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General Sessions & Keynote Speakers

CEC 2022 will feature 3 general sessions and 2 dynamic keynote speakers.

A headshot of Judy Heumann, a cis-gender white woman who is a wheelchair user with short brown hair. She is wearing red glasses and a maroon and black embroidered sweater with the top buttoned with a matching maroon shirt underneath. She is smiling kindly.

Opening General Session

Sunday, January 18, 5-6:30 pm

A Fireside Chat with Judy Heumann


Judith (Judy) Heumann is a lifelong advocate and an internationally recognized leader in the disability rights community. Her memoir, authored with Kristen Joiner, Being Heumann: An Unrepentant Memoir of a Disability Rights Activist, was published by Beacon Press and audio recorded by Ali Stroker, who is the first wheelchair actor to perform on Broadway. Judy is featured in "Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution," a 2020 American award winning documentary film, directed by James LeBrecht and Nicole Newnham, produced by the Obama Higher Ground Production and is available on Netflix. She also produces a podcast called The Heumann Perspective, which features a variety of members from the disability community.

In 1983, Judy co-founded the World Institute on Disability (WID) with Ed Roberts and Joan Leon, as one of the first global disability rights organizations founded and continually led by people with disabilities that works to fully integrate people with disabilities into the communities around them via research, policy, and consulting efforts. 

From 1993 to 2001, Judy served in the Clinton Administration as the Assistant Secretary for the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services in the Department of Education. During his presidency, President Obama appointed Judy as the first Special Advisor for International Disability Rights at the U.S. Department of State, where she served from 2010-2017.

She has been instrumental in the development and implementation of legislation, such as Section 504, the Individuals with Education Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act, and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which have been advancing the inclusion of disabled people in the US and around the world and fighting to end discrimination against all those with disabilities.


Cierra Kaler-Jones

Second General Session

Monday, January 17, 2:30-3:45 pm

Reclaim Social-Emotional Learning: A Vision Towards Equitable and Holistically Safe Schools with Dr. Cierra Kaler-Jones


Dr. Cierra Kaler-Jones, Ph.D. is a social justice educator, scholar, and artist based in Washington, DC. As a community-based researcher, Dr. Kaler-Jones’s research broadly focuses on how to create and sustain educational spaces rooted in joy and love, while refuting control and management tactics in schools that deny young people opportunities for creativity and critical consciousness-building. Her heart’s work includes running a program which uses art and education to fuel social change through the co-creation of healing-centered spaces for and with Black girls and TGNC (transgender, non-conforming) young people.

Over the past ten years, Cierra has learned alongside preschoolers, K-12 students, college students, and adults. In 2015, she served as a fellow with the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans. In her current role, Cierra is the Director of Storytelling for Communities for Just Schools Fund, a donor collaborative that resources education justice organizing across the country.

Dr. Kaler-Jones’s writing is featured in online outlets and can also be found in peer-reviewed journals like the Middle School Journal and books including Strong Black Girls: Reclaiming Schools in Their Own Image and Black Girl Civics: Expanding and Navigating the Boundaries of Civic Engagement.

In 2015, she created and implemented a residence life program at The George Washington University, called the Speak Your Truth series, which gave hundreds of students a space to discuss social justice issues through monthly events grounded in a storytelling for social justice framework. She took her love of storytelling in all its forms and founded Unlock Your Story, an organization that offers coaching, consulting, and community aimed at helping people tap into the stories that they are bravely meant to share with the world.

When Cierra’s not conducting research, writing, dancing, or leading workshops, she loves to read, deepen her yoga practice, and spend time in nature.


Yes I Can

Yes I Can Awards

Tuesday, January 18, 2:30-3:30 pm


Each year at the CEC Convention & Expo, the Yes I Can Awards recognize 12 outstanding students with exceptionalities in six categories: Academics, Arts, School & Community Activities, Self-Advocacy, Technology, and Transition. Join us as CEC leaders interview this year's recipients and celebrate their incredible achievements.

Nominations for the 2022 Yes I Can Awards are open!

Do you know a student who deserves to be considered for a Yes I Can Award? The selection committee would love to learn more about them!

DEADLINE: September 8, 2021. Get those nominations in before the end of this school year to make sure you don’t miss the deadline!

Nominate a Student

Last Updated:  8 July, 2021

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