Disability InSIGHTS 

Friday, October 18 | Tom Ridge Environmental Center  | 10:30 am – 3 pm

Our goal for the seminar is for you to leave being more confident and inspired to accomplish your goals and achieve your dreams!   

KEY EVENT SCHEDULE

10:30 – 11 | Welcome! Opening Session
11 – 11:30 | Life is Like a River  | Maxwell Ivey, Jr.
11:40 – 12:10 | Expanding My Vision Through Sight Loss | Stephanae McCoy

12:10 – 12:40 | S N A C K B R E A K  &  S T R E T C H

12:40- 1:10 | The Life of a Deaf Blind Adult | Emmanuel Lee
1:20 – 1:50 | Recovery from Mental Illness | Aimee Gross
2 – 2:45 | Autism Panel Presentation Q & A | Various Speakers
2:45 – 3 | Closing Session

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STAFF BIOS

picture of Amy Bovaird

EVENT COORDINATOR

Amy L. Bovaird

Amy Bovaird, world traveler, ghostwriter, two-time bestselling author and inspirational speaker thrives with vision loss. She educates and entertains her readers with humorous anecdotes of coping with ongoing vision loss. Bovaird earned her M.A. in Bicultural – Bilingual Studies from the University of Texas at San Antonio and is a lifelong learner, whether it is vision, writing or language related. She has written three faith-based memoirs. Bovaird lives in northwest Pennsylvania. Every day she negotiates for the upper hand with her kitten, Sophie Socks, and on most occasions, fails.

Maxwell Ivey, Jr. 

Maxwell Ivey is the son of carnival owners from Houston Texas. All he ever wanted to do was be part of the family business. In spite of his blindness, he did just that until his father’s death resulted in the closure of their small traveling show. He knew he had to find something new to do to help support the family. ‘

Max has written three books so far, done dozens of interviews, traveled cross-country solo, and started his own podcast called “What’s Your Excuse?” The title came from the fact that many people have said. “If Max can do it, then what is my excuse?” He is always up for a new friendship, opportunity, or adventure. If you have any questions, just ask.

“Life is like a River Overcoming Adversity and Moving Forward”

“Recovery from Mental Illness is Possible”

Aimee Eddy Gross

Aimee Eddy Gross is an overcomer who advocates for other strugglers. After conquering mental illness, bullying, a learning disability, cancer and more, she has the life experience to encourage others through her writing and speaking. She shares her experiences in her blog, “Finding the Light” https://aimeeeddygross.wordpress.com to encourage others to strive for recovery. Some of her essays on depression and bullying appear in Change Your Life by Alexander Kovarovic. She serves as assistant to the director for the National Youth Internet Safety and Cyberbullying Task Force, and also writes blog posts for the Taskforce on mental illness and bullying.

Emmanuel Lee

Emmanuel Lee – born November 10, 1977 in Chicago, Illinois, became deaf between the age of 3 and 4 years old.  Considered to be “deaf and dumb,” raised in an abusive home, picked on and bullied in “special education” classes; Emmanuel’s middle school and high school educational experience was less than fulfilling. Emmanuel eventually found steady work with United Parcel Service, where he worked for 11 years.  Emmanuel became blind in his 30’s and attended Helen Keller National Center for Deaf Blind Youths & Adults (HKNC) in 2008 to learn how to adapt to his newfound “abilities.”

“The Life of a Deaf Blind Adult”

“How Losing My Sight Expanded My Vision”

Stephanae McCoy

Kindness, compassion, and a deep desire for social justice are central to who I am; these are my values. I founded Bold Blind Beauty out of a personal need for empowerment that I wanted to share with others. After an amazing stint at one of the Big Four accounting firms, I was finally able to pursue my passion for becoming an abilities crusader (advocate). The one thing sight loss has taught me is perception is much more profound than seeing. I may have lost my sight but my clarity has increased exponentially, and for this I am grateful. Stephanae lives in Pittsburgh, PA.

Chelsea C. Nguyen

Chelsea Nguyen is an entrepreneur as a professional image consultant and licensed Cosmetologist specializing in working with the blind, visually impaired and disabled community and also works with the general public.

Chelsea has been a small business owner for the past 17 years. She is a seasoned hairstylist and makeup artist and has a passion for teaching and training in both the beauty industry as a CHI Master Educator with Farouk Systems and as a Certified Rehabilitation Trainer in the State of Texas.

She is also the founder of CN Vision Image Consulting, LLC which offers consultation and work readiness services to people who are blind, low vision or have other disabilities.  She strives to help her clients increase their self-confidence, independence and soft skills so they can become gainfully employed or elevate their current professional image. Chelsea and her team shares specialized non-visual and adaptive techniques to applying make-up, shaving, grooming and hygiene and how to dress for success for people of all abilities.

image of Chelsea_Nguyen

“Blind and Adaptive Hands-On Makeup, Hair Styling and Shaving Demos”

image of Erica Plosky

Expert Panel Member – Autism Discussion

Erica Ploski, MA, LPC

Erica Ploski is a Licensed Professional Counselor of 25 years and graduate of Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. She is also the mother of three children, one adopted from Moscow, Russia and two “home grown” (biological) children. Her Russian daughter has Reactive Attachment Disorder and her biological children are both on the autism spectrum. Erica currently works for an international human resources company providing EAP counseling as well as has a private practice providing telelmental health services focusing on bariatric, reproductive, and autism issues. She and her children enjoy traveling and creating art work.

Casey Ireson

Casey Ireson is a senior at Gannon University studying Environmental Engineering, and is on the autism spectrum. He has had many speaking engagements, sharing autism awareness and insights from his personal journey with autism over the years.

Casey was awarded the Temple Grandin Award and WJET-TV’s Good Kid Award. He also created and led Team Casey for the Autism Society NWPA’s Autism Walk, raising over $35,000 in ten years.

Casey believes in being an opener of doors, finding a path around the obstacles that so many people with different abilities face, and hopefully shining a light on their path forward.

image of Casey Ireson

Expert Panel Member – Autism Discussion

image of Dr Paul Bensur holding his book, A New Outlook

Expert Panel Member – Autism Discussion

Dr. Paul A. Bensur, Jr.

Paul A. Bensur Jr. is the oldest son of Dolores A. McGaughey-Bensur and the late Paul A. Bensur Sr.  He was born in Erie, PA and raised in Girard and Lake City PA. He was educated and graduated from St. John the Evangelist school in Girard PA. He was in the graduating class of 1973. Following that, he attended Cathedral Preparatory School where he graduated in 1977. That year, he was accepted into Gannon College. Graduating in 1986, he earned his Bachelor Degree in General Science/Chemistry and achieved a certification to teach on the secondary level. In 1990, he earned his Master Degree in Counseling, also from Gannon, and achieved a certification as a secondary school guidance counselor.

In 1996, he earned his Doctorate in Psychology from LaSalle University and received the distinction of the title of Dr. Bensur. He has been in mental health for over 26 years: in patient, outpatient and home services. He specializes in: Autistic Spectrum Disorder, Anxiety, Depression, PTSD and Drug and Alcohol Treatment. Dr. Bensur has authored and published the book: Autistic Spectrum Disorder A New Outlook. He is currently working on a new book on drug and alcohol rehabilitation.

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