University’s Conference on disABILITY Focuses on Employment for Individuals with Disabilities

Oct 6, 2015

The University of Scranton’s 14th annual Northeastern U.S. Conference on disABILITY will focus on positive developments in hiring and keeping employees with disabilities. National experts, policy makers, employers and inspirational speakers will present at the conference on Wednesday, Oct. 21, at the DeNaples Center.

Hosted by the University’s Panuska College of Professional Studies with the support of the Edward R. Leahy Jr. Endowment, the conference is titled “You’re Hired: Vocational Rehabilitation Works.”

Laura Owens, the morning keynote speaker, will discuss “What’s Working: Public Policies and Initiatives to Increase Employment of Individuals with Disabilities.” Author Rebecca Alexander will present the evening keynote address at a “town meeting” at 4:30 p.m.

Three national employers will present on innovative strategies to increase diversity within their workforce. Prudential Retirement will speak about a national initiative with Kathleen West-Evans, director of business relations for the Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation–National Employment Team (CSAVR–NET); Lowes Distribution Center and Starbucks International will present with Ralph Roach, division chief of business services and outreach for the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation. They will share information on local programs aimed at increasing employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities.

Additional speakers include, David DeNotaris, executive director of the Pennsylvania Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR); Ralph Roach, division chief of business services and outreach for the OVR, who will moderate a panel of local employers; Patricia Leahy, director of government affairs for the National Rehabilitation Association; Jamie Prioli, assistive technology specialist and program coordinator for the Pennsylvania Institute of Assistive Technology; and Lori A. Bruch, associate professor and chair of the Department of Counseling and Human Services at The University of Scranton.

Owens is president of TransCen, an organization that provides training and technical assistance to improve educational and employment outcomes for individuals with disabilities. The founder of Creative Employment Opportunities, Inc. (CEO), an employment agency for individuals with disabilities, she was also the executive director of the Association of People Supporting Employment-First.

Alexander, who was born with Usher Syndrome Type III, has been losing her vision and hearing since she was a child, and was told that she would likely be completely blind and deaf by age 30. Now 36 years old, she is a psychotherapist, author, fitness instructor, advocate and extreme athlete who holds master’s degrees from Columbia University in both public health and clinical social work. Alexander’s inspiring memoir, “Not Fade Away: A Memoir of Senses Lost and Found,” received an Indie Book Award and a National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s Books For A Better Life Award. Alexander’s 4:30 p.m. presentation is open to the public, free of charge.

This year’s sponsors are Prudential Retirement, Allied Integrated Health System and the Society for Human Resource Management.

Additional information about the conference can be found at, or by emailing the conference co-chair Rebecca Spirito Dalgin, Ph.D., associate professor of counseling and human services, (

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