Speaker Biographies


Liz Altieri 

Liz is Professor and  Co-Director of the Virginia Inclusive Practices Center at Radford University. She teaches special education at the undergraduate and graduate levels and supervises the Elementary and Special Education Collaborative Field Experience cohort in Montgomery Co., VA.  She has published on co-teaching, views on disability, reforms in special education, and portfolio assessment. She is recognized as an accomplished educator, having received many grants, with a long-time interest in the skills needed by general and special educators in supporting the academic success of students with disabilities in the general education classroom. Prior to entering higher education, she was a classroom teacher for students 3-21 with severe disabilities and a behavior support specialist. She received her doctoral degree from Virginia Tech University.

Dawn Ault

Dawn is an educator with twenty-eight years of experience working with at-risk children and families in Virginia. In her current position as Executive Director of the Virginia Head Start Association, she facilitates collaboration among Head Start agencies and other early childhood organizations designed to benefit low-income children and families, working to enhance their capacity to improve outcomes and opportunities for young children. Her broad range of experience includes association management, consulting, professional development, training/technical assistance, program/project management, as well as teaching and administrating in two public school systems in Virginia. She holds a Master of Education degree in Administration ad Supervision PreK- 2 from Virginia Commonwealth University and a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education and Psychology, double major, from State University of New York College at Oswego. She enjoys cycling, cooking, and volunteering for her kids’ schools and activities. However, her most valued past-time is spending quality family time with her husband and two teenagers.

Ann Bevan

Ann oversees the policy and operations related to services provided to those with developmental disabilities in her current position as the Division Director for High Needs Supports at the Department of Medical Assistance Services.  She has more than 35 years of experience working with individuals with disabilities in a variety of settings including case management, residential, day support, hospice, behavioral health, substance abuse, and crisis services in the private sector as well.  Ann holds a Master’s in Rehabilitation Counseling and Bachelors in Psychology from Virginia Commonwealth University, where she also received the Stalnaker-Wright Award for outstanding achievement in academics and community service.

Lucy Beadnell

Lucy is the Director of Advocacy at The Arc of Northern Virginia where she oversees their region’s grassroots advocacy campaigns for people with developmental disabilities and creates informational resources for people with disabilities and their families. Lucy is focusing a lot of efforts on Supported Decision Making, ensuring people with disabilities have independent and integrated housing, and reforming our justice system to better recognize and meet the needs of the disability community.  She began volunteering with Arcs in college and found her home in the mission of ensuring all human and civil rights for people with disabilities are respected.  She has worked in residential settings for people with complex medical needs, as a case manager and as a public guardian focused on empowering individuals to grow their self-advocacy skills.  She has worked closely with families whose loved ones are leaving institutions, state and local legislators, and the Northern VA community at large to share the mission of disability inclusion.   She loves talking to people with disabilities and helping them share their stories to affect change. As a result of her efforts, she was selected as a 2018 40 Under 40 Awardee by the Leadership Center for Excellence and a 2020 40 Under 40 Awardee by the Washington Business Journal. Lucy is a mom of three adorable kids and lives with her family in Arlington.

Emma Budway

Emma is a 24 year old autistic who spells/types to communicate.  She is a self advocate and loves reading, walking and being with her friends. Just months before COVID shut everything down, she moved into her own apartment and is thriving in her new community!


Donna Budway

Donna is an advocate, community volunteer and program director at Gilliam Place, part of the Our Stomping Ground community where her daughter Emma lives. She serves on the Developmental Disabilities Committee of the Arlington Community Services Board and chairs the Arlington Autism Family Group.  Donna earned a Masters of Education in Community Health from Virginia Tech. Donna is a communication and regulation partner for her daughter Emma.

Sharon Cummings

Sharon is the mother of a son with autism.  She is the CEO/President of SLC Inc., a company she started over 25 years ago, that staffs new home builders with trained professional Sales Assistants.  She is a passionate advocate in helping to make a change in the lifestyle and understanding for every child and adult with special needs.  Along with her son Conner, in 2015 they successfully changed a law in the state of Virginia SB923 that is referred to as "Conner's Law." Next they are planning to change the law state by state as needed. Sharon actively participates on boards, programs, meetings, and workshops.  She is co-publisher of Zoom Autism Magazine (digital). In addition, Sharon and her son write for the growing Facebook page 'Conquer for Conner - My Special Love.’"

Bryan Dague

Bryan Dague, Ed.D. has been employed at the University of Vermont-Center on Disability & amp; Community Inclusion for over 25 years providing training and technical assistance in the areas of supported employment and transition services for people with disabilities. In 2006, he earned his doctorate in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from the University of Vermont. His dissertation entitled “Sheltered Employment, Sheltered Lives: Navigating the New

Veronica Davis

Veronica is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with over 30 years of experience working within the behavioral health system in Virginia. She earned her Master’s degree in Social Work in 1994 and became licensed in 1997. She is currently employed with the Department of Behavioral Health and Departmental Services as an Associate Director of Licensing Operations within the Office of Licensing.  During Veronica’s tenure with the Department, she has worked as a Licensing Specialist and Regional Manager within the Office of Licensing.  Prior to coming to the Department, Veronica worked at the Virginia Treatment Center for Children (MCV) and in the private sector for several years.  When Veronica is not working she enjoys leisure time with family and friends and loves to spend time on the water fishing. 

Karen Douglas

Karen teaches special education courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels in positive behavior supports and adaptive curriculum at Radford University and also supervises students in placements at the secondary level. Prior to teaching in higher education, she taught high school students with disabilities for four years  promoting inclusion, community-based instruction, and vocational-based instruction. Her research interests include using technology, literacy, and communication supports to enhance the academic and functional skills of individuals with severe disabilities contributing to the field by writing articles published in professional journals She received her doctoral degree from the University of Georgia.

Taneika Goldman

Taneika is a follower of Jesus Christ, a wife, and mother to three, currently serving the Commonwealth as Director of the Office of Human Rights at the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services. Her commitment to the Department began in 2006 as a volunteer to several Local Human Rights Committees. Upon being hired by the Department in 2013, Mrs. Goldman has held multiple positions within the Office of Human Rights. She served  first as an Advocate for the Southside Virginia Training Center, supporting individuals being discharged through the post move monitoring process in response to the DOJ Settlement Agreement. She also served as an Advocate at Central State Hospital prior to transitioning to the Department's Central Office in 2015 to work on special projects such as the Victims of Eugenics Sterilization Compensation Program, where she assisted with developing and implementing regulations outlining the application and compensation process. She also served as Assistant and then Deputy Director until she assumed the role of State Human Rights Director in November of 2020. Prior to coming to the Office of Human Rights, Mrs. Goldman managed community outreach and foster care programming for a nonprofit service ministry organization based in Roanoke Virginia. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degrees in Sociology and Anthropology from Howard University and completed post graduate study at the Baptist Theological Seminary in Richmond. She also holds a Masters degree in Public Administration.  Mrs. Goldman admits to a mild obsession with the Turner Classic Movie Channel, enjoys tap dancing for exercise and her greatest joy is sharing life with her husband and children.   


Lynn Hamner

Lynn Hamner is a Healthcare Compliance Specialist at the Office of the State Inspector General Behavioral Health and Developmental Services Unit. Before working at OSIG, Hamner worked at the Department of Medical Assistance Services in Behavioral Health and Developmental Services. Prior to her career in behavioral health, Hamner worked
as a nurse.

Erin Haw

Erin manages a dedicated a team of disability rights advocates and attorneys, collectively known as the Community Resources Unit, at the disAbility Law Center of Virginia. The team provides subject matter expertise and assistance to Virginians with disabilities when their issues involve community safety, accessibility, integration, Social Security, Medicaid, or guardianship alternatives. Erin was an intern for The Arc of Virginia in 2008 and 2009 during her Master of Social Work program.

Clare Huerta

Clare  is the Deputy Director of Policy and Legislative Affairs for the Virginia Board for People with Disabilities, where she leads the Board's public policy initiatives. Prior to joining the Board, Clare worked for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Community Living (ACL) as a program specialist with the Protection and Advocacy Programs. She earned her law degree from Duke University School of Law and received her B.A. in American Studies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 

Linda Johnson

I have worked at the Independence Center since 2007 in a variety of roles. Since 2012, I am one of the Community Work Incentive Coordinators through a grant that provides Social Security beneficiary in-depth counseling on the impact of working and their benefits. I also work closely with our local Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services and provide Workworld Benefits Analysis to their consumers. I have served on the Virginia Beach Mayor’s Committee for Persons with Disabilities, and was an EMT with Virginia Beach Volunteer Rescue. In my free time, I enjoy hiking in our local State Parks, reading and hanging out with my Great Grandson.

Shawn Kirk

I am a person with Autism and a native of Richmond, Virginia. I have many interests and hobbies, one of them is my ability to tinker with computers and help people with their computer problems. Another one is my ability to DJ Events whether they are in person or virtual. I also have a love for all kinds of music, but I have to say my favorite is 70’s Disco. I also enjoy going to the Outer Banks of North Carolina and Camping in the mountains when I get the chance.  Over the years I have served on several nonprofit boards in many different capacities. Over the years I have taken various classes on becoming a more effective leader and advocate for people with disabilities. One thing I would like for everyone to know is “People with Disabilities Have Many Different Talents and Abilities. Give Us A Chance and We Will Show You All That We Can Do!” I am a Liaison and one of 3 Co-Chairs on the "A Life Like Yours" Self-Advocacy Alliance. I am also a Certified Paid Peer Support Mentor with the state of Virginia.

Bianca I Laureano

Bianca is an award-winning educator and sexologist. She is a founding member of the Women of Color Sexual Health Network (WOCSHN) and her most recent project is ANTE UP! a virtual freedom school offering professional development and certification. She has written several curricula and is the lead writer for the Netflix film Crip Camp’s curriculum rooted in Disability Justice principles. She is an AASECT certified sexuality educator and supervisor, and in May 2020 was awarded an honorary doctorate from the California Institute for Integral Studies for her work in expanding the US sexuality field. Find out more about Bianca at her website BiancaLaureano.com  and about ANTE UP! at www.AnteUpPD.com 

Brittney Lee

Brittney enjoys uplifting people with disabilities and giving them the strength to look within themselves to find their destiny. "It provides character to the individual and will power to overcome any barrier that is challenging in life."  She is a Co-Chair of the  A Life Like Yours Self-Advocacy Alliance and is looking forward to starting the VCU LEND program. For many years she worked in the mental health field to provide services to individuals in need. She attended college taking business classes. She lives in Henrico County in her apartment.   


Bethany Lilly

Bethany is the Senior Director of Income Policy at The Arc where she specializes in public policy related to Social Security, income supports, paid family and medical leave, and poverty. Bethany joined The Arc after six years at the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, where she worked on public policy impacting people with mental health disabilities. Prior to joining the Bazelon Center, Bethan was a law clerk with the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions; a legal fellow at the Center for Medicare Advocacy; and, while completing her J.D. at Duke University School of Law, worked at the Duke AIDS Legal Project.”

Nichole Martin 

Nichole is the Director of the Office of Community Living at the Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services where she is responsible for the administration of home and community-based waiver services. She has been with DMAS for 11 years focusing her efforts on long-term services and supports. Prior to joining DMAS, she spent over a decade working to achieve health equity in positions at the Virginia Department of Health, American Heart Association, and the Fan Free Clinic. Mrs. Martin is a registered nurse and also holds a master's degree in education from Virginia Tech and a bachelor's degree from Virginia Commonwealth University. She enjoys spending time with her husband and two daughters.  

Denise Stile Marshall

Denise has led the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) since 2005. She graduated from Johns Hopkins University with a Master of Science in Applied Behavioral Science. Denise has over 40 years of experience in the field of disabilities in a variety of support, management, and advocacy capacities. She has a wealth of non-profit association management experience and is a dynamic trainer, experienced in leading sessions for participants of diverse abilities and experience levels.  Read more about COPAA at www.copaa.org

Pattie G. Meire

Patti G. Meire, Esq. joined DARS in August 2016 as Coordinator for the Public & Guardian Conservator Program.  She is a 1986 graduate of the Georgetown University Law Center.  Patti has had a varied legal career working in private practice and in public service positions.

Darren Minarik

Darren is an associate professor and co-director for the Virginia Inclusive Practices Center at Radford University. In addition to his work at Radford University, Darren is a senior staff member for the American Civics Center in Washington, D.C., and serves as a national board member for Disability Rights Advocates (DRA). Educated in social studies and special education, Darren presents at the state, national, and international level and his research addresses educational intersections between the social sciences and special education, with an emphasis on inclusive educational practices, self-determination, disability history, and civic engagement.

Nancy Mercer

Nancy is the Co-Founder of Inclusion Consultants, LLC and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker.  Over decades of work with people with disabilities in the public and private sectors, Nancy saw that the system has become complex. "There are numerous disconnected managers of the many parts and no one overseeing all of it."  Her vision for Inclusion Consultants is to connect, coach and empower families and caregivers to benefit from publicly available resources. "We always try to make everybody feel like they are part of the solution. When everyone feels included, everyone contributes to the solution." Her focus is  connecting families and caregivers with her team of consultants and publicly available resources. "We see the landscape in a way that none other of the individual players do. We come in to build a relationship, then identify the services you need. We can’t do anything until we earn your trust."

James C. "Adam" Murphy 

Adam manages benefits and assets for social security beneficiaries in the role of Benefits Coordinator and Organizational Payee at The Arc of Southside, Inc. James received his Master of Accountancy (MAcc) at Averett University. He received his Work Incentives Practitioner and Credentialing (WIP-C) from Cornell University and the Yang Tan Institute on Employment and Disability. In addition to working with The Arc, James is a published author and works with Averett University as a peer and private tutor for the business and accounting majors.

Ciera Patterson 

Ciera is a clinical social worker at the University of Virginia Medical Center. Currently, she covers five pediatric clinics that include: Gastroenterology/Hepatology, Genetics, Surgery, and Neurosurgery. Ciera received her Bachelors's and Masters of Social Work from Virginia Commonwealth University. She is currently obtaining supervision to become a Licenced Clinical Social Worker. For the last couple of months, Ciera has been working in the Metabolic clinic identifying patient’s barriers to care and connecting them to resources in the community. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her friends and family.

Dr. Christina Perouka

Christina is a board-certified physician in pediatrics, clinical, general, and medical biochemical genetics who specializes in helping infants, children, and adults with genetic conditions. She has a particular interest and expertise in inborn errors of metabolism and newborn screening. Peroutka received her medical degree from the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina. She completed residency training in pediatrics and genetics at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, and a fellowship in medical biochemical genetics at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland. Peroutka enjoys working with clinical research participants to make new observations and discoveries that can help improve care for patients with rare conditions.  She has been involved in bringing new molecular genetic testing methodologies to UVA, especially for patients in the critical care setting. She is also interested in medical education and inspiring the next generation of healthcare providers. Peroutka is a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics, the American Society of Human Genetics, and the American Medical Association. She also serves as a clinician volunteer on the Virginia State Newborn Screening Committee.

Carey Raleigh

Carey is the Eastern Region Program Consultant for the Adult Protective Services Division of the VA Dept. of Aging and Rehabilitative Services. She has 27 years of experience working with older adults and adults with disabilities in the southside of Virginia. She has worked in a variety of settings such as Nursing Facilities, Home Health, Elder Law, Virginia Beach Psych, and both local and state level APS.  She has been with APS since 2006.  She has both her Bachelor's and Master's in Social Work and is also a Certified Geriatric Care Manager.  Working with older adults has been her passion since she was a young girl. She was blessed with growing up with 5 great grandparents, 4 of whom were alive well into her late 20's.  She has been heavily involved with many volunteer organizations in her community, including the Virginia Beach Task Force on Aging and the VB Mayor's Commission on Aging.  She has helped raise funds for the Alzheimer's Association, Virginia Gentleman's Club (who built Grommet Island Park at 1st Street in VB), and Sertoma Club of Norfolk.  She enjoys spending time with her family and friends and her 2 grandpuppies!  

Shelley Towner

Shelley is a board-certified genetic counselor who joined the UVA Genetics Division in 2014 and became the senior genetic counselor for the Division in 2020. She sees a broad range of pediatric, metabolic, and adult patients in inpatient and outpatient settings. Towner is also part of the multi-disciplinary comprehensive care team for the UVA Hemophilia clinic. She especially enjoys working with hemophilia patients, children with neurodevelopmental disorders, and individuals with hearing loss. Originally from Salt Lake City, Utah, Towner earned her bachelor’s degree in biology from Northern Arizona University. Towner received her master’s degree in genetic counseling from Brandeis University and completed her clinical internships at Boston Children’s Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. In her free time, Towner enjoys spending time with family and friends. She loves to travel and plays several sports, with her favorite being volleyball.

Dana Traynham

Dana has worked with and for people with disabilities for over 25 years.  She has held a variety of positions in Virginia and California including case manager (both ID and MH), in-home counselor, direct care and management in group homes for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, mental health clubhouse counselor, and advocate.  She has been a staff attorney at the disAbility Law Center since May 2000 (she did leave in 2005 to pursue private practice, but was elated to return a year later!).  She received her undergraduate degree at the University of Virginia, MSW at Virginia Commonwealth University, and J.D. at the University of Richmond. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her two toddlers and her chickens!