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AUCD - Plenary B

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"Building Our Future: Leveraging our Experience from Public Roles"

Tuesday, December 6, 2016 8:45 AM - 10:15 AM

Location: Grand Ballroom North/Central Salon

Session Description

People with disabilities and their families play an increasingly key role in crafting and implementing policy and practice at the local, state, and federal levels. From political appointees to individual advocates, all voice a strong message of their disability experience and perspective to influence and drive change.

Our moderator and panelists will explore what's next for people with disabilities and families under the new Administration and how families and people with disabilities have played and will continue to play a lead role in legislative victories such as the Autism CARES Act of 2014 and the ABLE Act. Learn how to continue to build bipartisan collaboration to advance disability policy at all governmental levels.

Featured Presenter(s)

  • Moderator: Zipporah Levi-Shackleford,AUCD Board Member, LEND Family Faculty, Partnership for People with Disabilties at Virginia Commonwealth University
  • Confirmed Panelists
    • Sara Gelser, Senator, Oregon State Legislature
    • Berthy de la Rosa-Aponte, former Chair of the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Advisory Panel
    • Shawn Aelong, Disability Advocate, Institute on Disabilities at Temple University

Zipporah Levi-Shackleford

close up headshot of Zipporah Levi-Shackleford wearing white.Zipporah Levi-Shackleford serves as the AUCD Board Trainee Representative and is a recent graduate from the VA-LEND program at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia. As a special needs sibling and the mother to four children, three of whom have special needs, her personal experiences instilled in her a passion for improving academic, medical, and community programs and services for individuals with special needs and their families.

Zipporah has a Master's degree in education and is certified in Positive Behavior Support Facilitation. She is currently pursuing her doctorate degree in education majoring in instructional technology. To help students and young adults with reaching personal goals and their fullest potential, Zipporah founded Creative Approach Development Center, LLC, in 2015 which provides individualized academic and behavioral supports as well as resources and training for guardians, teachers and direct support providers.


Sara Gelser

Headshot of Sara Gelser, caucasian brunette woman in a suit and wearing glasses.Sara Gelser has served in the Oregon Legislature since 2005. After serving in the Oregon House for nine years, she was elected to the Oregon State Senate in 2015. She is Chair of the Senate Human Services and Early Childhood Committee and Co-Chair of the Oregon Women's Health and Wellness Alliance. She also serves on the Senate Education Committee, the Senate Workforce Committee, and the Senate Judiciary Committee. She served as Chair of the House Education Committee for six years, and also spent nine years serving on the House Revenue Committee.

Senator Gelser is the legislative appointee to the State Interagency Coordinating Council for Early Intervention and Early Childhood Special Education. She was also appointed by Governor Kitzhaber to the Oregon Rail Leadership Council. She was a founding member of the Oregon Senior and Disability Caucus, and in 2010 was appointed to the National Council on Disability by President Barack Obama, with unanimous consent from the US Senate.

Prior to her legislative service, Sen. Gelser worked as the Children with Disabilities and Family Support Coordinator for the Oregon Department of Human Services and as a parent educator for Linn-Benton Community College and the Oregon Parent Training and Information Center. Gelser is the founder of the FG Syndrome Family Alliance, a non-profit organization serving families and medical professionals around the world touched by this unusual syndrome.

Gelser earned her BA in history and education from Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana, and an MAIS degree from Oregon State University. She lives in Corvallis with her family.


Berthy De La Rosa-Aponte

Headshot of Berthy DelaRosa Aponte, hispanic woman wearing redBerthy De La Rosa-Aponte has been a disability advocate for over 30 years. Her professional experiences has centered on administering services and programs to the disability and/or the Hispanic communities in the US in the educational and social service fields.

She has served in numerous local, state, and national boards including gubernatorial, congressional, and presidential appointments. From 2001-2004, Mrs. De La Rose-Aponte was the Principal Investigator of the Juntos Podemos (Together We Can) Project in Broward County, Florida, a training Project of National Significance funded by the Administration on Developmental Disabilities, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In 2003 the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives appointed her to be a member of the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Advisory Panel. In 2004 President George W. Bush appointed Mrs. De La Rosa-Aponte to be the Chair of the national Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Advisory Panel. She was appointed in 2008 by President Bush to a two-year term as a Member of the President's Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities.

Mrs. De La Rosa-Aponte continues her advocacy and activist work in Florida as a public policy and disability issues consultant.

Shawn Aelong

Headshot of Shawn Aelong, black male in a suit and tie, smiling and wearing glassesShawn Aleong graduated from Davidson Elwyn High School in 2009, where he was the Valedictorian of his class. After receiving his high school diploma, Shawn attended Liberty Academy AAL program for one year. Following Liberty Academy, Shawn enrolled in the Temple University Academy for Adult Learning in 2012. Before he finished the AAL program, Shawn received the opportunity to speak in front of Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey about the Able Act. Shawn graduated from the Temple University Academy for Adult Learning in 2014 with a certificate of completion.

In January 2015, Shawn enrolled as an undergraduate student at Temple University, majoring in Legal Studies under the Continuing Studies program. Aside from taking classes, Shawn has many different roles on campus within various organizations. Shawn is currently the Juvenile Justice Chair for the PA State NAACP Youth & College Division, previously serving as the Juvenile Justice Ambassador for the Temple University Progressive NAACP during the 2013-2014 academic school year. He is also involved with Temple Student Government, serving as the Deputy Director of Campus Life and Diversity, Phi Alpha Delta Mock Trial Team, and other various organizations. Shawn prides himself in being an advocate for people with disabilities and the youth and plans to continue his advocacy in the future. Shawn is also a member of the Institute on Disabilities' Consumer Advisory Committee.