TN Disability MegaConference kicks off and the VKC is MEGA pumped!

By: Courtney Taylor

The Arc Tennessee Awards kicked off the 2017 Tennessee Disability MegaConference on Wednesday, May 24. VKC co-director Elise McMillan and Next Steps at Vanderbilt alum Bud Sugg emceed the ceremony and there were some familiar faces in the winner’s box.

Doria Panvini, former chair of the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center UCEDD Community Advisory Council, won this year’s Community Service Award. Panvini’s countless hours spent in legislative sessions and committee hearings, and her dedication to reading bills so carefully and keeping everyone informed about their impact on the disability community makes her our policy and systems change hero.

Adelicia, a video production company co-founded by VKC UCEDD and TNWorks media specialist Kyle Jonas, won the Respect Award. Adelicia has developed a series of videos for The Arc Tennessee for use in their advocacy efforts. We also think he has done a capital job on VKC-related videos such as I’m Thinking College (Even With my Disability).

Next Steps alum Bud Sugg congratulates Ben Saunders and Kyle Jonas

Next Steps alum Bud Sugg congratulates Ben Saunders
and Kyle Jonas on their award last night presented at The Arc
Tennessee Awards. Kyle is accompanied by his wife Kaitlin.

MegaConference programming officially began on Thursday and Lynnette Henderson, VKC UCEDD StudyFinder coordinator, was in the exhibit hall to educate attendees about VKC programs and research projects.

Lynnette Henderson sharing information about the VKC

Lynnette Henderson sharing information about the VKC

VKC UCEDD social worker Carol Rabideau co-chaired the MegaConference Program Committee this year, and Tennessee Disability Pathfinder was present throughout the 2-day event to offer scheduled individual information and referral sessions. This year’s sessions focused around the theme: Community + Collaboration = Success. A number of Vanderbilt Kennedy Center faculty, staff, and trainees led sessions and contributed to this annual event for individuals with disabilities, their families, and the people who support them. Detailed information on Vanderbilt Kennedy Center-affiliated sessions are included below.

Keynote speaker Aaron Bishop, Wanda Willis, Sam Gage, and Emma Shouse

Keynote speaker Aaron Bishop, Wanda Willis, Sam Gage, and Emma Shouse

Clancey Hopper with Michelle Halman

Clancey Hopper with Michelle Halman

Vanderbilt Kennedy Center Presentations at MegaConference

*VKC-affiliated presenters are bolded.*

The Ins and Outs of Employment and Community First CHOICES
Janet Shouse, Amanda Johnson Tennessee has launched the Employment and Community First CHOICES program, the state's first Medicaid waiver program aimed at serving individuals with developmental disabilities as well as those with intellectual disabilities. The program emphasizes competitive, integrated employment and community integration as the first and preferred option for people with disabilities. Learn about eligibility criteria, levels of support for children and adults, and how to apply.

Every Voice Counts in Legislative Advocacy
Tammy Day, Caitlin Bernstein, Jamal Underwood Let us tell you and SHOW you how to share your VOICE and ideas with your elected officials. We are all current college students or graduates from Vanderbilt University. We were supported by the Next Steps at Vanderbilt program, as we have learning differences. We are going to give you step-by-step directions so you can do the same.

Breaking Down the Transportation Barriers!
Michelle Halman, Jhodi Riggins, Sharyn Hancock, Ryan Walker, Eric Smith, Chris Sims, Daniel Brawner Explore some innovative ways in which people with disabilities have accessed and paid for transportation! The panel includes a transportation provider, Certified Work Incentive Practitioner, and individuals with disabilities who will tell their experiences in using public transportation and learning to drive.

National Core Indicators: Counting our Progress in Community Engagement
Lynnette Henderson, Rick Urbano, Robert Hodapp, Sophie Meskis People who are served on the Medicaid Waiver answer questions about their Housing, Transportation, Recreation, Volunteering, Self-Advocacy, their Relationships and opportunities for Spiritual inclusion. We'll report the results over several years and see how these measures of community integration are related to other measures of life success.

Volunteer Advocacy Project: Supporting Families of Individuals with Disabilities
Ellen Casale, Maria Mello, Kelli Sanderson The Volunteer Advocacy Project (VAP) is a 12-week, 36- hour yearly training designed to train parents, professionals, teachers and community members as non-adversarial advocates to support individuals with disabilities. This presentation will include a brief overview of the VAP, its research, and provide a brief take -away training on five strategies to successfully advocate for individuals with disabilities in special education.

Real Conversations About Real Jobs: A How-To Guide for Parents
Katrina Nunn, Michelle Halman It can be difficult for parents (and other advocates) to discuss employment pursuits with students or young adults with disabilities. While it's easy for us to identify the unique strengths and passions of these young adults, it can be difficult to provide guidance in the realm of employment expectations, job market considerations, and the overall transition to independence in employment. In this discussion we will introduce tools that provide detailed descriptions of the world of work (task requirements, education requirements, etc.) and discuss techniques to approach the employment conversation with these students or young adults that consider individual strengths, Interests, and limitations.

To learn more about Tennessee Disability MegaConference, visit

Last Updated: 5/26/2017 12:46:09 PM

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