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Elaine Adler

Co-Founder & Vice President on the Board of Directors of the Adler Aphasia Center

Two wonderful happenings occurred in 1949, Mike & Elaine were married and they co-founded the Myron Manufacturing Corp. a mail order firm specializing in marketing products exclusively to other businesses.  Today, it is one of the largest businesses in Bergen County. 

She is active in community and volunteer services and is a member of the following Boards: Arnold P. Gold Foundation for Humanism in Medicine, the Center for Inter-Religious Understanding, Community Resource Council, the Jewish Home and Rehabilitation Center, the Toy Lending Library of America, and Ramapo College Board of Governors and the Adler Aphasia Center. 

Both Mike and Elaine received honorary doctorate degrees from Ramapo College during commencement ceremonies on May 27, 1999.  They have been honored by the ADL, UJA, Boys Town of Jerusalem, Ramapo College, Bergen Community College, Hadassah (Elaine) the National Aphasia Association and the Adler Aphasia Center.

Mike and Elaine have served on boards of the UJA and Mike sat on the Executive Board of Hackensack Hospital.

Mike and Elaine founded the Adler Aphasia Center in 2003 located in Maywood, NJ.  (Aphasia is the inability to speak after a stroke, brain injury or tumor.)


Noreen Best

Assistant Director, Bergen County Division of Community Development

Noreen Best has worked for the Division of Community Development for over 15 years.  She began as the Supervising Planner for the Division, and is now the Assistant Director, where she supervises 75 staff members and 11 senior activity centers throughout Bergen County. 

In addition, Noreen is currently serving with the following organizations: Bergen County Human Service Advisory Council’s Supports for Elderly and Disabled Adults Committee; Bergen County Division of Senior Services’ Advisory Council; Bergen County Community Transportation Advisory Committee;  New Jersey Association of Senior Center Directors as Treasurer; and National Institute of Senior Centers as NJ’s delegate.


Annemarie Cooke

Annemarie Cooke is an independent consultant specializing in marketing and strategic communications within the disability field. She served as vice president for sales and administration at De Witt & Associates, an assistive technology services and training company based in Midland Park, NJ. Previously she was External Relations Officer for Recordings for the Blind & Dyslexic, presenting regularly at national conferences and meetings.

Annemarie holds a BA in American Studies from Douglass College, Rutgers University and several graduate level credits towards a Master’s in management. A large portion of her education took place over 17 years as a daily newspaper reporter and on staff for RFB&D.

The self-described Diva of Low Vision has juvenile macular degeneration and uses a variety of assistive technology both in and out of the office. She enjoys exploring food and wine, tandem biking, cross-country skiing, and travel. Annemarie is currently pursuing her passion for food by auditing courses at a culinary school.


Dr. Richard Jackson, Ed.D.

Senior Research Scientist, CAST, Inc.

Richard Jackson assists in the development of CAST's universally designed technology to meet the needs of individuals with visual disabilities.

An Associate Professor and a Director of Projects in Low-Incidence Disabilities at Boston College since 1989, Dr. Jackson is himself visually impaired. He has held major federal grants of national significance in training teachers of the blind and multiply disabled.

From 1999-2004, Dr. Jackson served as Director of Practice for the National Center on Accessing the General Curriculum (NCAC) at CAST and acted as CAST's liaison to Boston College, an NCAC partner. Currently, he is assisting with the work of the NIMAS/AIM Consortium project. He is also working on CAST’s initiative to develop digitally supported approaches to composition. Additionally, he contributes his expertise in standards-based reform to CAST’s federal project for the creation and evaluation of a technology-based system that blends Curriculum Based Measurement (CBM) and Universal Design for Learning in digital learning environments to improve reading comprehension instruction for students with disabilities.

Dr. Jackson brings to his work at CAST almost thirty years of experience as a teacher, a project director, a researcher, and an advocate in the field of education and visual disabilities. He has conducted research for Apple Computer and for the National Eye Institute, and is the founder of the Association of Massachusetts Educators of Students with Vision Impairments. Currently, he serves on the advisory boards for the National Center on Supported eText, the Technology Assisted Reading Assessment (TARA) project, the National Center on Student Progress Monitoring and the National Center on Implementing Technology in Education (CITEd).


Dr. Steven Kirshblum, M.D.

Medical Director, Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation

Dr. Steven Kirshblum is nationally recognized for his work in the area of spinal cord injury rehabilitation and research. He joined Kessler Institute in 1990 and currently serves as Medical Director of the West Orange campus, as well as the Director of the Spinal Cord Injury Program.

Dr. Kirshblum received his medical degree from the University of Health Sciences/Chicago Medical School and completed a residency in physical medicine and rehabilitation (PM&R) at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City, where he was a chief resident. He became board certified in PM&R in 1991 and was one of the first physicians in the country to receive special certification in spinal cord injury medicine in 1998.

As the Co-Project Director of the Northern New Jersey Model Spinal Cord Injury System, one of only 14 federally-designated model systems in the country, Dr. Kirshblum oversees the rehabilitation research and patient care in collaboration with our research affiliates. He is also a professor of rehabilitation medicine at the UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School and serves as both the program director for the Spinal Cord Injury Medicine Fellowship program and associate director of the PM&R residency program. He is also on staff at Saint Barnabas Medical Center, Livingston, NJ.

A prolific writer and researcher, Dr. Kirshblum has written and co-authored more than 85 articles in peer-reviewed publications and has completed over 20 book chapters, 60 abstracts, and monographs on his major research interests in spinal cord injury and education issues. He is editor of the textbook, Spinal Cord Medicine and has also written a children’s book on spinal cord injury.

One of the most widely respected physicians in his field, Dr. Kirshblum has delivered more than 400 lectures nationally and internationally. He graduated with the Deans award from medical school and is a member of Alpha Omega Alpha. He has been honored for both his clinical and administrative work, including being named a leading doctor in a number of medical guides, including the "Best Doctors in America," "Best Doctors in New York" and "Best Doctors in New Jersey" every year for the last decade.

Dr. Kirshblum has been honored by many spinal cord injury societies, and organizations including the American Paraplegia Society, Association of Academic Physiatrists, World Congress of Rehabilitation International and Cerebral Palsy Society of New Jersey. He is the secretary/treasurer for the American Paraplegia Society and a member of numerous advisory boards and foundations for spinal cord research.


Ann Long

Vice President of Community Services, Spectrum for Living

Ann Long has been at Spectrum for over 20 years.  Spectrum provides an array of services to adults and their families/caregivers with developmental disabilities in Bergen, Passaic and Middlesex counties.  She is a member of the Passaic County Advisory Council on Disability.

Ann has also been  a Special Education Teacher, a Vocational Counselor, Program Director and Program Manager for a number of non-profits serving people with developmental disabilities in Northern New Jersey.

Her volunteer experiences include Camp Fatima of New Jersey and the
Girls Scouts of Greater Essex and West Hudson.  Ann resides in Kearney with her husband and two daughters.


Mark Riccobono

Executive Director, Jernigan Institute, National Federation of the Blind

Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Mark Riccobono was diagnosed with glaucoma and aniridia at age five. Yet, his progressive vision loss did not stop him from doing the things he wanted to do.

Mark attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison, to pursue a degree in business administration. Mark was extremely active in many clubs and organizations on the University campus. In 1996, he founded the Wisconsin Association of Blind Students, a division of the National Federation of the Blind of Wisconsin, and became its first president. Due to his leadership at the University, he was nominated and selected to be a member of the Iron Cross Society, a distinguished honor society of top student leaders who have attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He graduated from the university with a Bachelor's Degree in 1999. During his senior year, Mark was elected, at age 22, to the presidency of the National Federation of the Blind of Wisconsin and was re-elected twice for successive two-year terms until resigning in 2003.

Upon leaving college, Mark joined the Sears, Roebuck, and Company's National Executive Trainee Program, considered to be one of the top programs for training managers in the retail field. While working for Sears, Mark spent considerable amounts of his free time advocating for the blind. As a result, he was appointed to the Wisconsin State Superintendent's Blind and Visual Impairment Education Council. With a growing interest in the field of education of blind children, Mark was hired to serve as the first Director of the Wisconsin Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired (WCBVI), a $6.1 million state agency responsible for statewide services to children who are blind. During his three and one-half year stint as Director of the WCBVI, Mark took the organization from the brink of closing to a more distinguished position of leadership. After his success with the WCBVI, he resigned in October 2003 to take a position with the National Federation of the Blind, the leading organization in the field of blindness. He served the NFB as the first Director of Education for the newly established NFB Jernigan Institute, and helped the Institute build an education program which operates programs impacting blind youth and professionals across the country.  In July, 2007, Mark became the second Executive Director of the Jernigan Institute, continuing to build and strengthen the programs and services of the Institute.


Dr. Rona Shaw Ed.D.

Director of Graduate Programs in Education, Dominican College, NY

Rona Shaw has made presentations on various topics such as functional vision assessment, low vision utilization, and training for paraeducators who work with learners who are visually impaired at local, state, and national conferences.  She has co-authored a book and journal articles on training of paraeducators who work with students who are blind or visually impaired. Dr. Shaw has created a hybrid online program for training teachers of students who are blind or visually impaired and has published articles on distance education. She is co-author of a book on activities to stimulate visual functioning in the natural environment for the 0-3 population, which will be available June, 2009.


James Thebery, M.A., CSW

Director, Bergen County Division on Disability Services

Jim Thebery has been the Director for 10 years and is responsible for the overall supervision and evaluation of 9 full time office staff, 9 field evaluators, 4 program facilitators and 65 per diem employees, as well as managing an annual fiscal budget in excess of 2.1 million dollars.  This Division monitors efficiency and effectiveness of program operations initiating any needed change/modifications. Established by the Bergen County Board of Chosen Freeholders in 1978 as the first such Office in the State to address and serve the needs of persons with DisAbility, the division celebrated its 30th Anniversary October 9, 2008.  He also supervises programs serving the needs of Bergen County Residents with disabilities such as Post Stroke & Disabled Adult Support Groups, Personal Assistance Services (PASP), Statewide Respite Care, Social Conference Call, and Meals on Wheels.

Among the special projects and programs he introduced include the "Come & See, All Are Welcome campaign to ensure accessibility in houses of worship, the publication "It's ALL About Work, Exploring an Untapped Labor Pool" and the annual County "Salute to Champions" honoring those with and without disabilities who have a positive impact with regard to individuals with disability. 

Current projects include: establishment of "Access for All" committees in all municipalities to address issues concerning residents with disabilities and, in collaboration with Bergen/Passaic Girls Scouts, the 2009 Municipal Access Award for outstanding access and accommodations for those with disabilities.  Establishment of the ADRC (Aging and Disability Resource Connection) between the Division of Senior Services, Division on Disability Services and other providers including the area independent living center.

He has presented a series of informal panel discussions on Sensitivity Awareness for Persons with Disabilities in schools and for organizations in an effort to educate the public on the issues confronting persons with disability.  Along with the Family Support Center and the Epilepsy Foundation, he has coordinated several information sharing seminars for county employees and staff.  Mr. Thebery has served as Chairperson of the NJ State Association on County Disability Services (NJACDS) for 6 years.  He serves as Vice-Chair of the Casino Revenue Fund Advisory Board since 2006.

Jim is an eight year member of the NJ Arts Access Council and has collaborated with Bergen County's Cultural Affairs to ensure accessible venues for cultural events.  Mr. Thebery also has provided a wider outreach focus with regard to programs and services. 

As Chairperson of the Bergen Community College Advisory for Students with Disability for 7 years, he has developed many initiatives aimed to improve the college experience for all students with disabilities and continues to develop seminars and employer fairs to enhance the employment prospects of the students.  He currently serves on numerous State and local advisory commissions including the Workforce Investment Board (WIB) and NJ BUDDIES Board of Trustee's.


Mary Jo Thorpe, Med, NOMC

Mary Jo Thorpe is Education Programs Manager for the National Federation of the Blind/Jernigan Institute in Baltimore, MD. She organizes many youth outreach efforts for the NFB and leads curriculum development for its programs. She also facilitates several initiatives of the Jernigan Institute, including many projects of the National Center for Blind Youth in Science (NCBYS), which aim to change opportunities for blind individuals in science, technology, engineering, and math subjects and careers. Under the NCBYS, Miss Thorpe coordinates the NFB’s Science Academy programs, such as 2009 NFB Youth Slam, and the first Junior Science Academy. In addition to advocating for quality education for blind students around the country, Mary Jo spends much of her free time in service to her church and the blind youth in the Baltimore area.

Mary Jo graduated Cum Laude from Utah State University where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Family and Human Development with a concentration in Community Service. She completed her Master of Education degree with concentration in teaching blind students at Louisiana Tech University. She was president of the Utah Association of Blind Students, served on the Louisiana Association of Blind Students board, and was a board member for the National Association of Blind Students. She was awarded two scholarships by the National Federation of the Blind and earned a National Orientation and Mobility Certification.

At the age of twelve, Mary Jo unexpectedly became blind from an allergic reaction to a medication, resulting in a condition known as Pseudo Tumor Cerebri. Through the support of a loving family, great friends, and her own determination, blindness has not kept Mary Jo from doing the things she wants to do. 


Jason Weiland

Field Representative, NJ Division of Deaf & Hard of Hearing

Jason Weiland attended Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work in 1998. He was employed as a prevention education specialist and chemical dependency counselor with the Minnesota Chemical Dependency Program for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Individuals in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Employment with the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf in Philadelphia, PA in February of 2001 would bring him back to the East Coast where he assumed the position of school counselor. In August of 2001, he was offered a position with the New Jersey Division of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing as field representative.

The Division of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing provides information and referral to more than eight million residents of New Jersey. Mr. Weiland works as an advocate to consumers and service providers that work with individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing, late deafened, or deaf-blind throughout the State of NJ. For the past five years, he has provided his expertise in projects such as the Movie Captioning Settlement and Hospital Communication Access Settlement in collaboration with the NJ Division on Civil Rights. Planning and Initiating workshops and trainings with companies, state agencies, and local organizations are another of many responsibilities. Mr. Weiland also participates in a number of state advisory boards as well as organization advisory councils.

Mr. Weiland currently resides in Hunterdon County with his wife, Lisette and two young children, Jason (age 4) and Catellina (age 18 months) along with his hearing ear dog, Macy who has lived with the family for five years.


Jessica Dionne Welsh, M.S., CCC-SLP

Speech-language pathologist, Adler Aphasia Center

Jessica Dionne Welsh earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Fairfield University and a Master of Science degree in Communication Disorders/Speech-Language Pathology from Arizona State University. In her career, she has worked with children and adults with communication disorders in a variety of clinical settings. Jessica's professional interests include aphasia and neurogenic communication disorders, the Life Participation Approach to Aphasia, aphasia advocacy, and community education and outreach.


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Site last updated: August 12, 2011