Chicago Abilities Expo Event

Free Workshops

Plan your Abilities Expo experience today

CART (Communication Access Realtime Translation) services will be available at all of the workshops.

Take advantage of Free Workshops that focus on everything from tips for traveling with a disability and home modifications to the steps to getting the best accessible vehicle. See a sneak peek of an upcoming episode from Season 2 of “Push Girls.” Find out how standing is benefitting people with spinal cord injuries. Pick up some tips for dating and intimacy at the “Creating Healthy Relationships” workshop. Newly disabled? Be sure to check out the discussion session “Life After A Serious Injury.”

Workshops are FREE! All attendees are welcome – you don’t need to register or sign up in advance. Just arrive early to the workshop to make sure you can get a seat!

Did you know there’s more than the Workshops at Abilities Expo? Be sure to check out the FREE Events for demonstrations of adaptive sports, dancing, assistance dogs, horse therapy – and more. Most events include time for attendees to participate!


Certificates of participation are available for all workshops. Please see the Accessibility Help Desk following each workshop for your certificate. (Please note there are no CEU approved courses at this year’s Abilities Expo).

* Please note dates and times of workshops are subject to change without notice. Abilities Expo is not responsible for the materials or opinions of the speakers.

Here's what we did in 2013. Stay tuned for 2014! 

Friday, June 28, 2013

11:45am – 12:45pm

Wheelchair Standers: Stand for Function!

Presented by Amy Morgan, PT, ATP, National Clinical Education Manager, Permobil Inc.

Standing is an intervention that has been gaining attention in recent months. In addition to the physiological benefits of weight bearing (standing), the increase in functional performance that standing provides makes it a desirable feature on a wheelchair base. This session will look at the research supporting standing wheelchairs and will discuss how to use this research to support a consumer’s need for a standing wheelchair. Several successful case studies of people using standing wheelchairs (both manual and power) will also be shared.

11:45am – 12:45pm

A Home for Life- Better Living Design

Presented by William L. Gorman, Executive Director, Statewide Independent Living Council of Illinois

This highly visual presentation will share how all people can benefit from universal design residential housing. Learn the definition of universal design and see the basic elements of a universal design home. Attendees will discover that universal design homes are functional, flexible and cost-effective. You will also learn how universal design differentiates from the concepts of accessibility, visitability, customized housing and assistive technology. Myths, market demand and costs will also be addressed. Significant resource material regarding products, designs and materials will also be provided.

1:00pm – 2:00pm

Creating Healthy Relationships: Tips for Dating and Intimacy

Presented by S. Barton Cutter and Megan M. Cutter, authors of Ink in the Wheels: Stories to Make Love Roll

Inquiring minds want to know-dating, romance, and intimacy. But we might not know how to ask our questions or move through our concerns of creating a lasting relationship. Communication has the power to foster meaningful connections and carries the possibility of romance. Developing deep and meaningful relationships is a core component which people of all ages and abilities seek.

At this workshop, Barton and Megan Cutter will dive into the themes of disability, relationships, and intimacy with attendees. They will share what they have learned about our ability to cultivate lasting partnerships and relate to one another by providing practical insights on positive communication, aligning individual and joint values, and identifying creative planning strategies. Married for eight years, The Cutters are the authors of the new book, Ink in the Wheels: Stories to Make Love Roll. Discover the ways you can build connections and develop them into deeper relationships. Learn more at

1:00pm – 2:00pm

Planning Accessible Travel

Presented by Mary Peterson, CTC, ABLE to Travel, a program of United Spinal Association


Does the perceived challenge of planning accessible travel keep you from going places? It may not be easy, but it does not need to be that hard. ABLE to Travel, an agency that specializes in the types of issues a person with a disability may encounter, is here to help make your trip accessible from start to finish and alleviate the headache for you! In this workshop the presenter will discuss the Air Carrier Access, the 2010 ADA Standards that have mandated increased accessibility to hotels and other travel destinations, tips for travelers, maneuvering through airport security and the mandates from TSA, and cruises (one of the most accessible ways to travel). Learn more at

2:30pm – 3:30pm

Multiple Therapies Utilizing Equines: An Arena for Change

Presented by Sandra Kakacek, EdD, LCPC, Professor, Argosy University; and Judy Michels Jelm, MS, CCC-SLP, C/NDT

Equine-Assisted Multiple Therapies is an exciting creative experiential hands-on approach to work with challenging issues. Equine-Assisted Multiple Therapies is a relatively new therapeutic model providing mental health, speech and language, team building, and wellness activities to all ages. Come join us to learn more about how the magic of horses is currently being utilized for youth, couples, families and individuals. Presented will be an overview of the history of Equine-Assisted Multiple Therapies, how activities are designed using horses as metaphorical tools, utilizing speech and language activities, structuring the use of equines, applications for various populations and issues, and sharing of successful treatment stories.

2:30pm – 3:30pm

Life After A Serious Injury: Asking the Questions and Finding the Answers

Presented by Eric Patrick Thomas, Owner, EZ Awareness by Design

After suffering a spinal cord injury or other serious injury people experience panic. You look for a book with all the answers but find it just isn't there. I know because I've been there. I once was like you - newly injured from a gunshot wound. That was 15 years ago and I was desperately searching for answers. But I'm not hear to tell you just about my life. At this workshop we'll interact to talk about living life after an injury. Learn that you are not alone and discover where you can find support. We will discuss the experiences and emotions that are common for people with new spinal cord and other serious injuries. We'll talk about how to understand your new body and the new you, how it will change your life and the lives of those around you. Please bring your questions for discussion. Attendees will leave this workshop feeling more empowered and educated, with tips and tools for building friendships and learning how to mentor others facing similar situations.

3:45pm – 4:45pm

Push Girls: Sneak Peek of a Season 2 Episode and Meet Chelsie Hill

Presented by The Sundance Channel

Push Girls

“Push Girls,” the boundary-breaking docu-series will return to Sundance Channel for a second season on Monday, June 3rd at 10pm ET/PT. Following the series debut last year, “Push Girls” drew widespread critical and audience acclaim for its authentic and unprecedented depiction of four beautiful, intelligent and inspiring women who, by accident or illness, have been paralyzed from the neck or the waist down.

In the ten highly-anticipated new episodes, Executive Producer Gay Rosenthal ("Ruby," "Little People, Big World") will continue to document the lives and friendship of Angela, Auti, Mia and Tiphany, as they explore new romances, tackle longstanding issues, mentor newly injured patients, and try out modern technologies that will allow them to pursue happiness and independence on their own terms. The four friends continue to cheer on 21-year old Chelsie Hill who has been paralyzed for four years and looks to the women for guidance as she moves away from her parents for the first time and finds herself in a serious relationship with an able-bodied man.

Click here for more.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

11:45am – 12:45pm

How to Select the Right Accessible Vehicle for You

Presented by Troy Schultz, BraunAbility


Are you feeling challenged by the process of purchasing adaptive equipment for a vehicle? Consumers and related healthcare professionals alike are invited to join us to learn the tips to successfully navigating the purchase of vans and accessible modifications. This workshop will cover such topics as what solutions are available and where to find them, key terminology, the shopping and evaluation process, funding options and much more. Following the session attendees are invited for a hands-on van demo at BraunAbility's Booth #501.

11:45am – 12:45pm

Young, Hip and Disabled: College, Work and More

Presented by Stevie Hopkins, Co-Founder/Annie's Brother, Director of Awesome, 3E Love


Now that you've finished high school, you're ready to venture out on your own. There's a lot of excitement about these changes but also a lot of challenges too. Hiring and firing PA's, living on your own, dating and relationships, and getting a job. Stevie Hopkins, co-founder of 3E Love, will share his thoughts on making the jump to life after school. Stevie is a a serial entrepreneur. After many ventures he found his life's work in 3E Love, his sister Annie's dream. Calling on his experiences in the financial industry, music business, and web startups, Stevie was able to turned the dream into a reality. The experiences he has had traveling thousands of miles, meeting people all over the country and speaking to groups telling his story, has changed his life forever. Learn more at

1:00pm – 2:00pm

Adaptive Equipment for Kids, Adolescents & Teens

Presented by Timothy J. Caruso PT, MBA, MS, Cert. MDT, CEAS, Shriners Hospital for Children

Adaptive equipment is often the difference between a life of independence and a life of limitation. Parents and caregivers – this workshop offers an opportunity to become familiar with the types of adaptive equipment that are available for home, school and play. The presenter will review general guidelines for you to consider when purchasing, building or ordering adaptive equipment. He’ll discuss how to consider the unique aspects of your child in making decisions about their special equipment needs. You’ll learn strategies for planning, problem solving and creative approaches as it pertains to adaptive equipment. Attendees will receive a list of resources for adaptive equipment that supports improved independence.

1:00pm – 2:00pm

Intensive Pediatric PT—The Benefits for Your Child’s Body, Mind & Spirit

Presented by Michelle Haney, PT, MSPT, Director, Euro-Pēds National Center for Intensive Pediatric PT

This session has been cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances. Please visit the organization website for information about this therapy.

Pediatric Training

Research continues to point to the benefits of physical activity for children who have gross motor disorders caused from cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, traumatic brain injuries, and other non-progressive neuromuscular disorders. While the primary goal of Intensive therapy is to teach new and lasting functional physical skills to children within this population, there are other benefits that are equally important to the child’s well being. As Intensive Pediatric PT has evolved we are recognizing additional benefits such as improved self-esteem and confidence as the body gets stronger.

This presentation will provide definitions for European-inspired Intensive Pediatric PT, the benefits of this emerging therapy, explanations of the European-inspired concepts and tools used during an intensive PT session, and benefits beyond physical that are based on increased activity levels. The speaker, who is an expert in this emerging field of Intensive Pediatric Physical Therapy, will review the research and theories highlighting the need for Intensive Pediatric PT and provide compelling video samples of how this model of therapy is creating better outcomes for children at several levels. More information is available at

2:30pm – 3:30pm

Home Modifications: 5 Common Solutions to Improve Your Home Access

Presented by Stephen Crandall, Co-Owner, Extended Home Living Services, Inc. and To The Top Home Elevators

Are you looking for ways to make your home more accessible and safe? Need information on current accessible options, costs, and how various solutions work? Join this interactive session and learn more about five of the most common accessibility solutions: stair lifts, wheelchair lifts, ramps (portable and permanent), CMLs (ceiling mounted lift), and bathroom modifications.

This enlightening presentation includes; a hands-on shower transfer system demo and an operational ceiling mounted transfer system that will be on display for trial use during the presentation and after. Stephen Crandall, the presenter will review each of these options in detail including how the systems operate and who benefits most from them. Attendees will leave with a better understanding of the approximate costs for each solution and how long it can take to order and install the solution.

2:30pm – 3:30pm

Disasters and Disabilities: How to Prepare and Stay Safe in an Emergency

Presented by Linda Mastandrea, Attorney at Law, Law Offices of Linda Mastandrea and Katie Freeman, Senior Managing Associate, Hagerty Consulting

There are natural disasters that affect all of us - fires, floods, tornados, earthquakes, and hurricanes. There are man-made disasters too, like bombings and shootings that can affect us at work, at school and in our communities. Living in fear isn’t the answer; being ready is. Participants will learn about the kinds of disasters and emergencies that can impact them, and some concrete tips they can start using right away to protect themselves and their families, and to stay safe if a disaster hits close to home.

3:45pm – 4:45pm

Thriving, Not Just Surviving, as the Parent of a Special Needs Child

Presented by Karen Kain, Founder, Lorrin's World and Abilities Expo Ambassador

Karen Kain: Thriving, not just Surviving

Karen Kain, mother of Lorrin who was grievously vaccine injured in 1994, shares her story of how she went from being a broken-hearted, desperate mother who was isolated and alone to accepting, enjoying and even thriving as the parent of a unique child. Karen will tell the process that led her to a loving and fulfilling parenting experience, as she learned life lessons from Lorrin. Karen will describe how she found success in getting from despair to discovery to love of self. She brings you tips she learned from others along the way – parents, health-care workers, and more – along with discoveries of her own. If you are new to this journey, join Karen for this workshop to gain support and ideas for thriving in your new life. Learn more about Karen at

3:45pm – 4:45pm

Meet Mike Ervin, Author of the New Mobility Magazine's "Ervin"

Presented by Mike Ervin, Abilities Expo Ambassador, Author, Playwright and activist who has been arrested more than a dozen for participating in nonviolent civil disobedience

Meet Mike Ervin

Mike Ervin will have you laughing your pants off (not literally please) with his hilarious (and short) essays about being crippled and other stuff. As Mike says, everybody loves a cripple but everybody hates a smart ass. Mike's column "Ervin" appears in New Mobility Magazine several times each year. You can also enjoy his perspective on all things disability at his blog, His books, Smart Ass Cripple's Little Red Book and Smart Ass Cripple's Little Yellow Book are available at and

* This session features mature content and is not appropriate for children under the age of 18.

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