World Usability Day New England 2017

Here are just a few pictures from World Usability Day New England 2017 which was hosted at the University of Connecticut – Storrs on November 9th, 2017.

View the rest of the photos from the conference here:

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Panel: Disability Disclosure & Your Career

On Thursday, October 13th, the Center for Students with Disabilities, in collaboration with the Center for Career Services and the Ryan Martin Foundation, hosted “Disability Disclosure & Your Career” which was a panel of professionals within Connecticut that work to increase and retain professionals with disabilities across companies and careers. The panel centered on how to handle disclosure and advocate for one self throughout the job search. The names, affiliation, and brief biographies of the panelists are provided below. The panel allowed for questions and answer of those in attendance both by asking as well as submitting anonymous questions through an online system during the panel.

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The panel dispelled myths about the job application process for students with disabilities such as checking off that one has a disability on a job application – this is done by employers with federal contracts to track the rates that disability is represented and is purely statistical, shared the panelists. The panelists also spoke about accommodation requests – many shared that though it is almost always a case-by-case scenario, it is important to have a conversation with one’s supervisor if the accommodation is needed in order to fulfill job expectations. The panelists shared that there are internal advocates within organizations to which students may be applying for jobs but that students should also not be afraid to advocate for their own needs as it may even open up the conversation for others to request and receive their own necessary accommodations.

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Katie Halbruner of the Center for Students with Disabilities noted that this event demonstrates the commitment of the CSD to work with employers to help students with disabilities secure jobs.

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Panelist Biographies:

Sharon Denson, M.Ed. J.D., a thought leader and subject matter expert in the field of diversity and inclusion, is the Executive Director of the Connecticut Business Leadership Netword. CTBLN is an organization of employers dedicated to bringing diversity full circle by including people with disabilities in the workplace. She is also the owner of Aldot Training and a consultant for Danbury based Gilman Performance Systems. She is a nationally known for her highly reviewed trainings which help businesses grow by tapping into a diverse talent pool. She holds a Master of Education from the University of Illinois and a Juris Doctor degree from Quinnipiac University School of Law.  

 Carly Duffy, Connect-Ability, CT Department of Rehabilitation Services

Ryan Martin was born with Spina Bifida and both of his legs were amputated at the age of two. Discovering basketball at 12 years old transformed Ryan’s world from “wheelchair bound” to bound for college, for professional basketball, and for traveling overseas. In 2007, Ryan joined the professional basketball league in Europe, completing 10 season in either Spain and France. This season Ryan is playing for the New York Rolling Knicks of the NWBA.

Before Ryan went pro, he attended college at Southwest Minnesota State University and led SMSU to the NWBA National Title Game in 2001. He graduated in 2002 with a degree in Secondary Education with a minor in Sociology. After graduation, Ryan joined the Phoenix Wheelchair Suns and played in the 2005 NWBA All-Star games.

Along with establishing his foundation, Ryan is a consultant for the NCAA and the United States Olympic Committee on their Inclusive Sports Model.

 Lauren McAuley, Connect-Ability, CT Department of Rehabilitation Services

 Jim McMahon is the Director of Inclusive Talent Acquisition and Outreach at Travelers Insurance interacting with external partners in multiple states. He is also responsible for Travelers Military and Veteran Programs. He has been instrumental in the company’s achievement of recognition on G.I. Jobs Magazine’s Top Military Friendly Employers list annually since 2007. Jim’s professional experience is made up of more than 25 years in Recruitment and Human Resources.  

Fiona Mohrig is the Director, Health & Group Benefits at Stanley Black and Decker. Fiona holds a BA in Latin American Studies from York College of PA and is currently persuing a Master’s in Public Health (MPH) at UCONN in Farmington. She has worked in Health and Group benefits management, with a particular focus on disability management, for 20 years. While at The Hartford, she was a co-chair of the affinity group called FAN, focused on improving the onboarding and employment of employees with disabilities.

 Awilda “Wendy” Rodriguez- I began working at Aetna during my senior year in high school from 1987-1988. I worked in temporary positions at Aetna, while attending UCONN until I graduated in 1992. I left for a short period, and had my daughter. I returned to Aetna working in various positions in HR payroll, benefits and disability. I have 25 years working at Aetna and most recently rejoined the HR Workplace Accommodations team where we administer/review accommodations requests and provide reasonable accommodations to individuals with disabilities.

 Jade Scangarello interned in our community relations department and was converted full time to our HR Leadership Development Program.  She’s completed the program and now works in Talent Acquisition as a diversity recruiter.  When Jade was completing her rotations in HR, she worked in University Relations (recruited for our Finance intern and leadership development program) and also did a rotation where she worked on the development of our new General Management Internship and Leadership Program. Jade graduated Bentley University in 2015 with a bachelor’s in Managerial Economics.




“Deaf Professionals: Breaking the Sound Barrier”

On September 26,  UConn Interpreting Services (UCIS)and the CSD hosted “Deaf Professionals: Breaking the Sound Barrier” at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford. In this first-of-its-kind event, a group of 12 Deaf professionals came together for a night of community-building and professional networking. Nearly 150 members of Connecticut’s d/Deaf, hard of hearing, and ASL-using communities attended, eager to understand the Deaf perspective on the working world.

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CAPTION / ALT TEXT:  The panelists are welcomed by Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman.  From Left to Right:  Steven J. Simmon, Sara Gerhold, Mick Posner, Morag MacDonald, Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, Jeffrey S. Bravin, Christopher Hayes, Doreen Simons, Jessica Contreras, Barbara Cassin, Juan Guzman, Cinda Lautenschlegar, and Audrey Stone.

Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman opened the night’s events by applauding the achievements of the panelists and encouraging Deaf students to pay close attention to their stories of persistence and success.  She closed her remarks with a call to action. “I don’t know if we’ve ever had a Deaf elected official in the state,” she said.  So, “Come to the state level. Fight for what you believe in—and then maybe run for office!”

The panelists represented diverse backgrounds and experiences—from scientists and mathematicians, to educators and medical professionals.  Steven J. Simmon, adjunct professor of American Sign Language at UConn’s Waterbury campus, moderated the panel.  Jeff Bravin, Director of the American School for the Deaf, noted that the composition of the panel reflected the diversity of careers now available to the Deaf community.

Many of the panelists encouraged self-advocacy, especially in the relationship one develops with their interpreters.  Christopher Hayes, a UConn PhD student in Mathematics, describes the relationship as a routinely collaborative endeavor that can often prove challenging, especially when having to provide interpreters with a feedback loop in realtime.

Sara Gerhold, Program Manager for Source Interpreting at American School for the Deaf, thinks that the best interpreters will understand the value of reciprocity between the interpreter and the Deaf consumer.

Despite the daily challenges to communication access, the panelists emphasized the importance of community, education, and empowerment in the Deaf community.  Jessica Contreras, a UConn PhD student in Developmental Psychology, noted that—while isolation is a common feature of the Deaf experience—it’s important for students to recognize the strong community around them and to make good use of the institutional resources available.

The panel presentation was followed by a robust networking hour to forge connections between the high school students, college students, graduate students, and professionals in attendance.

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CAPTION / ALT TEXT:  D/deaf, hard of hearing, and ASL-using students network with the Deaf professionals in the cafeteria of the Legislative Office Building in Hartford.

The panel presentation was live streamed and broadcast by Connecticut Network television.  Missed it?  No problem—watch it on-demand thanks to CT-N!

Raffle Prizes Each Month!

Did you know by attending our anniversary events you get entered into a monthly drawing to win these great anniversary prizes? Two are picked a month!

We have some great events coming in November including another traveling exhibit “War and Disability” and World Usability Day New England (WUDNE) Conference!

Check out for updates on upcoming events!


Sports & Disability: Eli Wolff, Paralympian, Advocate & Activist

On Wednesday, September 13th, the first installment of the Beyond the Field series began with featured speaker Eli Wolff. Eli spoke to his audience about how he has enacted change within the world of sports to better include people with disability. His push for more inclusion of disabilities within sports has led to major changes and activism internationally about the importance of sport inclusion. He shared that his grandfather was one of biggest inspirations as someone who helped serve of the Roe v. Wade case and gave him the passions to pursue social justice. He shared that although he had a stroke at the age of two, his parents emphasized sports, school, and service. As a Paralympian and athlete, he felt he was consistently talking with teammates about inclusion on the field and in the larger world of sports. This later led to activism and pushing leaders to think more about inclusion of disability within the world of sports. Eli shared much about his identity as an activist creating change throughout his community. His definition of activism is about the position with which you take on the world and that there are many ways that your positions can turn into actions. “When it comes to diversity and inclusion for accessibility, sometimes sports get a pass – we should question this,” Eli shared. Through his work and career, Eli has contributed very much to the inclusion of disabilities within sports.

Keep looking for more events to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Center for Students with Disabilities throughout this academic year!

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Bite Me- A Conversation with Ally Hilfiger

The Center for Students with Disabilities welcomed Ally Hilfiger to campus on September 12th, 2017 to kick off the celebration of the center’s 50th Anniversary with the event “Bite Me- A Conversation with Ally Hilfiger”. Donna Korbel, Director of the CSD, and Christine Wenzel, Associate Director of the CSD, welcomed guests at the Student Union Theater and thanked them for joining the center to begin a yearlong celebration of the university’s commitment to individuals with disabilities and their inclusion on campus. Artist, designer, actress, and producer, Ally Hilfiger was invited to campus to share her story. She recently published her memoir “Bite Me: How Lyme Disease Stole My Childhood, Made Me Crazy, and Almost Killed Me” last year in 2016.

Ally began her conversation by sharing that she wanted to walk the audience through her experience with Lyme disease and how she was able to grow from that experience to live her life with more intention. Though Ally recalls her mother removing a tick from her abdomen after a family vacation and the tick being sent to a lab for testing at a young age, she was not formally diagnosed with Lyme disease until young adulthood. She shared with the audience her experience of physical and emotional pain while her symptoms were misdiagnosed and untreated. As the daughter of the fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger, she recalls her parents being able to financially afford access to doctors and resources. However, she was not able to receive a proper diagnosis for many years. She regularly suffered joint pain, migraines, an inability to focus in school, anxiety, difficulty breathing, and fatigue throughout her childhood. Doctors continuously giving her the wrong diagnosis left her feeling confused and inauthentic. At age 18, she awoke in a psychiatric ward where she was first given the diagnosis of Lyme’s disease and babesiosis. Upon the diagnosis, she shared with the audience the difficulty in treatment and medications altering her life path. She had to leave her hit show with MTV “Rich Girls” and leave her own fashion design and described her recovery as a seven year merry-go-round. She shared that her life began to change when she began to channel her energy to take care of her own health. She found power in self advocacy and letting go of the image that she did not need help. She found solace in creativity and a strong support system. She shared that she decided to write her book to give back to others and has hopes that others will be able to find healing through her story.

Ally closed her talk by introducing the audience to the concept of focus wheels and written intentions. Ally uses these models to channel her mind, body, and spirit to strengthen her self-care and positive thinking practices. Ally shared with the audience that she hopes that she is able to give them some tools to take their self-care into their own hands and to recognize the importance of support systems.

The Center for Students with Disabilities will be sponsoring events throughout the 2017-2018 academic year in celebration of the 50th anniversary.

Please check our website for more information on upcoming events: