and researchers to partner with and support people with disabilities and their families? How can we reach underserved populations and elevate diverse perspectives as we work to build a more inclusive movement?


Haben Girma, advocate and author

Maria (Conchita) Hernandez Legorreta, Statewide Vision Low Incidence Specialist for the State of Maryland; METAS

Maria Town, Executive Director, American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD)


Liz Weintraub, Sr. Advocacy Specialist, Association of University Centers on Disabilities


About our Speakers

Haben Girma

The first Deafblind person to graduate from Harvard Law School, Haben Girma advocates for equal opportunities for people with disabilities. President Obama named her a White House Champion of Change. She received the Helen Keller Achievement Award, and a spot on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list. President Bill Clinton, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and Chancellor Angela Merkel have all honored Haben. Haben believes disability is an opportunity for innovation. She travels the world teaching the benefits of choosing inclusion. Her best-selling book Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law was featured in the New York Times, Oprah Magazine, People, The Wall Street Journal, and the Today Show.



Maria (Conchita) Hernandez Legorreta

Maria (Conchita) Hernandez Legorreta was born in Mexico and grew up in California. She advocates for the rights of blind children and their parents in the public-school setting in the United States and abroad through a lens of intersectionality focusing on social justice. Conchita received her Bachelor's degree from Saint Mary's College of California, majoring in International Studies, Spanish, and History. She then went on to Louisiana Tech University where she received her Master's in Teaching with a focus on teaching blind students. As well, Conchita earned a Master's certificate in working with Deaf-Blind students from Northern Illinois University. She is currently a Doctoral student at George Washington University pursuing a degree in Special Education. Conchita has been published in Future Reflections and Rooted in Rights.

Conchita keeps up with research in special education and serves as a peer reviewer on the Journal of Blindness Innovation and Research, and conducts workshops on best practices for educators and professionals in the field of disability and advocacy. She has been the director of the NFB BELL Academy in Washington DC for the past 5 years which mainly serves blind youth of color and empowers them to learn braille and foster a positive philosophy on blindness and disability. Conchita is the founder and Chair of METAS (Mentoring Engaging and Teaching All Students), a non-profit organization that trains educators in Latin America that work with blind/low vision students and other disabilities. In this role she engages lawmakers in policy discussions around people with disabilities and inclusion. Conchita is also a co-founder of the National Coalition of Latinx with Disabilities that seeks to amplify the voices of disabled Latinx in the disability rights movement. Currently, Conchita is the Low Incidence Specialist for Blind and Low Vision Services for the State of Maryland.

Conchita strives to be a voice for change for educators, professionals and advocates to make full inclusion a reality for people with disabilities in the United States and Latin America.

Maria Town

Maria Town is the President and CEO of the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD). In this role, she works to increase the political and economic power of people with disabilities. Prior to this she served as the Director of the City of Houston Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities where she advocated for the rights and needs of citizens with disabilities, served as a liaison between the mayor, city council, city departments and other public and private entities on matters pertaining to people with disabilities in Houston, and established local and national partnerships to advance inclusion.

Maria is the former senior associate director in the Obama White House Office of Public Engagement where she managed the White House's engagement with the disability community and older Americans. She also managed the place-based portfolio and coordinated engagement across Federal agencies. While at the White House, Maria hosted an inclusive fashion show that highlighted the efforts of makers and designers to enhance disability integration. Prior to this, Maria was a policy adviser at the Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy. While at ODEP, Maria led and coordinated numerous efforts to improve employment outcomes for youth and young adults with disabilities. She has particular expertise in areas of youth development and leadership and promoting college and career readiness for all youth. In addition to her disability policy work, Maria is the creator of the popular CP Shoes blog where she writes about fashion, design, and disability. She was recently named to the Susan Daniel's Disability Mentoring Hall of Fame and to the inaugural class of Emory University's 40 Under 40. She hails from Louisiana, where her family still resides.

Liz Weintraub, Moderator

Liz Weintraub has a long history of leadership in self advocacy, and has held many board and advisory positions at state and national organizations. She is a full time member of the AUCD's policy team and also the host of Tuesdays With Liz: Disability Policy For All, where she talks about polices in accssible language so policy is accessible to all.

In the Spring of 2018, Liz served as a Fellow for Senator Casey of Pennsylvania, working in his DC Office where she helped lead the way on disability policy by helping the Senator hold the administration accountable for disability stakeholder input into key programs; calling attention to the need for accessible supports and services for students and employees with disabilities on college campuses who have been sexually assaulted, which resulted in a S.2530; and helped organize a first of its kind Pennsylvania Disability Employment Summit with over 250 participants.

In the fall of 2018, Liz told the story of her personal experience as a woman with disabilities as she testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee about the potential implications of a Kavanaugh confirmation to the civil rights of people with disabilities. Prior to coming to AUCD, Liz worked for the Council on Quality & Leadership (CQL). Liz is an alumni of the LEND training program at the Center for Leadership in Disability at Georgia State University. Liz was a past chair of the Maryland Developmental Disabilities Council and is rejoining the Council for another term. Liz has received numerous awards, recognition, and commendations for her work, and enjoys mentoring people with disabilities.

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