Virtual Ability, Inc.® presents the 7th Annual
International Disability Rights Affirmation Conference
October 5 and 6, 2018
in Second Life at

Virtual Ability, Inc.® presents the International Disability Rights Affirmation Conference (IDRAC), which will take place October 5-6, 2018. This is an annual professional conference held online, that is free and open to the public. The conference will take place in Second Life® at The Sojourner Auditorium on Virtual Ability Island.

This year’s theme is “Taking Care of Us”.  This theme is broad and open to interpretation by the presenters we invited to this year’s event. If past conferences are any indication, we look forward to lively discussions and information sharing among presenters and our very interested and interactive audience.

Below is an at-a-glance schedule of the presenters who will share their observations of the progress, benefits and challenges in disability rights in different parts of the world as applied to the current theme. We will provide more information about the speakers and their presentations as it becomes available. Note: All times are listed in US Pacific Time.

IDRAC 2018 Schedule of Events

All times are in SLT/PDT.
Friday, October 5
7:00 AM Lusha HuangEnhancing Visually Impaired People’s Traveling Experience through Mobile ApplicationsLusha Huang Transcript
8:30 AM Coomara Pyaneandee The United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
10:00 AMDebbie Engelen-EiglesLearning from Korean Women with Disabilities: Lessons from the FieldPresentation Slides
For information about this presentation, please contact Debbie Engelen- Eigles.
Debbie.Engelen-Eigles at century dot edu
11:30 AMJason DaSilvaDocumenting Disability & Looking Towards the Future
1:00 PM Lauren Bruno and
Cassandra Willis
A Survey of Alternative and Traditional Special Education Teachers’ Perception of PreparednessBruno-Willis Transcript
2:30 PMPanel DiscussionPanel discussion of caregiving issues with caregivers and care recipientsPanel Discussion - Day One Transcript
Saturday, October 6
8:00 AMPatrick McKearney Care and Visibility: Modes of Agency in L’ArchePatrick McKearney Transcript
9:30 AMReginald Nii OdoiWe Are The World: Making It a Better PlaceReginald Nii Odoi Transcript
11:00 AMPeter Catapano Interview with Peter Catapano
12:30 PMRev. Olutayo ShodipoSpirituality, Disability and Coping Strategy – Its Implication for Faith CommunitiesRev Olutayo Shodipo Transcript
2:00 PMAmra Mohammed Creating Policies to Support Twice-Exceptional Students in Saudi ArabiaAmra Mohammed Transcript
3:30 PMPanel DiscussionPanel discussion of caregiving issues with caregivers and care recipientsPanel Discussion - Day Two Transcript

IDRAC 2018 Speaker Biographies

Biographies are listed in alphabetical order by last name.

Lauren Bruno and Cassandra Willis
Dr. Lauren P. Bruno is a recent graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University where she studied Special Education and Disability Policy. Her research is focused on transition outcomes for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, teacher preparation and development, assistive technology, and education policy.

Dr. Bruno is currently a postdoctoral research scholar at the University of Iowa with UI REACH (Realizing Education and Career Hopes). Prior to entering the world of academia, she was a high-school special educator serving students with severe and multiple disabilities. She obtained her Master’s in Special Education, with an Autism Certificate, from the University of Mary Washington in Virginia, following her Bachelor’s in Elementary Education & Special Education from Millersville University of Pennsylvania.

Mrs. Cassandra Willis is a 3rd-year doctoral student in the Research to Policy Advocacy Program in the Counseling and Special Education Department at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, VA. She is beginning her dissertation in the area of administrative support of early career special education teachers. Her research agenda includes disproportionality in special education, diversity of teaching workforce, post-secondary school outcomes and special education teacher preparation.

She has spent many years in public education in a variety of roles including special education teacher, math supervisor, and Associate Principal. Cassandra attended the University of Virginia as an undergraduate and received her Masters and a Post Graduate Certificate in Administration and Supervision from Virginia Commonwealth University. In her spare time she enjoys traveling and days with no meetings. She is ramping up for graduation in May, 2019!

Peter Catapano
Peter Catapano is the Editor of the Opinion Section of the New York Times, where he has worked for two decades. He initiated several web projects resulting in online series, including The Stone, a long-running set of popular essays by various authors about philosophy. A collection of these essays was published as “The Stone Reader: Modern Philosophy in 133 Arguments.”

Mr. Catapano was asked by Dr. Oliver Sacks to edit the essays he wrote about his final illness and preparations for his death. These collected essays became the best-selling book “Gratitude.”

Mr. Catapano also teaches a course on Philosophy and the Media at The New School’s Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts.

Jason DaSilva
Jason DaSilva began his career as a visual artist and a documentary filmmaker in New York, focusing on comparisons of life in different countries. He was 25 years old when he was diagnosed with primary progressive multiple sclerosis, which gradually took away his ability to walk, use his hands, see clearly and move his body. He now requires 24/7 care. He is currently a director, producer and writer of documentary films, and a disability rights activist.

Shortly after his diagnosis, Jason decided to document the progression of his disability over seven years—from using a cane, to a walker, to a wheelchair—in a film titled “When I Walk.” Premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, it won an Emmy award for Outstanding Informational Programming — Long Form, News & Documentary. It is available for viewing on Amazon Prime.

In his role as a disability activist, Jason founded the nonprofit AXS Lab to use the arts, media and technology to improve the lives of people with disabilities. He also created the AXS Map project, which crowd sources information about the accessibility of public places such as restaurants and businesses.

Debbie Engelen-Eigles
Dr. Debbie Engelen-Eigles teaches sociology and gender studies at Century College in White Bear Lake, MN. She has taught disability studies for over twenty years, integrating the material into a range of courses as well as developing a stand-alone course, Sociology of Disability.

In 2011-2012, Debbie received a Fulbright Scholar Award to Seoul, Korea, to research the experiences of has women with disabilities in accessing health care.

When not teaching, Debbie enjoys outdoor activities, travel, and learning languages, and recently discovered sailboat racing.

Lusha Huang
Lusha Huang is a graduate student at Hong Kong Polytechnic University. She is an industrial designer, interaction designer, and researcher with a keen understanding of innovation and a passion for culture change. She is from Guangzhou, China where she gained her BA in Industrial Design at the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts. She earned her MFA in Products of Design at the School of Visual Arts in New York City.

Her passion for design has been recognized in various international design competitions, including the IF Concept Award. She holds five patents for her work, and she was the only Chinese student asked to participate in Milano Salone in 2012. During her undergraduate years, Ms. Huang was invited to Japan, North Europe and the US to exchange ideas about design.

Ms. Huang worked as an industrial designer at Pip Tompkins Studio in Los Angeles, before joining the School of Design at Hong Kong Polytechnic University as a PhD student to explore the needs of visually impaired people. She wants to use her design power to promote equality for real people in the real world.

Patrick McKearney
Dr. Patrick McKearney is a Research Associate and Affiliated Lecturer at the Max Planck-Cambridge Centre for Ethics, Economy, and Social Change in the University of Cambridge, UK. He has published in The Journal of Religious Ethics, City & Society, The Cambridge Journal of Anthropology and The Journal of Disability and Religion on care, disability, ethics, and personhood.

His previous research focuses on people with intellectual disabilities in the UK, in particular in a Christian charity called L’Arche, which is what he will be presenting at this years IDRAC conference. His future research explores the contrasts between this form of support and those in the South Indian state of Kerala.

Amra Mohammed
Ms. Amra Mohammed is a Lecturer in the department of Special/Gifted Education at the University of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia (KSA). She is currently completing the doctoral program in Special/Gifted Education at the University of Northern Colorado. Ms. Mohammed served as program coordinator and teacher for the Summer Enrichment Program at the University of Northern Colorado in Summer 2017, and she is currently developing a similar program for Jeddah University.

Her professional area of specialization is twice-exceptionality (2E), students who are identified with two different disabilities. She is passionate about applied research in this area and enjoys working with teachers and parents of twice-exceptional students.

Reginald Nii Odoi
Mr. Reginald Nii Odoi, Esq., is a practicing Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Ghana. He received his LLB degree with First Class Honors from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KUNST), where he served as President of the Law Students’ Union and as the Legal Affairs Commissioner of the KUNST SRC (Student Representatives Council). He is currently attending Harvard Law School in pursuit of his LLM degree.

Mr. Odoi is the founder and President of The Good Shepherd Love Foundation (, an NGO which seeks to bridge the social divide by promoting societal inclusion, advocacy and mentorship for vulnerable members of society. He enjoys writing journal articles and playing and watching soccer.

Coomara Pyaneandee
Coomara Pyaneandee, Esq., is an experienced Barrister in the areas of human rights, and public and employment law. He is the author of International Disability Law: A practical approach to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Using his background as a human rights lawyer, he currently serves as Vice-Chairperson of the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

A native of Mauritius, Mr. Pyaneandee is active in many organizations to support blind people. He is a disability activist both regionally and internationally. He is Chairman of the Lois Lagesse Trust Fund for the Blind, and an active member of the British Council of Organisations of Disabled People, the Royal National Institute for the Blind, and the Association of Blind and Partially-Sighted Teachers and Students.

With many publications to his credit, Mr. Pyaneandee was decorated an Officer of the Order of the Star and Key of the Indian Ocean.

Rev. Olutayo Shodipo
Reverend Olutayo Stephen Shodipo is a Nigerian Baptist minister who has years of experience in Pastoral care and counseling and Educational ministry. He is currently pursuing his Doctor of Ministry degree, researching “The possibilities of incorporating spirituality into the therapeutic process for persons with developmental disability” at St Stephen’s College, University of Alberta, Canada.

He is a member of Developmental Disability and Faith Communities, of Edmonton, Canada. This organization is a collaborating partnership on interfaith dialogue among faith communities and other institutional partners, to enhance the authentic 'welcoming and inclusion' of persons with developmental disabilities and their families. The mission of this partnership is to nurture their optimal engagement and quality of life in faith communities. Reverend Shodipo is also a member of Canadian Association of Spiritual Care.