OCALI NOW | Issue 33 • November/December 2021

Manifesting what is to come with Crystal Ball image

2021: The End of the Beginning & Manifesting What’s to Come

By: Shawn Henry, Executive Director, OCALI 

Just when we thought we could get off of the roller coaster ride of 2020, it soon became clear that the ride wasn’t over—we have continued to navigate the twists and turns of pandemic life, professionally and personally. At OCALI, flexibility and the ability to embrace uncertainty have been key to responding to the needs of those we serve and taking advantage of new opportunities that have come our way. Being “strategically flexible” has been part of our model since the very day we were founded, and has enabled us to better provide support. 

What keeps us on task and on track in this twisting path is what I once read termed the “Primacy of Purpose.” The premise is that you can make quick and nimble decisions in the moment, take risks, and try new approaches because you’re not giving directives and tasks—you’re ensuring everyone in your team, your organization, etc. know what the end goal or purpose is. There is also an understanding that there’s not a straight line to get there.  

As I look back at the past two years, I have never been more proud to serve our staff and to witness their hard work, dedication, innovation, and passion for serving people with disabilities and our collective community. We have always been laser focused on ensuring educators, professional, and families had access to accessible materials, online learning, and other resources during the pandemic. I can honestly say that some of our best and most creative and impactful work happened in the past two years.  

Leading By Convening 

Partnerships have played an integral role in our work and growth. Leading by convening partners has been intentional. Whether it’s convening internal partnerships between staff, or connecting with external organizations locally, regionally, or globally, there’s no question that harnessing our strengths, ideas, and perspectives are powerful ways to scale innovation, tackle tough problems, and expand impact. We have also been intentional about engaging the disability community. They are at the center of our ‘why’ and everything we do, and that’s why we connect and listen to them.  

I am grateful for our many partners in education, technology, health care, business and community, policy, and government. Together we are exploring and learning new ways of listening, understanding, and modeling. In 2022, we will continue to work together with our partners because we know that we cannot do it alone. When we collaborate, we bring new ideas and diverse perspectives that expand our thinking, practices, and work. And, ultimately, our impact. 

Manifesting What’s to Come 

One of my favorite quotes that I often use is from my friend, Jason Barger. He says “Conversations are the currency for change. It all begins with what we are willing to talk about.” 

While there never has been a straight line in serving people with disabilities, one thing was clear prior to the pandemic—and that is that nobody was moving the needle fast enough. There weren’t enough conversations happening. The pandemic caused a disruption and forced us to start thinking and talking differently. Conversations about accessibility became front and center across industries. And, as a result, the needle started to move more quickly—and that is a very good thing.  

Supporting our collective community and bringing hope and inspiration to the people we serve, has never been more important. As we move into 2022, I am encouraging our team to manifest a vision for how we can better serve and support people with disabilities and those who live with, love, and support them. I’d like to encourage people to envision two things:  

  • How can we continue to create an environment of accessibility—in our homes, schools, workplaces, and in our communities?  
  • How can we use technology to create a higher quality of life and increased accessibility? 

I am optimistic that we are at the end of the beginning of this new way of living and that we are starting to get our sea legs again about what the future holds. I believe that as an organization, we will continue to work toward our mission in new and exciting ways. We know that there’s no clearly defined path. But we’re going to doing it. You’re going to do it. And people’s lives are going to be changed—and better—because of it! 

Here’s to bringing life to our vision in 2022 and beyond.  

Yes We Can! Journey Towards Independence interactive video series
Yes We Can! Journey Towards Independence Video Series

Q&A With Michelle Motil, Family Support Liaison at the Center for Deafness and Blindness at OCALI

Tell us about Michelle. What are a few things that people don’t know about you?  

“Sometimes I get comments that I seem to be an unusually happy and cheerful person. I made the choice to be that way. My sense of humor started out as a coping mechanism, but now it’s part of who I am. I still have hard days, but everyone does. The point is to keep trying and keep going because the only consistent thing in life is change. As for what I like to do, I think I’m a pretty normal person, living an ordinary life with typical hobbies. I enjoy researching the property of plants and how to garden. I love nature. I’m a beachy pool girl when I have the opportunity. I’m an avid reader. I sing and I dance, and I look forward to defeating my opponents at cards.”  


What’s one fun fact about yourself?  

“This is definitely something interesting—I went to circus school in Jamaica and I did the trapeze. That was a really cool experience.”  


What was the intent behind creating the Journey Towards Independence series?  

“Initially, my boss presented the idea to me, and she encouraged me to think about sharing my journey and how it might be able to help other people. We wanted this series to be personal and interactive, more about the human, real, and practical sides of life. Sometimes those aspects get lost in the formal and professional parts of serving people with disabilities. It’s so important to consider the person and relate to them in real, authentic ways. It was also important to make sure this was a ‘we’ journey and not just a ‘me’ journey because there are so many people involved. I truly believe in learning communities and safe spaces to share and discuss difficult topics—people need to know they’re not alone. I want to give families and professionals examples of how a real person is living independently and give hope and inspiration to their families so they know their child or family member can live an independent, high quality life. I want to show people that even though it can be hard, it can be done, and I can demonstrate what grit and resiliency look like and show how to push forward during challenging times.”  


Tell us how the Journey Towards Independence series connects to the Expanded Core Curriculum (ECC), which includes foundational skills essential for people with disabilities.  

“When a person is deaf/hard of hearing or blind/visually impaired, they are missing part of the information. Informal learning takes place through observation with the senses, and most kids learn by example. The ECC addresses these skills that a lot of kids pick up without being taught. These skills are crucial for independent living and they need to be explicitly taught. Each episode of this series highlights 1-2 standards from the ECC, and there’s also the opportunity to talk about it in real-time during the interactive part of the session.”  


The December 15 episode is about your guide dog, Tonne. How has Tonne changed/improved your life?  

“Having Tonne has improved my life tremendously. He has helped me to deal with my anxiety in getting out and pushed me out of my comfort zone. By having a guide dog, I am more willing to go out and try new and different experiences. He is my partner and he helps me to get around safely, and I can also get around much faster. From a social standpoint, now that I have a dog, more people approach me when I’m out, which has created more social opportunities.”   


In the January 26 episode, you talk about your new living situation and roommates. Give us a sneak peek of that episode.  

“From a socio-emotional and mental health standpoint, it’s nice to have people in the house—just to have the presence of other humans around. Also, when I need help, my roommates are there to help me. This episode talks a lot about the importance of organization and communication, and how that has been important in how we share household duties. Things like, how are we going to organize food, share cleaning duties, pay bills, etc.? This episode highlights my transition and how I’m learning new skills and considerations for daily living.”  


How does independent living improve your quality of life? 

“Living independently provides more opportunities for empowerment and for me to make my own choices. Sometimes, when a person with disabilities is living with a family member, choices get made for them instead of with them. When you live independently, there is more room for personal growth and strength, which you may not get relying on a family member. I don’t want people to assume they have to live with their parents or in a facility.”  


For families who are supporting individuals with disabilities, what advice would you give them to help their loved ones lead/live a more independent life?  

“The best thing to do is to be a mentor or coach, and to encourage the person to try new things. Try not to do everything for them. Having high expectations is also important. Failing is a learning opportunity. It’s not about being perfect, it’s about doing good and better until better is your best and good is your better.”  


To learn more about the Journey Towards Independence series and to register, visit  https://deafandblindoutreach.org/Yes-We-Can-Journey-Towards-Independence.   

Behind the Scenes at OCALI

Panel of experts on set at OCALI offices for InspirED episode #33
Behind the scenes at an InspirED recording at OCALI

Have you ever wondered how we get all that great footage for our InspirED Virtual Learning series? Well, wonder no more. We have a studio here at OCALI! This is a photo from our recent filming with ODE. If we aren’t in studio, we also rely on tools like Riverside.fm and Zoom to record our guest panelists. Be sure to register for our December 16 InspirED episode on building strong family-school partnerships!

InspirED Virtual Learning Series logo
InspirED Virtual Learning Series

Join Us December 16: New InspirED Session: Building Strong Family-School Partnerships 

Families are an important asset in the equation of ensuring people with disabilities have the opportunity to live their best lives. Explore strategies for building partnerships between families and school staff members, including how to nurture these partnerships and navigate the barriers that have been posed by the pandemic.

OCALICONLINE 2021 15 year anniversary logo

OCALICONLINE 2021 On-demand 

Missed some of the live event or want to go back and re-watch a session or two? Registered attendees have on-demand access to content through January 5, 2022.

Virtual Assistive Technology Vendor Fair
Virtual Assistive Technology Vendor Fair

Virtual Assistive Technology Vendor Fair 

Need professional development seat time? 24 different sessions are available from the AT Conference & Vendor Fair. A ½ hour of seat time is available for each session.

Ensuring Access to the General Curriculum for ALL Learners logo
Ensuring Access to the General Curriculum for ALL Learners

Ensuring Access to the General Curriculum for ALL Learners 

Check out this new video-based learning series that explore practical, easy-to-use resources designed to ensure ALL learners have access to the general curriculum. Learn more

The Journey: A Free Webinar Series logo with youth looking at cityscape
The Journey: A Free Webinar Series

2022 Journey: Webinar Series 

The transition from school to adult Life is an ongoing journey. Youth with complex and unique needs often require teams to have access to a variety of tools, resources, and people to plan and prepare for the future. This webinar series is designed for teams assisting youth with complex support needs and their families to better navigate the process of the own journey to adulthood. 

ATIM Assistive Technology Internet Modules logo
ATIM Assistive Technology Internet Modules

New ATIM Modules 

The Assistive Technology & Accessible Educational Materials (AT&AEM) Center at OCALI recently launched four new Assistive Technology Internet Modules (ATIM) modules: 

  • AT for Workplace Accommodations 
  • AT for Driving and Transportation 
  • AT Implementation: Adults with DD 
  • AAC Implementation: Adults with DD
OCALI Multi-System Navigation Center logo
NEW! OCALI’s Multi-System Navigation Center is Hiring

Looking for a way to make an impact in the lives of young people, while growing a rewarding career with a fun, fast-paced organization? OCALI is hiring professionals with a passion for making a difference for unique positions as Multi-System Youth and Family Regional Coaches. These Regional Coaches will work with youth with complex needs (MI/IDD) and their families in their homes.

Employment First: It Starts With Families logo with young family and baby in background

It Starts With Families
This new guide supports local professionals serving individuals and families to become familiar with research around family engagement. 

OCALI NOW | Issue 32 • October 2021

OCALICONLINE 2021 15 years logo

What We’re Excited About: OCALICONLINE 2021

We’re just weeks away from hosting OCALICONLINE 2021. And while every year is special, this year, we celebrate 15 years as a catalyst of moving inspiration into action.

With less than a month to go, we couldn’t be more excited to welcome you and others from around the globe as we connect virtually. Over 1,500 of your peers and colleagues have already signed up – from 42 states, Australia, Canada, France, Namibia, South Korea, and the United Kingdom. For those who are already registered or if you’re thinking about attending for the first time, here are a few things we’re excited about and hope you will be, too.

Judy Heumann Keynote: Friday, November 19, 12:30 p.m. ET
OCALICONLINE 2021 will feature Judith (Judy) Heumann, a lifelong advocate for the rights of disabled people. She contracted polio in 1949 in Brooklyn, New York and began to use a wheelchair for her mobility. She is now an internationally recognized leader in the disability rights community, and featured in the Oscar-nominated Netflix documentary, Crip Campreleased in 2020.

Dynamic presenters and presenters, and diverse content
With 300+ presenters and partners from around the world, our learning sessions highlight content for every age, and every milestone across the lifespan. From early childhood to school-age to adulthood, our sessions feature the best-of-the-best in their areas of expertise to share research, best practices, and resources that support the lifelong needs of individuals with disabilities and those who live with, love, and support them. Check out this teaser video of some of our presenters.

Special events within OCALICONLINE
Interested in learning more about inclusive leadership, or assistive technology and how it can be leveraged for individuals with developmental disabilities or with visual impairments? OCALICONLINE 2021 features a line-up of special events focused on these very topics. With experts from around the world, these sessions will provide you with practical resources and tips for taking your understanding of assistive technology to the next level.

Tuesday, November 16: Inclusive Education Leadership: Bring a team to this extended session on inclusive leadership! Hear from Ohio Department of Education leaders from the Office for Exceptional Children about special education and gifted education updates, key focus areas of supports, and project updates related to Each Child Means Each Child.

Tuesday, November 16: The BEST AT Forum is an opportunity to learn about cross-curricular braille literacy and assistive technologies for students who are blind or visually impaired. Sessions include a wide range of topics, such as learning braille with LEGO Braille Bricks, accessible astronomy, the expanded core curriculum, and much more!

Wednesday, November 17: AT for Individuals with Developmental Disabilities: Join us for a full day focused on assistive technology supports for individuals with developmental disabilities. Sessions range from advocacy and AAC assessment to smart home adaptations and AT solutions in minutes!

These are not stand-alone events, but are integrated into the conference itself. Attendees wishing to attend these sessions must register for the entire conference.

Celebrating moments of impact over 15 years
Over the past 15 years, we have seen, heard, and witnessed countless moments of impact. These stories are living examples of how those seemingly small moments of inspiration are transformed into action. These stories are of ordinary, every-day teachers, parents, and service providers whose lives were changed because of what they experienced at OCALICON. They’re people just like you. And these are their moments of impact, when inspiration transformed into action. Hear from past participants as they share their special moments of impact

Creative and fun ways to network and connect virtually
Looking for ways to take a quick break or unwind for a bit? Check out the OCALICON Channel. It’s where you can hear updates and announcements from our hosts. It’s where you can catch episodes of Slow TV. The channel will stream continuously during conference hours. And new for this year, are our OCALICONLINE hosts, the Good Life Ambassadors (GLAs). GLAs are dedicated to educating and inspiring the local community on an assortment of topics that promote inclusion and the full participation of people with disabilities in community life. You’ll also have the chance to speak directly with OCALI staff and other attendees. This is your chance to have conversations, exchange ideas, and connect with innovators and practitioners.

There’s still time to register
If you’re not registered, what are you waiting for? Don’t miss the opportunity to attend the premier autism and disabilities conference where thousands of people from around the world come together to learn, network, and share research, best practices, and resources to support the life-long needs of individuals with disabilities, including autism spectrum disorder and sensory and low-incidence disabilities. Register now!

October National Disability Employment Awareness Month - Person in wheelchair and business person standing, shaking hands
October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month

Celebrating the Capabilities of People With Disabilities to the American Workforce

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), and this year’s theme is America’s Recovery: Powered by Inclusion. According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy, this theme “reflects the importance of ensuring that people with disabilities have full access to employment and community involvement during the national recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Each October, NDEAM is designed to recognize and celebrate the contributions and capabilities of people with disabilities to the American workforce.

At OCALI, the Lifespan Transitions Center is proud of its long-standing partnership with Employment First. Employment First is a policy to ensure every individual of working age has an opportunity to seek employment. Agencies are directed to provide a person-centered planning process for every individual of working age to identify their desired employment goal and their place on the path to community employment.

“The foundational elements of Employment First’s framework—agency-neutral, outcome-focused, and person-centered—are directly aligned with our Center’s work and mission,” shares Alex Corwin, Secondary Transition and Workforce Manager, at the Lifespan Transitions Center at OCALI. “Our Center partners with all of the Employment First Taskforce member organizations to support successful systems that incorporate community life and employment.”

When supporting communities, there are many questions for those seeking employment and those who support individuals seeking employment. In celebration of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, the Center proudly shares the following free resources organized around some of the most common employment-related questions.

How prepared am I for employment?
Assessing a person’s preparedness is one of the first steps toward seeking employment. The Employment Life Skills Assessment (ELSA) is a free, informal assessment that families and professionals can use to gather information about their family member’s abilities with employability and compare against the employment standards expected of adults. This assessment can help start the conversation for preparing someone to enter or reenter the workforce. Check out the professional version or the family version of the assessment.

I’m ready to start looking for employment. How do I get started?
If you’re seeking information on the path to community employment and how to start looking for a job, the Community Life Guide, which includes two important areas of information and training. The first is community health and safety training, and the second is the Job Seekers Guide, which focuses on job seeking training and community employment. It provides step-by-step instructions and resources on how to get on the path to community employment and find a job that you enjoy.

What happens to my social security, Medicaid, and other benefits when I start working?
If you’re looking for information and resources to help analyze the impact of employment on an individual’s benefits, The Disability Benefits 101 (DB 101) is an integrated suite of online tools, information, and training where people with disabilities can directly access plain-language information about work and benefits and health coverage programs. Three calculators have been developed, including: Work and Benefits, School To Work; and Medicaid Buy-In. This suite of resources is designed for families, job seekers, and professionals and can be used to help analyze the impact of employment on an individual’s benefits. While DB 101 does not replace a comprehensive benefits analysis, it can help to provide a general understanding about employment and benefits.

How do I support a person with a disability with learning new tasks on the job?
As teams prepare youth for the transition to adulthood, developing skills for employment becomes a priority. To teach these skills educators, job coaches and others need effective tools. What Works for Work, is a free, 12-session online resource that uses evidence-based practices on how to support people with disabilities.

Throughout the month and beyond, we encourage you to explore these free resources. By sharing them, you may help others understand how they can better promote access in their schools, workplaces, and communities. For additional resources from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy, visit their website.

What’s New at OCALI

Yes We Can! Journey Towards Independence - Photo of Michelle and Michelle hugging her dog
Ensuring Access to the General Curriculum for ALL Learners

Yes We Can: Journey Towards Independence
A New, Interactive Video Series: October 27, December 15, January 26, 4 p.m.
Join Michelle and her guide dog, Tonne, for a new, interactive video series designed to share how she lives an independent, quality life as a person who is DeafBlind. Each 30-minute episode will include pre-recorded segments, followed by a live dialogue with Michelle, who is eager to share her experiences and connect with viewers. Tying all of these episodes together is the connection to the Expanded Core Curriculum (ECC), which includes foundational skills essential for people with disabilities. The sessions are free, but registration is required. Certificates of completion are available for the series. Join us for one or all episodes.

Virtual Education Identification of Students with ASD
Virtual Educational Identification of Students with ASD Virtual Training Series

Register by October 25: 2021-22 Educational Identification of Students with ASD Virtual Training Series
The process to identify and serve students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) requires a well-trained and experienced evaluation team. From creating your team to administering quality assessments to accurately interpreting findings and communicating with parents and families, it is critical to have the knowledge and skills to best support students with ASD. OCALI is pleased to host the Educational Identification of Students with ASD Training Series for the 2021-2022 school year. This introductory training series, with 10 two-hour sessions, is designed for school-based evaluation teams that want to learn about the process for educational identification of students with ASD.

The Ohio UDL Collaborative PLC
https://www.smore.com/v4myqhttps://www.smore.com/v4myqThe Ohio UDL Collaborative PLC

November 2: Ohio UDL Collaborative Monthly PLC
The members of the Ohio UDL Collaborative invite you to their monthly, virtual PLC. Join others from Ohio who are implementing UDL and find growth in the conversations to support your UDL journey. This session will focus on variability, mindset, and equity.

Ensuring Access to the General Education Curriculum for All Learners
Nov. 11, 2021 4pm EDT Ensuring Access to the General Curriculum for All Learners

November 11: InspirED: Ensuring Access to the General Curriculum for All Learners
Effectively designing instruction and assessment in a way that provides universal access across courses, lessons, and learning activities is essential for ALL students. Learn more about the strategies, research, and support resources to effectively design instruction and assessment in a way that provides universal access across courses, lessons, and learning activities. Created for educators, by educators Ensuring Access to the General Curriculum for All Learners is a new, FREE video-based learning series designed to ensure ALL learners have access to the general curriculum.