NDEC Engage


Monday, June 29Tuesday, June 30
12 – 2 pm ETDr. Raja KushalnagarBlake Culley
4 – 6 pm ETStudent Panel: Sabrina Firl, Liliana Ortiz Tapia, Natnail TolossaTeacher Panel: Heidi Corce, Christina Giles, Laura Kim, Latrina Lewis, Ricky Romero



Monday, June 29, 2020
12 – 2 pm Eastern

Watch the archived presentation (YouTube)

We will discuss educational accessibility of information and communication for deaf or hard of hearing students. Next, we will analyze how accessible technology can provide functional equivalence through guidelines, applications, and services and include demonstrations and examples of information and communications accessibility. Then we will present best practices and emerging technologies that have been shown to enhance accessibility in education, such as metrics or guidelines for visual accommodations, e.g., captions or subtitles, and sign language interpreters – whether face-to-face, online, or hybrid.

Headshot of Raja Kushalnagar.

Raja Kushalnagar is the Director of the Information Technology program in the Department of Science, Technology and Mathematics at Gallaudet University in Washington, DC.

His research interests encompass the fields of accessible computing and accessibility/intellectual property law, with the goal of improving information access for people with sensory disabilities. In the accessible computing field, he investigates information and communication access disparities for people with sensory disabilities. For example, he investigates technology that can aid communication or learning through speech-to-text (captions/subtitles) or sign language interpreters, for deaf, hard of hearing, low vision or blind people. In the legal field, he advocates for laws and policies for access and inclusion for people with sensory disabilities, such as automatic captions or audio description.

He has mentored 70-plus undergraduates and received over $4 million in grants and has published over 50 peer-reviewed publications. He can be reached at raja.kushalnagar@gallaudet.edu.

Student Panel: “Deaf Students’ Perspectives on Deaf Education”

Monday, June 29, 2020
4 – 6 pm Eastern

Watch the archived presentation (YouTube)

Headshot of Sabrina Firl.

Sabrina Firl is a student at Maryland School for the Deaf, and will be a junior next year. MSD provides her abundant opportunities, leading her to dream of being a corporate lawyer as her career in the future. She enjoys living a driven fashionista life and bringing lip gloss with her everywhere, haha. Aside from being a fashionista, Sabrina is passionate about contributing to the deaf community with the role of a female high school leader and a student representative on the board of the National Deaf Education Conference. Sabrina is super proud to serve such a fantastic organization.

Headshot of Liliana Ortiz Tapia.

Liliana Ortiz Tapia graduated from California School for the Deaf, Fremont in June 2020. She will enroll in Rochester Institute of Technology this coming Fall.

Headshot of Natnail Tolossa.

Natnail Tolossa was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and grew up in Maryland. In June 2020, he graduated from Model Secondary School for the Deaf. He will enroll at Rochester Institute of Technology in Fall 2020, pursuing Computer Hardware Engineering. He loves to play basketball and run track. He is also involved in different organizations. Natnail often listens to music. When he is free, he usually socializes with people, goes hiking, and plays basketball. Staying inside all day with his computer isn’t his thing. After he graduates from college, he plans to travel before he settles.

“Best Practices: Working with Gender-Expansive Deaf Students” by BLAKE CULLEY

Tuesday, June 30, 2020
12 – 2 pm Eastern

Watch the archived presentation (YouTube)

This presentation is comprised of a colorful array of topics that specifically impact deaf LGBTQ+ youth in schools and how we can best support them. The content that will be addressed will touch on gender identity, sexual orientation, statistics involving LGBTQ+ youth in the educational system (with an emphasis on trans youth), and best practices for providing support to trans youth in order to see them thrive academically.

Headshot of Blake Culley.

Blake Culley was born and raised in Ventura County, California. They were born deaf to a hearing family. They graduated from California School for the Deaf, Riverside in 2006. They went to Gallaudet University for their Bachelor’s degree, Master’s degree and specialist degree in school psychology. They now work at Kendall Demonstration Elementary School in Washington, DC, as a school psychologist. Blake struggled with their gender identity for a really long time, since high school because they didn’t have the language for it. Finally at 28 years old, they found the word “non-binary” and it resonated with them so much. They realized that they identify as non-binary. They started their medical transition at 28 and had top surgery at 29 years old. They started doing vlogs by Blake on Instagram to spread more awareness about gender identity and the process in ASL since February 2017. Blake gained more knowledge about the needs of transgender children and adults by attending the Philadelphia Transgender Health Conference in August 2018.

Teacher Panel: “Navigating Deaf Education During the Coronavirus Pandemic: Teacher and Interpreter Perspectives”

Tuesday, June 30, 2020
4 – 6 pm Eastern

Watch the archived presentation (YouTube)

Headshot of Heidi Corce.

Heidi Corce received a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Washington and a Master’s degree in Deaf Education from Lewis and Clark College. She has been teaching Deaf and Hard of Hearing students in mainstream public schools the past twenty years in Oregon and Washington State. In addition to teaching, she has provided extensive teacher training in Africa and the Caribbean. Heidi currently serves on the Board of Directors of American Society for Deaf Children and has been a presenter at both statewide and national education conferences. Heidi and her family reside in Eugene, Oregon.

Headshot of Christina Giles.

Christina Giles was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona. She graduated from an Interpreter Program from Phoenix College in 2015, and graduated from Northern Arizona University with a Bachelors in Interdisciplinary Studies in 2017. She worked as a K-12 interpreter in Arizona for about a year before moving to Eugene, Oregon in 2017. Fortunately there was an educational interpreter position available and she has been interpreting in public schools ever since! So far, most of her work experience has been in elementary (K-5), with some middle and high school thrown in from time to time.

Headshot of Laura Kim.

Laura Kim grew up in Chicago and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Graphic Design from Gallaudet University in 2001 and completed a Master of Arts in Teaching and Learning: ASL-English Bilingual Education Program at the University of California, San Diego in 2008. After that, Laura joined the San Diego Unified School District and has been teaching in the DHH program that has a collaborative environment where DHH teachers learn and experience new challenges that will help build their confidence while they teach. Working with DHH middle school students brings Laura great joy, and she values her role supporting them in their preteen journey. Laura’s interests include going to the beach and mountains, cooking, exercising, reading, watching movies, and doing DIY projects. When she is not at school, Laura loves to travel around the world and explore God’s creation all around her and spend time with family and friends.

Headshot of Latrina Lewis.

Latrina Lewis was born and raised in Dallas in the Lone Star State of Texas. She has two younger sisters (one is Deaf) and a brother, along with two nephews, all living in Dallas. Immediately after interning at Miles ELC Elementary School here in Tucson in the spring of 2004, she became a certified teacher and taught at Miles for 12 years, teaching both Deaf/Hard of Hearing and Hearing students in a combination of 1-3 grade classroom. She currently works at the Arizona State School for the Deaf and Blind (ASDB) as a 2nd and 3rd-grade teacher as well as a Teacher Leader. She has been to Kenya, Africa, 5 cities in China, Mexico, and 16 states in America. Latrina is known as the “Queen of Purple,” a proud mother of an amazing 12-year-old daughter, Ke’bralah, and a devoted Christian who loves Jesus with her whole heart.

Headshot of Ricky Romero.

Ricky Romero is a preschool teacher in Early Childhood Education at Kendall Demonstration Elementary School. Ricky received a Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood Education and a Master of Arts in Family Centered Early Education at Gallaudet University. Ricky also is a co-advisor to the Latinx Student Union organization at Gallaudet University and is a member of the Social Justice committee at the Clerc Center. Ricky advocates in prompting learning excellence of the children through child-centered and hands-on approach in the classroom.