Tyler was asked to provide keynote presentations at dozens of local, regional, and national conferences across the country. Audiences from 100 to 1,800 were inspired by Tyler’s message of Ability Awareness. “Ability Awareness is simply the skill of recognizing that what someone CAN do is much more important than what they can’t do.” Those audiences included the Joint Commission of the Navy-Air Force in Dallas, Kids Included Together (KIT) in San Diego, the National Synod of the UCC in Hartford, the Dept of Defense and FDA in Chicago and so many others.
Audiences thoroughly enjoyed Tyler’s humor and easy way of delivering important life lessons about Inclusion and Ability Awareness. The young man speaking to them quickly morphed from a “poor, tragic soul in a wheelchair” to a fun, yet very credible, advocate for folks with disabilities. They laughed and learned with Tyler and soon didn’t notice the wheelchair, just the wonderful smile.
Kids Included Together, or KIT, as it is usually referenced, started as a local endeavor in San Diego. It’s mission was to provide an inclusive opportunity for kids with and without disabilities to experience life together. KIT’s success resulted in more and more demand for its methods across the country and around the world. Tens of thousands of people are trained every year in the practices and methodologies of KIT’s programming. In the words from KIT’s website:
KITs primary focus is on programs for children and the people working in them, KIT also cares deeply for the children, with and without disabilities, in those programs and their successful transition into adulthood.
Embedded across all policies is the core principle that Kids Included Together supports diversity, equity, and inclusion within the field of children’s education and programs. KIT also supports the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), and its ratification by the United States, as an instrument to support the human rights of individuals with disabilities and as a method to help society view disability as a natural part of life.
The Family YMCA of Black Hawk County adopted the principles of KIT by sending YMCA representatives to San Diego for training years ago. The YMCA started the Together We Play program which promoted kids with disabilities participating in youth activities of all kinds. The Together We Play program was then picked up by the Inclusion Connection where Tyler was its coordinator. (see Inclusion Connection in the Community section)
Tyler was ecstatic about doing the keynote presentation at the annual KIT Conference. He was to become an avid supporter of KIT and its principles. Torrie, KIT’s CEO, is a nationally recognized leader in the promotion of inclusion and Tyler was her #1 fan. She has grown in her inclusion stature in the United States including a TedX talk “Isn’t it a Pity, the Real Problem with Special Needs”.
Immediately after the KIT presentation, Commander Larrie of the US Navy who attended the conference asked him if he would provide the keynote at the next Navy/Air Force Joint Command conference in Dallas. And someone who attended that conference in Dallas asked if he would provide the keynote for the
US Dept of Defense conference in Chicago … and so on, and so on …
The Inclusion Connection, a non-profit promoting inclusive Live Learn Work & Play for people with disabilities, hosted an event titled, “Workforce shortage? Why not inclusion?” at the University of Northern Iowa. The program featured Norman Kunc, a professional speaker and advocate for those with disabilities, who just happens to have cerebral palsy. He is known internationally as a powerhouse disabilities advocate.
Norman delivered an impactful message describing the advantages of hiring someone with disabilities and, also, words of wisdom for people with disabilities trying to make it in this world. His words were followed by two local citizens with disabilities who have found employers who will use their talents and skills in the workplace. They offered words of advice to those with disabilities seeking a fitting vocation.
Tyler was speaking at the DC Assistive Technology Program in Washington DC. While we were in the area, we visited Representative Bruce Braley from our hometown in Iowa. He was a gracious host and interested in Tyler’s mission, which prompted his question, “How can I help?” Tyler was taken aback. He was flattered and appreciative that Rep. Braley had taken time with him and was not expecting him to make such an offer. Rep. Braley answered his own question with another question, “How would you like to speak to Congress?” And so the possibility was given life …
Tyler would get constructively nervous before any presentation, but this was the only one where he was visibly nervous. And he knocked it out of the park, anyway.