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Conference Presenters

Our Featured Speakers

Keynote Speaker: Larry Johnson
Motivational speaker Larry Johnson’s popular motivational talks are designed to challenge, encourage and inspire audiences to “believe in themselves”, “follow their dreams” and face life with optimism, perseverance and a sense of humor. He uses stories and anecdotes taken from his own personal life with vision loss. He has been an advocate and champion for persons with disabilities all of his life, serving in leadership roles with various organizations at the local, state and national level.

Mark Sweet, PhD Mark Sweet, Ph.D.
Mark Sweet, PhD, is a Trainer & Consultant with Disability Rights Wisconsin (DRW). In this role, Mark works with Birth to 3 and school programs, supported work and supported living organizations, consumer and parent groups, long term care programs, managed care organizations and others. He also works on a federally funded anti-violence grant related to individuals with disabilities. The emphasis of his work is to better understand the POV (point of view) of those of any age who receive support, and how that understanding can result in more meaningful support.

Cynthia Owsley, PhD, MSPH
Dr. Owsley, is the Nathan E. Miles Chair, Professor, and Vice Chair for Research Administration in the Department of Ophthalmology, School of Medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). Dr. Owsley’s research program focuses on aging-related eye disease and vision impairment, and has been continuously funded by the National Institutes of Health since 1983. Her research program uses many research techniques including psychophysical methods, epidemiology, clinical trials, and health services research.

Kimberly Stepien, MD
Dr. Stepien is an associate professor of ophthalmology specializing in medical retina at the Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin Eye Institute in Milwaukee. She received her MD from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, completed residency training at Albany Medical Center, and fellowship training at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute before joining the faculty at the Medical College of Wisconsin. Her research interests include age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, inherited retinal degenerations and retinal imaging.

Vision Forward Presenters

Cory Ballard
Cory has worked in the assistive technology field for over ten years at Vision Forward Association. He graduated from UW Whitewater and completed the assistive technology applications certificate program from California State University, Northridge. He is also a graduate of Future Milwaukee, class of 2009. Cory’s personal experience with vision loss and expertise with adaptive technology enable him to provide a first-hand perspective on the tools he recommends and trains on.

Dr. Heather Hinson
Dr. Hinson has practiced primary care optometry, sub-specializing in low vision, in the Milwaukee area for over 25 years. Dr. Hinson is a native of the Milwaukee area, attending Marquette University and UW-Milwaukee and is a graduate from the Illinois College of Optometry. She has worked with Vision Forward for 18 years.

Lauren Nelson, OT, CLVT
Lauren has over ten years of experience as an occupational therapist. In addition to low vision expertise, she also has experience in gerontology, health and wellness and fall prevention. She has worked with Vision Forward for over six years as a certified low vision therapist (CLVT), helping people maximize their remaining vision and improve their quality of life through low vision rehabilitation.

Allison Yanasak, Service Coordinator
Allison has worked in the Early Education and Special Education field for over 10 years. Her experience extends from serving as an in-home nanny, to working in a residential treatment facility, multiple group home settings, and the Milwaukee Public Schools, Head Start Program. Currently, Allison works with the Birth to Three population as Vision Forward’s Service Coordinator. It is her goal as an Early Childhood Educator to provide support and opportunities for children to learn through play while engaging their primary caregivers.