BBI Board Member Barbara Tresness to Speak at National "Accessibility Summit" in Washington, DC

April 14, 2015

News Release

April, 2015 (Syracuse, NY)  Barbara Tresness, the founder of The CHAT Collective and an active supporter of the Burton Blatt Institute, has been invited to be a guest speaker at one of the country’s premier conferences on special needs children on April 17-18.  The "Accessibility Summit," held annually in the Washington, DC area, draws experts, educators and other attendees from community, medical and faith-based organizations nationwide. 

"I’m honored to be joining Chairman of Special Olympics Tim Shriver and other leading advocates for special needs children at the conference," said Barb, who is the mother of a nonverbal child.  "This will be an exciting platform for me to introduce The CHAT Collective, which grew out of my affiliation with BBI."

In 2013, Barb and her husband, Greg Tresness, founded and funded a program at BBI that became the precursor to the CHAT Collective. Also called CHAT (but initially an acronym for Communication Hope through Assistive Technology), the program’s mission was to assist youth with disabilities who communicate using technology to open their voices to the world and to create communities among CHAT families for sharing friendship, fun and learning. Among its successes were the development of both an online interactive fun center for children and a resource center for parents, and the hosting of a weeklong "CHAT Camp" for families.

The CHAT Collective, which stands for Connecting Humans through Awareness and Technique, provides tools, resources and instruction to empower society to engage effectively with nonverbal and limited communicators.  Visitors to its website can download or order products that assist in identifying those who have communications challenges; in facilitating communication with them; and in engaging them in social and educational activities.

At the Summit, Barb will be participating in a panel discussion, entitled "Advocacy Through Collaborative Conversation," which will focus on helping parents to engage in positive and productive discussions on behalf of their children; and she will be introducing techniques for communicating with nonverbal and limited communicators in a workshop, entitled "Talk to Me: Effective Communication with Nonverbal Individuals"

Now in its 15th year, the Accessibility Summit will include 40 workshops and over 60 disability-related exhibitors offering a broad range of information and resources to individuals, families and caregivers, faith-based organizations, educators and other professionals impacted by disability.