Welcome to the 2023 APRIL CONFERENCE 

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ILRU: Sharing the Magic Creating Space for Everyone


October 12, 2023: 10 AM-4 PM  Grand Ballroom E and F


Agenda & Session Overview 


10:00-11:30 AM: Session 1: Navigating Tough Conversations and Overcoming Obstacles: Tips for Pushing Through Difficulties—In this session, Andy Arias will cover how to prepare for challenging discussions and planning regarding inclusion and equity strategies in your organization. Andy will provide a roadmap for expanding your inclusion efforts without requiring additional or specialized funding. Additionally, he will discuss practical ways to make progress while navigating changing leadership, political, and funding priorities.   

  • Facilitated by Andy Arias 


11:30 AM- 1:00 PM  Lunch On Your Own


1:00 PM-2:30 PM: Session 2: Mind the Gap - Using Your Data to Address Service Gaps— Join Forrest Hamrick as he expertly guides CILs/SILCs in identifying service gaps and underserved populations by leveraging PPR and basic Census data. With a keen eye for detail, he'll show you how to assess staff and board representation of marginalized groups and provide practical knowledge on how to collect and analyze data to create effective outreach plans. Ensure your organization serves the community fully by attending this invaluable session with Forrest. 

  • Forrest Hamrick, Vice President & Chief Quality Officer, Able SC 


2:45 PM- 4:00 PM Session 3: Authentic Outreach: Meeting People Where They Are—In this panel discussion, we will discuss the crucial topic of creating authentic outreach plans to ensure the inclusion of all disability groups, races, and other marginalized populations. "Authentic Outreach" refers to connecting with people on their level and in their environment, meeting them where they are without any judgment or preconceived notions. The aim is to establish meaningful connections and build trust with communities to ensure that their voices are heard and their needs are met. 

    • Mel Leviton, Executive Director, Idaho State Independent Living Council 
    • Beck Levin, Systems Change Advocate, Dayle McIntosh Center 
    • Juanita Herrera, Lead Assistive Technology Advocate, Dayle McIntosh Center 
    • Pamela Torres, Lead Deaf Services Advocate, Dayle McIntosh Center 
    • Jet Hurley, Deaf Services Advocate, Dayle McIntosh Center  


Additional Session Materials:


About Your Presenters:


Andy Arias

Andy Arias is a seasoned disability program manager, policy development professional, actor, and producer with extensive experience in national initiatives. He self-identifies as a disabled, Latinx, and queer individual. Currently, Andy serves as the Component Manager for Persons with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD) and Families at the Georgetown University National Center for Cultural Competence (NCCC). In this role, he oversees the advancement of cultural and linguistic competence, diversity, equity, and inclusion for the Office of Persons with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD)-Georgetown University NCCC Partnership for Systems Change. Prior to his work at the NCCC, Andy served as a Policy Advisor for the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment, collaborating with federal agencies to develop employment policies. He also worked as a System Change Advocate and Program Manager for Orange County and Los Angeles. His projects have consistently focused on creating career pathways for marginalized communities, particularly individuals with disabilities. His expertise in policy development and DEIA (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility) practices has earned him recognition as a national subject matter expert.

Forrest Hamrick (he/him), Vice President & Chief Quality Officer, Able SC

Forrest Hamrick has been a part of Able SC for the past eight years. He began his journey as an Independent Living Specialist, later transitioning to his current role as Vice President and Chief Quality Officer. Forrest has a psychiatric disability and is passionate about how the peer model leads to a stronger community. He has worked with CILs nationally on vaccination, data gathering, outcomes, and inclusive volunteering. This includes collaborating with the University of Montana and ILRU to revise the CIL evaluation toolkit, which helps CILs develop outcomes. 

At Able SC, Forrest focuses on streamlining processes and leveraging data to drive organizational success. He is a key member in managing and applying for grants at Able SC and works hard to build leadership skills across the organization. Forrest has an undergraduate degree from Asbury University and a master's degree from the University of North Carolina Greensboro. He also earned a Project Management Certificate from the University of South Carolina.

Mel Leviton, Executive Director, Idaho State Independent Living Council 

Mel Leviton is the Executive Director of the Idaho State Independent Living Council. She has been with the SILC since 2015 and has more than 30 years’ experience working with and for people with disabilities in the private, non-profit and public sectors. In addition to her professional work, Mel shares the lived experience of being a person with visible and invisible disabilities. She has a strong belief in the ability of a person to know what they like, want and need no matter their disability. Access means we get what we need in a way that works best for us, not the person next to us.

Beck Levin (they/them), Systems Change Advocate, Dayle McIntosh Center

Beck Levin (they/them) is a transgender non-binary pansexual advocate with a wealth of experience with the disability and HIV service communities. As a Systems Change Advocate for the Dayle McIntosh Center in Orange County, CA, Beck works to make life easier and more accessible for people living with disabilities in Orange County and across the state of California. As a graduate of Georgetown University’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion program, Beck’s focus is on equity, especially as it pertains to accessibility. Active listening is at the core of Beck’s work. They focus on the non-Anglo American, non-cisgender, non-heteronormative, and disabled voices in the room, those who are traditionally underrepresented, silenced, or made to feel as though they do not belong. Beck serves on a variety of councils and boards, including the board of California Walks and the OC Senior Citizen Advisory Council.

Juanita Herrera (she/her), Lead Assistive Technology Advocate, Dayle McIntosh Center

Juanita Herrera (she/her) is a trailblazing advocate for assistive technology, currently leading efforts at the Dayle McIntosh Center for the Disabled. With a rich background in the tech industry spanning 8 years and ATP Resna certification, Juanita is on a mission to enhance accessibility for disabled individuals. As a proud Hispanic/Latinx, she brings cultural diversity to her work, serving as a bridge between communities. Being first-generation, with Spanish as her first language and bilingual proficiency in Spanish and English, Juanita's impact extends across linguistic boundaries. Born blind with congenital glaucoma from birth, she deeply empathizes with the consumers she serves, making her a dedicated and compassionate advocate for accessibility and inclusion.


Pamela Torres (she/her), Lead Deaf Services Advocate, Dayle McIntosh Center

Pamela Torres (she/her) is the Lead Deaf Services Advocate and has been working with the Dayle McIntosh Center for over four years. In the past, she was ASL Instructor and tutor. Pamela has a wealth of community leadership experience including serving as a Board member with Irvine Residents Disability Advisory Board and Treasurer with South California Black Deaf Advocates. She has actively participated in numerous disability social movements, advocating for deaf rights and championing women's rights to equitable access to essential resources. Her efforts extend to promoting language acquisition, empowering self-advocacy in health decisions, facilitating job opportunities, and ensuring communication accessibility in mainstream public spaces. Since the 1990s, Pamela has provided deaf sensitivity training for law enforcement, focusing on optimal communication practices in their interactions with deaf civilians, and more recently expanding to mental health organizations and other private sectors. In her free time, she enjoys reading, walking exercises, and traveling.


Jet Hurley (he/him), Deaf Services Advocate, Dayle McIntosh Center

Jet Hurley (he/him) has been a dedicated Deaf Services Advocate at the Dayle McIntosh Center for a decade, specializing in aiding individuals with Social Security benefits, discrimination, and communication challenges. Simultaneously, he serves as a part-time ASL professor at Cal State LA. Outside of work, Jet finds joy in sports, scenic drives, hiking, and leisurely strolls along the beach.

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