May 16-17, 2019 Forum

Experts Share Their Knowledge of Universal Design at the 2019 Targeting Autism Forum

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The following forum presentation on Universal Design highlights the work of two leading experts:

lisa william iff


Lisa Boulden Williams, Director of Universal Access Services for IFF, a mission driven lender and developer, that increases availability of accessible housing for people with disabilities.


armando tobias  Armando Tobias, Architect, LCM Architects.  LCM, established in 1996 is committed to building new & renovated spaces based on the applications of accessibility standards and inclusive design nationwide.

Gyasi Burks-Abbott, Librarian, Public Speaker & Autistic Self-Advocate Discusses Neurodiversity & Civil Rights

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Gyasi Burks-Abbott’s shares his experience as a fellow with Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disorders (LEND) and his views on autism and civil rights at the 2019 Targeting Autism Forum.


Renee Grassi, Recognized Library Leader & Disabilities Advocate Shares How the Olmstead Plan has Made Minnesota a Model for Inclusion

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renee grassi TA forum 2019

Renee Grassi, for years has been a recognized leader in inclusive library services.  Former Illinois native and Youth Services Librarian, Renee is passionate about advocating for people of all abilities.  As a librarian in several Illinois public libraries, she has won awards for her groundbreaking work in developing more accessible libraries and disability friendly programs.

Renee, who is currently the Youth Services Manager in the Dakota County Library in Minnesota, is a great fit for the “Bread & Butter” state, where inclusion is a top priority.  In 2015, Minnesota passed the Olmstead Plan, whose mission is ensure that the states’   residents with disabilities are living, learning, working and enjoying life in the most inclusive, integrated setting.  The plan addresses employment, housing, transportation, supports and services, lifelong learning and education, healthcare and healthy living, and community engagement.

With Renee’s experience and strategic vision, the Dakota County Library was the first library in Minnesota to receive a two-year $100,000 Minnesota Department of Human Services Innovations Grant to fund events, including an American Sign Language celebration, and a series of programs for summer 2019, including musical offerings and a sensory zoo.  In addition, grants were also used for the following:

  • Accessibility kits – Tools, adapted school supplies, and small equipment to support in-library use
  • Calming spaces – room designated for those on the spectrum and/or individuals with sensory sensitivities to self-regulate; includes sensory tools for hyper- and hypo-sensitivity
  • Staff training
  • Consulting services & assessment
  • Programs and marketing

For more information, the complete set of presentation slides is available here:

renee grassi ta 2019 Targeting Autism Presentation

Autistic Activist, Archivist & Blogger, Steph Diorio, Inspires the Forum to Move Beyond Autism Awareness

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Stephanie Diorio TA forum 2019 1

Steph Diorio, the local history librarian/archivist at the Hoboken Public Library was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome in 2009 and has been a tireless autism advocate ever since.  She speaks at conferences and blogs about the issues autistic people face including: (1) accessibility; (2) being infantilized/talked down to; (3) being taken seriously; and (4) being talked over by parents and “experts.”

Steph has been blogging and talking to all who would listen since 2010 in an attempt to support other autistic people and amplify their voices.   As both a passionate autism advocate and gamer, Steph started the Autistic Gaming Initiative , a group that provides a social outlet for autistic gamers, as well as, a vehicle to raise money for autism charities run by and for autistic people.

In answer to the question, “If I’m not autistic, how can I help autistic people I know,” Steph stresses the importance of listening to them.  If an autistic person tells you that a type of therapy, an organization or a societal expectation is harmful to autistic people, believe them!  She also urges us to reject the medical model that describes autism as a condition to be treated.  As Steph says, “We don’t “have” autism, we “are” autism.

Steph Diorio’s presentation slides can be viewed at the link below:

Steph Diorio Self-Advocacy In Your Community_ An Autistic’s Guide To Speaking Up And Speaking Out