Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act is Focus of U.S. Conference on disAbility

September 19, 2016


The recently enacted Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act (WIOA) will be the focus of The University of Scranton’s 15th Annual U.S. Conference on disAbility on Wednesday, Oct. 5, on campus. The daylong conference, titled “Applying Innovative Solutions Using WIOA as a Catalyst for Change,” brings together national, state and regional experts to discuss a multifaceted approach to improving employment, independent living and transition for all people with disabilities.

The conference is hosted by the University’s Panuska College of Professional Studies with the support of the Edward R. Leahy Jr. Endowment and Honorary Conference Co-Chairs Edward R. and Patricia Leahy.

President Obama signed the WIOA into law in 2014 and the U.S. Departments of Labor and Education finalized the issuing of five rules that implement WIOA in August of 2016. The act is intended to provide states the opportunity for greater use of partnerships and “career pathway models,” while requiring additional accountability and reporting of outcome data.

Patricia Leahy, director of government affairs for the National Rehabilitation Association, will provide a rehabilitation legislative update on WIOA. Leahy is a Capital Hill veteran, having served 18 years as a professional staff member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, a congressional liaison for all legislation that affected children and adults with disabilities to the commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration. She was recognized as a Mary E. Switzer Scholar, a significant and prestigious achievement in the field of vocation rehabilitation.

The conference also includes a WIOA Partners Panel discussion with, from the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry: Denise Verchimak, director, Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation Services, Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, and Michael White, supervisor, policy coordination, Workforce Development Administration; and, from Pennsylvania Department of Education: Patricia Hozella, director of the Bureau of Special Education, and Amanda Harrison, division chief, Bureau of Post-secondary and Adult Education.

The conference will include keynote addresses by Everett Deibler, transition program manager at the Lehigh Valley Center for Independent Living, who has also served as president of the Pennsylvania Youth Leadership Network; Kathleen West-Evans, director of the Business Relations Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation, National Employment Team.

The conference will also feature Nelson Lauver, author of “Most Unlikely to Succeed: the Trials, Travels and Ultimate Triumphs of a ‘Throwaway’ Kid.” A nationally syndicated broadcaster, social entrepreneur, human rights advocate, award-winning author and businessperson, Lauver was functionally illiterate until the age of 29 as a result of undiagnosed dyslexia. In addition to speaking at the conference earlier in the afternoon, Lauver will provide an evening keynote presentation, which is open to the public, free of charge at 4:30 p.m. in the DeNaples Center, Mulberry Street.

Online registration and additional information about the 15th Annual U.S. Conference on disAbility can be found at, or by emailing the conference co-chairs Rebecca Spirito Dalgin, Ph.D., director of the Rehabilitation Counseling program, at or Lori Bruch, Ed..D., chair of the Counseling and Human Services Department, at

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