Oklahoma ABLE Tech Advisory Council

Purpose: 

The purpose of the AT Act program Advisory Council is to provide consumer-responsive and consumer-driven advice to Oklahoma ABLE Tech. ABLE Tech seeks input and advice from the Advisory Council for planning, implementing, and evaluating activities, goals, and strategies throughout the year. 

The primary functions of the Advisory Council include: 

  • Serving as ambassadors of the AT Act program. 
  • Assisting with developing the three-year State Plan for Assistive Technology submitted to the Administration on Community Living, US Department of Health and Human Services. 
  • Providing a stakeholder voice about issues related to accessing and acquiring assistive technology. 
  • Providing input to other agencies and/or partners to improve AT services in Oklahoma. 

Composition: 

The Advisory Council composition is driven by the AT Act to be a consumer-majority body that is at a minimum 51% individuals who are people with disabilities, or a family representative, who uses assistive technology devices and services. The Advisory Council also includes representatives from other agencies and organizations that serve individuals with disabilities – such as vocational rehabilitation services, workforce investment boards, educational agencies, and centers for independent living. 

Requirements: 

  • Attend and actively participate in all Assistive Technology program Advisory Council meetings. These meetings occur quarterly, typically in January, April, July, and October. 
  • Serve as a liaison between ABLE Tech and the entities they represent (including state agencies and the community), promoting and sharing ABLE Tech’s program mission and resources. 
  • Provide input for identifying and exploring new opportunities to increase access to and acquisition of assistive technology devices and services, and help establish and meet strategic plan goals. 
  • Assist in educating others about AT devices and services provided by ABLE Tech. 
  • Support the establishment/maintenance/improvement of state and federal laws and policies that promote access to and acquisition of assistive technology. 

If you are interested in learning more about the Advisory Council or becoming a member, please contact abletech@okstate.edu 

ABLE Tech Advisory Council Members: 

ABLE Tech is proud to offer a diverse and well-represented Advisory Council to provide valuable input to our programs and services!  

Natasha Brand

Natasha is founder of Wel-Nest, a collaborative focused on health and social equity. As a population health strategist she helps bring health impacts into focus, collaborating on ways to protect and promote public health and equity in policies and projects. In addition, Natasha also works as Student Success Specialist at Northeastern Oklahoma A & M College in Miami, in the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning. Her role includes a focus on Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and Accessibility as she strives to improve the student online experience.

Originally from the UK, Natasha is a graduate of NEO A & M College and Northeastern State University. Natasha completed her Masters in Kinesiology – Adapted Movement Science at the University of Arkansas. Pursuing her research interest in health and the built environment Natasha has worked on multiple collaborations, developing strategies based around Universal Design, Health Impact Assessment and Active Transportation.

Natasha’s early interest in accessibility and inclusion was born out of her twin’s diagnosis of Tourette’s in 2004. In such an ever-changing neurological disorder, advocacy throughout their education was paramount.  During this time her own auto-immune disease has brought with it many challenges to overcome. Natasha’s interests include sports equity, soccer, cycling and hiking, family, good coffee, and her poodle Rosie!

Kristen Coleman

Kristen Coleman works for the Oklahoma State Department of Education in the Special Education Services office. She has been at OSDE-SES since 2016 is a Project Manager for Special Education.

Rodney Collier

Rodney is the Disability Special Emphasis Program Manager for the Oklahoma National Guard. He joined the ABLE Tech Consumer Advisory Council in October 2021.

Allison Conch

Dr. Allison Conch joined the Oklahoma Special Education Resolution Center (SERC) in December of 2023 as the Program Manager. Allison earned her bachelor's degree from Oklahoma State University in Communication Disorders, her master's from the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center in Speech-Language Pathology, and her Doctorate from the University of Oklahoma in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies. She has been working with people with disabilities in a variety of capacities for 20 years, and most recently spent 12 years in public education in multiple roles. Allison manages the day-to-day operations at SERC through providing guidance and trainings to districts and community members, engaging in partnerships with a variety of state agency leaders, and working closely with SERC service providers on resolving special education disputes through IEP facilitation, mediation, and due process.

Allison resides in Tulsa, Oklahoma, with her spouse, daughter, and two dogs. Her daughter has ADHD, attends public school in the area, and utilizes AT tools to successfully participate in her education.

Audrey Farnum

Audrey Farnum is an Administrative Law Judge for the Oklahoma Tax Commission. Her experience with assistive technology includes screen reading software, refreshable Braille displays, document scanning, and OCR, accessible mobile devices, and accessible web design. Audrey's hobbies include rowing, cross country skiing, reading, sports, and music. She is an active member of the National Federation of the Blind and serves as president of the National Federation of the Blind of Oklahoma.

Darci Forrester

Darci accepted the invitation to be a part of the ABLE Tech Consumer Advisory Council in September of 2021.  She is the parent of a teenage son with Autism, who uses AAC to communicate.

After graduating high school as Valedictorian, Darci attended East Central University and the University of Oklahoma. As an IT consultant with 25 years of experience, she has worked in almost every role ranging from support (both hardware and software) to programmer/analyst. She enjoys helping people solve problems by making technology accessible and practical. 

She is a member of the Norman Public Schools Special Services Committee, and served as Chair for the OSDE IDEA-B Advisory Panel for 2022-2023.

Darci resides in Norman with her husband Keith and their son, and is employed by the University of Oklahoma with the National Center for Employment and Disability Training.

Melinda Fruendt

Melinda Fruendt, Executive Director, Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation

As executive director of the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services for over four years, Melinda Fruendt leads more than 1,000 state employees who served 83,283 Oklahomans with disabilities in 2022. She previously served as DRS chief of staff for DRS’ seven divisions with 25 statewide programs focused on employment, education, independence and the determination of medical eligibility for disability benefits. Her past positions include chief of staff, executive-level project coordinator for DRS and program manager of the Oklahoma Rehabilitation Council, a DRS partner.

Melinda farms with her husband Paul in Guthrie where they have a cow-calf and stocker operation, as well as diversified crops production.

Natasha Kester

Natasha is the Durable Medical Equipment (DME) Coordinator for the Oklahoma Health Care Authority. She collaborates with ABLE Tech to support the operation of the Device Reuse Program.

Ellen Kimbrell

Ellen Kimbrell, a dedicated and experienced individual, embarked on her journey with the Oklahoma Parents Center (OPC) in 2001, initially as an Information Training Specialist, progressing to her current role as the Associate Director. In this capacity, she passionately imparts advocacy skills to parents and students, emphasizing the importance of self-advocacy from the outset.

Fulfilling her reasonable service at the OPC, Ellen cherishes the multitude of opportunities to connect with like-minded individuals, learning invaluable lessons from countless encounters. Notable among these connections is her boss, mentor, and friend, Sharon, the driving force behind the OPC's mission.

Beyond her professional pursuits, Ellen is a devoted wife of forty-three years to Bo and a loving mother to two sons, Jake and Billy. Billy's journey with a rare skin disorder and profound hearing loss at birth fuels Ellen's fervor for advocating for people with disabilities.

Ellen's strength lies not just in her professional role but in her firsthand experience of living and working with a person with disabilities. Possessing exceptional communication skills, she finds fulfillment in engaging with families and professionals statewide. Ellen's commitment endures as she tirelessly advocates for the rights of all children, offering support to families navigating the complexities of Special Education.

Jan Lavine

Jan is a Library of Congress Certified Braille Transcriber and Proofreader who is also experienced in braille-generating computer software/hardware and does volunteer braille work. She is a Life Member of the National Braille Association. Her hobbies include reading, braille, cooking, and home improvement. Jan serves on the Oklahoma ABLE Tech Advisory Council as a consumer.

Anthony Meadows

Anthony Meadows has worked for The Center for Individuals with Physical Challenges since 2021. Anthony worked for The State of Oklahoma for 15 years as a Social Worker prior to his current position with the Center. He received his Bachelor of Science in Therapeutic Recreation from Oklahoma State University in December 2007. He is currently a Commissioner in Tulsa County on The Human Rights Commission fighting for the Civil Rights of Individuals with Disabilities. Anthony and his wife Tiffany, have 5 kids between the two of them and one 4-month-old grandchild. His hobbies spending time with family, cooking, competing in any sports and traveling with his wife.

Janice Morris

Janice is a Legal Advocate with the Oklahoma Disability Law Center, Inc., the federally funded protection and advocacy system for the state of Oklahoma. 

Alissa Patterson

Alissa is the administrative officer for the Developmental Disabilities Council of Oklahoma (DDCO). She joined the ABLE Tech Advisory Council August 2022.

Alissa Patterson's academic background includes studying business administration at New Mexico State University, and a marketing degree from Southern New Hampshire University. Her role at the DDCO extends beyond administrative duties, as she is also in charge of managing the council's social media presence on all platforms. With a strong desire to serve Oklahomans, Alissa dedicates a significant amount of time providing valuable information and resources to the community.

Alissa's work at the Developmental Disability Council of Oklahoma is focused on advocating for individuals with developmental disabilities and their families. She is passionate about ensuring that individuals with developmental disabilities have access to the resources, services, and support they need to live fulfilling lives. In her role, Alissa is responsible for organizing and coordinating events and activities that promote awareness and education about developmental disabilities in Oklahoma. She also works closely with other organizations and agencies to develop and implement programs and services that benefit the community. Alissa's dedication and commitment to her work have made her a valuable asset to the council and to the community as a whole.

Pam Pulchny

Pam is the Executive Director at Oklahomans for Independent Living in McAlester, Oklahoma. She accepted the invitation to be a part of the ABLE Tech Consumer Advisory Council in July of 2021.

Dan Shephard

Dan is the Programs Manager for the Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired Assistive Technology Unit; a division of the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services (OKDRS). Dan has been employed by DRS since March of 2006. Dan accepted the invitation to be a part of the ABLE Tech Consumer Advisory Council in July of 2021.

Nancy Ward

Nancy Ward is a staff member for the Oklahoma Disability Law Center, Inc. located in Oklahoma City, but serves the entire state providing a system of protection and advocacy for Oklahomans with disabilities. Nancy specifically is a Voting Rights Advocate. Oklahoma Disability Law Center, Inc. (ODLC) is the Protection and Advocacy for Voting Access (PAVA) program for Oklahoma and was created by the Help America Vote Act (HAVA).

Lori Wathen

Lori Wathen is the Region 3 Oklahoma County Coordinator for SoonerSuccess, Section of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics. The Mission of Sooner SUCCESS is to advance a comprehensive, unified system of health, social, and educational services for Oklahoma children and youth with special needs through community-based resource coordination.