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AUCD - Plenary A

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Building Our Future: Lessons from the Obama Years

Monday, December 5, 2016 8:30 AM - 10:00 AM

Location: Grand Ballroom North/Central Salon

Session Description

As AUCD and the disability community reflect on the last eight years, we look back on many policy accomplishments, both in the legislative and executive branches. We know, however, there is still important work to be done to advance civil rights for people with disabilities and their families. Join us to hear from leaders who have been instrumental in making change happen during the past eight years.

Present and past members of the Obama Administration will reflect on a range of issues and how the lessons learned and accomplishments under that administration can inform the work still to be accomplished. Panelists will highlight the top priorities coming into their positions, most significant accomplishments, and lessons they have learned to inform the new Administration.

Featured Presenter(s)

  • Moderator: Sue Swenson, Acting Assistant Secretary, OSERS
  • Confirmed Panelists:
    • Sharon Lewis,Principal: Health Management Associates; former Principal Deputy Administrator of the Administration for Community Living and the HHS Secretary's Senior Advisor on Disability
    • Taryn Williams,Chief of Staff to the Assistant Secretary of the Office of Disability Employment Policy, US Department of Labor; former Associate Director, White House Office of Public Engagement
    • Julie Petty,Project Trainer: Arkansas Partners for Inclusive Communities; former Chair, President's Committee on Intellectual Disabilities

Sue Swenson

Headshot of Sue Swenson, woman with short dark hair, in front of a Dept of Education flag.Sue Swenson is the Acting Assistant Secretary for the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) at the U.S. Department of Education. In this capacity, she serves as advisor to the U.S. Secretary of Education on matters related to the education of children and youth with disabilities, as well as employment and community living for youth and adults with disabilities. The mission of her office is to provide leadership to achieve full integration and participation in society of people with disabilities by ensuring equal opportunity and access to, and excellence in, education, employment and community living.

In addition to serving as Acting Assistant Secretary, Sue continues to be Deputy Assistant Secretary for OSERS, a position she has held for the past 6 years, Before OSERS, Swenson served in the Clinton administration as the Commissioner for Developmental Disabilities in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Swenson also served as Executive Director of the Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation and CEO of The Arc of the United States.

Sue Swenson got involved with disability advocacy because her middle son, Charlie, had profound disabilities. She was active in the Minneapolis schools as well as in state and federal policy while working as a professional services marketing director before being named a Kennedy Fellow in the U.S. Senate in 1996. She was educated at the University of Chicago and earned an AM there as well as an MBA at the University of Minnesota.


Sharon Lewis

Headshot of Sharon Lewis, a woman with long blonde bangs and short hair, wearing a blue top and blue dangly earings, on a white backgroundSharon is currently a Principal at Health Management Associates, having previously served in the dual roles of Principal Deputy Administrator of the Administration for Community Living and the Senior Advisor on Disability Policy to the HHS Secretary from November 2013-January 2016. She also served as the Commissioner of the Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities from April 2010-November 2013. At HHS, Sharon worked to improve access to quality integrated home and community-based services across multiple programs and funding sources in collaboration with states, stakeholders and other federal agencies, as well as collaborating with CMS to lead significant reforms in Medicaid HCBS policy and regulations to ensure community integration and increase person-centered services. Prior to her service at HHS, she served as the Senior Disability Policy Advisor to U.S. House Committee on Education & Labor, advising members of the Committee on legislative strategy and disability-related policy issues in education, employment and healthcare, and as a Kennedy Public Policy Fellow for U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Children & Families.

Sharon is a parent to three daughters, including one with a developmental disability. She is a native of Michigan, a long-time Oregonian, and a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis.


Julie Petty

Headshot of Julie Petty, brunette woman smiling, on a dark background.Julie graduated from the University of Arkansas with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and has been a leader in the self-advocacy movement in Arkansas and nationally for several years. In 2011, she was appointed by President Obama to serve on the President's Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities and in 2014 was appointed as Committee Chair. In 1998, she established Arkansas People First and helped it grow statewide. She has organized several state conferences, served on boards and advisory councils related to disability policy, and co-developed a training curriculum for self-advocates. Julie joined the staff at Partners for Inclusive Communities, the Arkansas UCEDD & LEND, in March of 2009 where she works on various projects to educate people with disabilities and others. Julie is an accomplished self-advocate from Arkansas and was the President of SABE (Self Advocates Becoming Empowered) from 2006-2008.



Taryn Williams

Headshot of Taryn WilliamsTaryn is currently the Chief of Staff to the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Office of Disability Employment Policy, United States Department of Labor. She is the former Associate Director in the Office of Public Engagement at the White House, where she served as the White House's liaison to the disability community. Prior to joining the White House, Taryn worked in the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) at the U.S. Department of Labor as a Senior Policy Advisor on the Youth Policy team. At ODEP, Taryn led demonstration projects and provided expertise in areas including workforce development, education, Medicaid, and Social Security. Prior to joining ODEP, Taryn was Research Coordinator for Leadership Programs at the Institute for Educational Leadership (IEL). Taryn also completed a detail to the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee in 2013. Originally from Sacramento, California, Taryn earned a bachelor's degree in Public Policy from Brown University and holds a master's degree in Education from Harvard University.