Thursday, October 31, 2019

Save the Dates! The IDRAC Conference Is Nov. 1 & 2

8th Annual
International Disability Rights Affirmation Conference
November 1-2, 2019
The Sojourner Auditorium, Virtual Ability, Second Life®
“We Health Each Other,
We Help Ourselves.”

Virtual Ability’s eighth annual International Disability Rights Affirmation Conference (IDRAC) will be held on Friday and Saturday, November 1 and 2. The conference theme is “We help each other, we help ourselves.”  The conference is free and open to the public.

We bring together academic researchers and practitioners to share their wisdom with our audience in a variety of formats. This year our presenters are from Canada, China, Italy, Malta, Mexico, the Netherlands, the UK and the US.

The conference schedule is available on our website. Check out the intriguing topics and highly qualified presenters.  

The conference is held in the Sojourner Auditorium on Virtual Ability island. 

The SLURL is
If you can not attend in the virtual world, the live stream URL for Virtual Ability, Inc., is

As with all Virtual Ability conferences, IDRAC is presented in text and voice to ensure maximum accessibility.

Text transcripts from past conferences are archived on our website.

We hope you can attend our conference on November 1 and 2!

IDRAC 2019: November 2 @ 1 pm SLT, The representation of autism in the narratives of Affinity spaces as an opportunity for the negotiation of meaning

Black and white picture of the Tecnológico de Monterrey logo, which features a torch with stylized flames and the name of the Institute.
Tecnológico de Monterrey

The IDRAC session on Friday, Nov. 1 at 1 pm SLT (Pacific time) explains the results of a research study related to the representation of autism in  Through the participation of members of the autism community in writing these stories, autism spectrum disorder is portrayed differently than it is in commercial fiction. The researchers are two professors from Tecnológico de Monterrey, Queretaro Campus in Mexico.  Nohemi Lugo is a researcher and professor in the Media and Digital Culture  Department and María Elena Melón is in the Department of Art.

Dr. Lugo’s research goal is to design and develop methods, processes, materials and technologies intended to foster education,  social inclusion and health. She is writing a book about digital culture and informal learning strategies for children with autism. She coordinates two related research projects: one about mobile devices use by children with disabilities; the other about how mothers of children with autism can learn from  mothers with similar experiences through collective storytelling and an on-line course.

Dr. Melón’s research interest is in physical interfaces and interactive media applications. She has participated in two research and technology grants given by Tec de Monterrey to create alternate reality games and a virtual reality platform to learn to operate industrial design equipment.  Currently she is participating in two research projects related to Autism.

This event will be live-streamed via Virtual Ability Inc.'s YouTube channel:

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

IDRAC 2019: November 2 @ 6:30 am SLT, Hearing Our Voices

Rob Castellanos

Alyssa Hillary

Kirk Munsch

Historically, persons with disabilities and illnesses were hidden away from the rest of their community, either at home or in institutions. Now, we are beginning to realize the importance of telling our life experiences so that everyone recognizes our common humanity.

One way we let others hear our voices is through publication (blogging, vlogging, Facebook, podcasts, self-published or professionally published memoirs, articles and books). Another way is by participating in patient registries, which are collections of information provided by persons with similar diagnoses, symptoms and concerns. These registries support research and lead to improved understanding of and support for the quality of life of those living with disabilities and illnesses.

Panelists for this session are Rob Castellanos, Alyssa Hillary, and Kirk Munsch. The panel moderator will be Shyla the Super Gecko. The panelists will tell about their work and its importance to the overall disability community. Then they will respond to questions from the audience.

Rob Castellanos is a patient living with Ankylosing Spondylitis, OCD, and Anxiety. Traditional healthcare gave him 5+ years of misdiagnoses and years of seeking what could help him manage his conditions. What changed his life was learning what he could do from people in the same shoes as himself. This prompted him to quit his job and found Syndio Health, an online health community for sharing real knowledge and experience with chronic illness.

Alyssa Hillary is an Autistic Ph.D. student in the Interdisciplinary Neuroscience Program at the University of Rhode Island. Depending on the moment, they study brain computer interfaces, augmentative and alternative communication, neural engineering, and/or disability studies. Their work can be found in several Autonomous Press anthologies, and they blog at

Kirk Munsch is the Patient Advocacy Manager for Rare Patient Voice and a Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis patient.  He is passionate about connecting patients and their non-paid caregivers (family and friends) to projects where they make their voices heard to shape products and services being developed on their behalf.

This event will be live-streamed via Virtual Ability Inc.'s YouTube channel:

IDRAC 2019: November 2 @ 1:30 pm SLT, The Autistic People of Color Fund: Building Networks of Mutual Aid by/for Negatively Racialized Autistic People

Headshot of Lydia Brown, young East Asian person, with stylized blue and yellow dramatic background. They are looking in the distance and wearing a plaid shirt and black jacket. Photo by Adam Glanzman.
Lydia X. Z. Brown

Lydia X. Z. Brown is a disability justice advocate, organizer, attorney, educator, and writer whose work has largely focused on violence against multiply-marginalized disabled people, especially institutionalization, incarceration, and policing. Lydia is 2018-2019 Justice Catalyst Legal Fellow at the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, defending and advancing the educational civil rights of Maryland students with psychosocial, intellectual, and developmental disabilities facing disproportionate discipline, restraint and seclusion, and school pushout.

Lydia is also Founder and Co-Director of the Fund for Community Reparations for Autistic People of Color’s Interdependence, Survival, and Empowerment, which provides direct support and mutual aid to individual autistic people of color. Previously, Lydia designed and taught a course on disability theory, policy, and social movements as a Visiting Lecturer at Tufts University. They were also Chairperson of the Massachusetts Developmental Disabilities Council, becoming the youngest appointee ever to chair any state developmental disabilities council.

Lydia is co-editor and visionary behind All the Weight of Our Dreams, the first-ever anthology of writings and artwork by autistic people of color and otherwise negatively racialized autistic people, published by the Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network. They have received numerous awards for their work, including from the White House, American Association of People with Disabilities, and Society for Disability Studies, and written for several community and academic publications.

Lydia’s IDRAC presentation will be at 1:30 pm SLT (Pacific time) on Saturday, Nov.  2.  The title of her talk is “The Autistic People of Color Fund: Building Networks of Mutual Aid by/for Negatively Racialized Autistic People.” In 2019, Lydia worked with the Autistic Women and Nonbinary Network to launch the Fund for Community Reparations for Autistic People of Color's Interdependence, Survival, and Empowerment, which has given out over $15,000 already in microgrants to negatively racialized autistic people globally as a form of mutual aid and community care.

This work follows in a long tradition of informal collective care and support networks among hyper-marginalized sick, mad, neurodivergent, and disabled communities. Lydia will talk about how and why this fund came into existence, how we've worked on the process of developing it, and what we can all do to expand and sustain this work.

This event will be live-streamed via Virtual Ability Inc.'s YouTube channel: