2020 Presentation and Speaker Line-Up Coming Soon!


2019 Speakers & Presenters

Guide Dog Users Panel

​A panel of guide dog users and providers will discuss issues of guide dog use.  They will explain the process for acquiring a service animal and the user training requirements.  Dog handlers will talk about the pros and cons of using a guide. They will share their personal stories of freedom, frustration, joy and sorrow in their relationships with their dogs.

​Presenter Host: Michael 'Big Dog' Abell, MSPC, LAC

“I didn’t sign-up for this and other surprises” a conversation

Our guest speakers who each came to blindness at different times in their lives’ will have a candid interactive conversation about their experiences with, loss, love and lessons learned. Host Michael “Big Dog” Abell, Narrative Therapist will guide the presenters talk about their life journeys with opportunities for some audience participation.

​Presenter: Heidi L. Lervik, MA, CRC, ATP

Assistive Technology Resources You Need to Know

People with disabilities, their family members and service providers often struggle to know what type of assistive technology will help them in their everyday lives.  Many people purchase expensive equipment which is often unused or abandoned. The Arizona Technology Access Program (AzTAP) aims to address these issues by providing resources, demonstrations and complimentary short term trial use loaner equipment.

​Presenter: Jack Burns

Social Security Programs and Benefits

Join Jack Burns, Public Affairs Specialist with the Social Security Administration (SSA) answers questions and shares information about the benefit programs and services provided through SSA

​Presenter: Brittaney M. Chipley, MPA

AZ ABLE “Achieving a Better Life Experience

The presentation will give attendees an overview of AZ ABLE, a savings and investment programs that offer persons with disabilities, their family, and their friends the option to contribute to a tax-exempt savings account for disability-related expenses. Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) account programs can be life-changing, as it provides an opportunity for people with disabilities to save at least $15,000 a year without affecting their benefits.

​Presenter: Jay Whipple M.S.Ed


Wayfinding Beacons

A Summary of the City of Tempe pilot project in which Bluetooth beacons are being used to help visually impaired individuals navigate the transit system.  Participants from SAAVI were invited to try a beacon-based service that provides real-time location and navigation information. The participants provided feedback, which can be used for system improvements. Jay Whipple will present a summary of the project funded by a grant from the Gila River Indian Community.

​Presenter: GCBVI AT & Employment Committees


AT-BVI (Blind/Visually Impaired) Worksite Evaluation

For people who are blind, work remains the best route to independence and enacting one's own choices. Assistive technology (AT) is often crucial in removing barriers to employment, and in enabling persons with disabilities to work more productively.  The Governor’s Council on Blindness and Visual Impairment Assistive Technology and Employment committees will address the importance and process of the Worksite evaluation. This will include identifying strength and needs of the employee, physical and technology environment, tasks and identification of the assistive technology tools.

​Presenter: Independent Living Services

Gadgets and Tips for safe and fun cooking

The State of Arizona Independent Living Blind (ILB) will discuss the use of gadgets and tips to cook safely for adults with vision loss. We will present low tech items that every family should know about when in the kitchen. The ILB staff will discuss organization, labeling, use of contrast and different tools for food preparation, cooking and food readiness.

​Presenter: Shelbe Olson MT-BC, NMT'S

Music Therapy

Music therapy is a powerful, non-invasive, and non-pharmacological medium capable of unique outcomes. It is accessible to all and can be used with individuals, groups, or families. Music therapy is the specialized use of music by a credentialed professional who develops individualized treatment and supportive interventions for people of all ages and ability levels to address their social, communication, emotional, physical, cognitive, sensory, and spiritual needs.

​Presenter: Arizona Science Center

Road Show

A science program of interest school-aged students, parents and teachers.

Presenter: GCBVI Education Committee

The Education Committee of GCBVI will give an overview of the annual Arizona RSA Blind and Visually Impaired Youth Summer intensive programs.  Attendees will hear from AZRSA Vocational Rehabilitation, private agencies who conduct the programs, parents and teachers, and especially past participants.

Presenter: Keynote Kareem Neal

Arizona Educational Foundation’s 2019 Teacher of the Year.

Kareem Neal is a self-contained Special Education teacher in Phoenix, AZ. He has taught students with severe cognitive delays for 22 years. He is the recipient of the 2019 Arizona Teacher of the Year award and was recently awarded an honorary doctorate from Northern Arizona University for his contributions to special education in Arizona.

​Presenter: Shelbe Olson MT-BC, NMT'S

Music Therapy ii

Response to rhythm is basic to human functioning making percussion activities and techniques highly motivating to people of all ages and backgrounds.

​Presenter: Betty E. Schoen, M.A., C.R.C.


Vocational Rehabilitation: A Partner for Career Success

The choices young people make in their late teens and early twenties impact their earning potential and work opportunities for the rest of their lives. This presentation provides Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) utilization strategies for to better prepare young adults with disabilities to find, keep, and advance their employment.

​Presenter: Elizabeth Thompson

Arizona Braille and Talking Book Services for Youths

Elizabeth Thompson.librarian at Arizona Talking Book Library will discuss youth and family services available from the Library.  Elizabeth will give attendees an overview of BARD (Braille and Audio Reading Download) Program. She will focus on Youth Services for the blind and visually impaired. It will include tips on early literacy practices, the benefits of audio books and how to make your programming/activities inclusive for the whole family.

​Presenter: Arizona Independent Living

The State of Arizona Independent Living Blind (ILB) will discuss the use of the Alexa Skill BluePrints to create accessible and educational games for persons with vision loss. These games can be designed to improve the students learning abilities and knowledge at school or home. The ILB staff will discuss how to create a new game utilizing existing templates and questions and how to make it available to the clients or students via Amazon Echo Dots or the Amazon Alexa App on their smart phone.  The audience will have an opportunity to participate in open discussion to share their own ideas regarding other potential areas of use for these games. 

Presenter: SAAVI Game Room


Activities for Young People of Every Age

​Presenter: Mike "Big Dog" Abell

Disability and the Family Dynamic 

Having a family member with a disability can affect the entire family; the parents, siblings, and extended family members. It is a unique shared experience for families and can affect all aspects of family functioning. On the positive side it can broaden horizons, increase family members’ awareness of their inner strength, enhance family cohesion, and encourage connections to community.

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