x = independently organized TED event

Theme: Access Arizona, Inclusion and Accessibility

This event occurred on
October 20, 2017
Mesa, Arizona
United States

Our nation’s community colleges have long been active in serving our diverse populations, particularly those to whom a private, elite education was neither readily available nor affordable. “No other segment of higher education,” writes the American Association of Community College, “is more responsive to its community and workforce needs than the community college.” Today, united by “the shared goals of access and service” sustained by open admission policies and low tuition rates, they form a network of 1,166 institutions of higher education that educate more than fifty percent of our nation’s undergraduates.

Established in 1962, the Maricopa County Community College District is a proud adherent to this tradition and praxis. As such, it takes great pride in welcoming and serving members of Arizona’s diverse population, with particular emphasis on providing teaching and learning opportunities to students who might otherwise be denied them. Its role, therefore, is that of gateway rather than gatekeeper to higher education in Arizona. This TEDx event, titled “Access Arizona: Inclusion and Accessibility,” celebrates a time-honored tradition by welcoming speakers from all walks of life who embrace the ideals of accessibility and inclusivity and have dedicated themselves to acting on them.

Disability is only one facet of many regarding diversity, but one that is all too rarely acknowledged and included in human and civil rights discourses.

Perceptions, understanding, attitudes, and practices regarding this condition have long been evolving. Religious literature, pervaded by magical thinking, attributed “disorders” as punishment for moral failings or family curses and miracles as evidence of divine intervention. Medical literature, based in the Enlightenment faith in knowledge and progress, led humans to think of disability in terms of an individual in need of a remedy for some given pathogen or disorder, sometimes resulting in the surrender of agency and healing to experts and specialists. Sociological literature brought us the idea that perhaps the problem didn’t rest so much in the person with the disability as in the disabling nature of the “built environment,” perpetuated by elitist ableism.

Experts in universal design, while noting that older forms of technology, such as stairs, could be replaced with more inclusive, enabling ones, noted also that such improvements and means are rarely selected and when they are, begrudgingly.

Lest we forget, all of us, though, are only temporarily able-bodied, given the innate fragility of the human body. Our entry into the disability community, therefore, is virtually inevitable. It may come by way of genetics, disease, injury, or age, but, one way or another, we had best prepare ourselves to join. It is the one minority group to which all of us will at some point in our lives belong. Denial of such, steeped in ableism, the ideology of the able-bodied, ultimately works against our own best long-term interests. So, too, do any barriers to accessibility and full inclusion we perpetuate or allow.

This TEDx event features individuals who have had a tremendous impact in our communities, especially regarding accessibility and inclusion. We are extremely fortunate to have them in our midst, sharing their wisdom, stories, insights, and ideas

Mesa Community College—Red Mountain Campus
7110 East McKellips Road
Mesa, Arizona, 85207
United States
Event type:
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Speakers may not be confirmed. Check event website for more information.

Brett Heising

Founder and CEO of
Brett Heising, Founder and CEO of, a website for assessing the accessibility of facilities to ease anxiety about travel for persons with disabilities. He left his job in corporate America to start brettapproved because he believes everyone regardless of any given disability or mobility challenge, deserves to travel — confidently.

Carrie Griffin Basas

Director of the Office of Education Ombuds for the state of Washington
Carrie Griffin Basas is the Director of the Office of Education Ombuds for the state of Washington. Carrie is a former civil rights and labor law attorney. For many years, she was a law professor, specializing in disability rights, criminal justice, and ethics. She has taught at the University of North Carolina School of Law, Penn State University, Case Western Reserve University, the University of Tulsa College of Law, and Saint Joseph's College of Maine. In 2014, Carrie returned to graduate school to attain a MEd in Education Policy, Organizations, and Leadership from the University of Washington. Carrie is also a graduate of Swarthmore College (Honors B.A. in Psychology with a minor in Sociology/Anthropology) and Harvard Law School (Juris Doctorate degree

Daniel Baggett

Stand-Up Comedian
Daniel Baggett, is a Student at Mesa Community College-Red Mountain and a Stand-Up Comedian. Expertise: Communications.

James I. Charlton

Executive Vice President of Access Living in Chicago
James I. Charlton, author of Nothing about Us without Us, Executive Vice President of Access Living in Chicago, disability rights activist, and Research Assistant Professor of Disability and Human Development at UIC. He holds that disability is socially constructed. He created a model of the disability rights movement that differentiates between a number of different kinds of organizations. He has a graduate degree from the University of Chicago. Charlton has been Director of Programs, Executive Vice President and Acting President of Access Living since 1985. Charlton is a professor in the Department of Disability and Human Development at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He is a member of the Chicago Transit Authority's board of directors. His book Nothing about Us without Us: Disability Oppression and Empowerment has been described as "A defining document in the literature of disability culture."

Jennifer Longdon

Phoenix-based writer and Activist
Jenn is a Phoenix-based writer and activist who has dedicated herself to improving the lives of Arizonans through advocacy and awareness. Jen was paralyzed in a random shooting in 2004. Since then she has worked tirelessly to create changes in policy impacting disability rights and gun violence prevention to build stronger, healthier communities. Jennifer has advocated at the Arizona State Capitol, U.S. Congress, and the city level for new laws that will keep Arizonans safe. She is a TEDx speaker and has been featured in various news publications locally, nationally and internationally. She has worked as a trainer for the Maricopa County Elections Board, and currently works as the Communications Coordinator for Ability360 and as Editor of their quarterly LivAbility Magazine. Jennifer has served on the Phoenix Mayor’s Commission on Disability Issues, the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation Public Impact Panel and more. Currently, Jen is seeking the office of State Representative.

John Lawson

Actor and Director
In 1987 John was injured in an electrical accident painting an above ground water storage tank. He studied piano for 17 years and he left the Burn Center with hooks in the place of his hands. Since leaving the hospital, John has become the first double hand amputee to be trained and certified as a private pilot in the US and the first and only double hand amputee to be a certified PADI SCUBA Instructor in the world. He is a writer, director, film and television PWD actor with past roles in, Law and Order: SVU, MTV-Awkward, Switched at Birth, HBO West World and American Horror Story: FREAK SHOW. John has also had roles in over 15 films. He serves as a SAG-AFTRA Performer with Disabilities National Committee member and serves on the advisory board for the Easter Seals Disability Film Challenge.

Kevin Kling

Playwright and Storyteller
Kevin Kling is a well-known playwright and storyteller, and his commentaries can be heard on NPR’s All Things Considered. His plays and adaptations have been performed around the world. He lives in Minneapolis. Kevin Kling, best known for his popular commentaries on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered and his storytelling stage shows like Tales from the Charred Underbelly of the Yule Log, delivers hilarious, often tender stories. Kling’s autobiographical tales are as enchanting as they are true to life: hopping freight trains, getting hit by lightning, performing his banned play in Czechoslovakia, growing up in Minnesota, and eating things before knowing what they are.

Mindy Scheier

Founder and President of the Runway of Dreams Foundation
Mindy Scheier is a fashion designer and mother of a child with a disability. Her journey began when her son Oliver, who has a rare form of Muscular Dystrophy, wanted to wear jeans to school like his friends. She soon realized that millions of people around the world were also struggling to access fashionable clothing that meets their needs. She envisioned a world where adaptive clothing for people with disabilities was mainstream. .The Runway of Dreams Foundation is a nonprofit that works toward a future of inclusion, acceptance and opportunity in the fashion industry for people with disabilities. Founded on the basis that clothing is a basic human need, the Runway of Dreams Foundation develops, delivers and supports charitable initiatives to broaden the reach of adaptive clothing and promote the differently-abled community in the fashion industry.

Renu Addlakha

Researcher for the Centre for Women’s Development Studies
Renu Addlakha, researcher for the Centre for Women’s Development Studies in the sociology of medicine, mental illness and the psychiatric profession, anthropology of infectious diseases, bioethics, and disability studies, editor of Disability Studies in India: Global Discourses, Local Realities, and director of research projects supported by the World Health Organization and the MacArthur Foundation in India. Expertise: Culture, Gender, and Identity Studies.

Rosemarie Garland-Thomson

Professor of English at Emory University
Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, is Professor of English at Emory University, where her fields of study are disability studies, American literature and culture, feminist theory, and bioethics. Her work develops the field of critical disability studies in the health humanities, broadly understood, to bring forward disability access, inclusion and identity to communities inside and outside of the academy. She is the author of Staring: How We Look and several other books. Her current book project is Habitable Worlds: Disability, Technology, and Eugenics.

Sarah Risha

Faculty, Arizona State University
Dr. Risha has over 20 years of extensive educational and leadership skills, involving teaching, administrative and course development, at Arizona State University and in the Maricopa Community College system. In addition, she has served in multiple educational and consulting capacities, locally and internationally, at public and private schools, including as a senior teacher, instructor, lecturer, program director, and vice principle. She enjoys a full command of English and Arabic (her first language) and is well versed in Western and Middle Eastern cultures, traditions, and unique religious persuasions.

Theresa Devine

Assistant Professor in the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University
Theresa Devine, MFA, is an Assistant Professor in the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University. She is an artist and a scholar whose interdisciplinary research draws on the subjects of games, play, psychology, aesthetics, ethics and social transformation.Theresa received her BFA in Painting and Printmaking at Texas A & M University- Corpus Christi in 1991 and her MFA in Painting at University of Houston in 1994. In her studio artwork she explores games, toys and play. In both her artwork and scholarship, She is interested in discovering how art and play can be understood in order to be activated for social change. She believes that through a greater understanding of art and play, a road to creating a more just, tolerant, and inclusive world can be exposed and that this path can be opened up for others to make discoveries of their own.

Organizing team