disAbility Conference at The University of Scranton Promotes Opportunities for Life
The Honorable Lynnae M. Ruttledge, commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, U.S. Department of Education, heads the list of keynote speakers at The University of Scranton’s 10th annual Northeastern U.S. Conference on disAbility on Wednesday, Oct. 5.
Titled “Transition Planning: In School, To Work, For Life,” the conference will focus on the strides being made to help students with disabilities enter the workplace. Lori A. Bruch, Ed.D., director of the rehabilitation counseling program and conference co-chair, explained, “People with disabilities have great potential and just need an opportunity to gain employment, which is the glue that makes life meaningful. Our conference will show the expanding opportunities that exist for that transition in our society.”
Appointed by President Barack Obama, Commissioner Ruttledge has served as the director of the Washington Department of Social and Health Service, Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, since 2005. She administers a public/private partnership that serves one million individuals with disabilities annually and places in employment almost 200,000 annually with a budget of $3 billion.
Commissioner Ruttledge has received numerous recognitions and awards for her service including the Washington Governor’s Award for Leadership in Management in 2007. As a person born with a disability, Ruttledge received assistance from the vocational rehabilitation program, graduated from the Northern Michigan University with a bachelor’s degree in education and began her career in public service as a classroom teacher. She will deliver her afternoon keynote address at 2 p.m.
Kathleen West-Evans, Dale DiLeo and David DeNotaris join Commissioner Ruttledge as keynote speakers at the conference.
West-Evans, director of business relations for the national Council of State Administrators in Vocational Rehabilitation (CSAVR), has been in the field of rehabilitation since 1978. She worked within the Washington State Division of Vocational Rehabilitation as a vocational rehabilitation counselor, an assistant regional administrator and a regional business relations specialist before moving to the federal level with the Rehabilitation Services Administration, where she worked until 2005. West-Evans is the founder and lead staff person for development of the National Employment Team, a national vocational rehabilitation-business network.
West-Evans’ opening keynote address, scheduled for 8:45 a.m., follows registration, a continental breakfast and presentation of colors. Joining West-Evans for the address will be Beth A. Butler, Esq., director of diversity & inclusion, Lowe’s Companies, Inc. An expert on employment on people with disabilities, she will speak about the positive work ethic that they bring to the workplace.
DeNotaris is the director of the Pennsylvania Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services. He has more than 18 years of experience in developing, implementing and promoting educational, employment and technology training programs for individuals experiencing vision loss or other disabling conditions. DeNotaris is responsible for a staff of 165 people and an annual budget of more than $13 million. Under his leadership, the bureau has developed cutting-edge programs to assist thousands of individuals with disabilities in obtaining competitive employment.
DeNotaris has been heard saying, “My job is to tell people, ‘look at what I can do with my eyes closed. Imagine what you can do with your eyes open.’” In addition to his work with the public vocational rehabilitation system, he is an inspirational speaker, author of “Feeling Your Way Through Life,” and a two-time international and three-time national powerlifting champion. DeNotaris will deliver his morning keynote address, titled “Access Equals Success,” at 9:45 a.m.
DiLeo, author, consultant and well-known advocate for people with disabilities, will present “The Future is Now: Full Inclusion for People with Disabilities.” He will discuss how, even today, most people with disabilities face societal discrimination and programs run by a public monopoly slow to change. Over the past 30 years, DiLeo has provided training to more than 75,000 participants around the world in community and workplace inclusion for persons with disabilities. He has consulted with state and private agencies, universities, professional associations and corporations. Past president of the Board of the Association for Persons in Supported Employment (APSE), he is the lead author of that APSE’s highly respected Ethical Guidelines in Supported Employment. His latest book, “Raymond’s Room,” focuses on ending the shameful segregation of people with disabilities in community life. An Evening with Dale DiLeo will begin at 4:30 p.m.
In addition to the keynote speakers, two concurrent sessions, scheduled for 11 a.m. and 3:15 p.m., will feature lectures and panel discussions on a full spectrum of topics by educators, vocational rehabilitations specialists, attorneys, and a parent and son. A noon luncheon program features a videoconference by U.S. Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr. of Pennsylvania.
The conference is being presented by The University of Scranton’s Panuska College of Professional Studies and the Edward R. Leahy, Jr. Endowment. Conference co-chairs are Dr. Bruch, Rebecca Spirito-Dalgin, Ph.D., associate professor of counseling and human services; and Valarie Clark, manager of creative services.
Honorary chairpersons are Edward R. Leahy ’68, H’01 and Patricia Leahy, director of governmental affairs for the National Rehabilitation Association.
The conference fee includes a continental breakfast and awards luncheon. For additional information or to register for the conference, visit www.scranton.edu/disabilityconference.