ABLE Conversation Symposium

The Berklee Institute for Accessible Arts Education (BIAAE) is delighted to announce the 2023 ABLE Conversation Symposium, which will take place as a hybrid, flexible event on Saturday, November 18, from 11:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. ET.

This event is free and open to the public.

Participation Modality Cost


Free, but advance registration required

Free, but advance registration required

  • ASL interpretation will be available at the event.
  • Remote attendees will be able to use the live transcription function of Zoom.
  • At the request of the presenters, the event will not be recorded.



Featured Keynote Speaker: Maria R. Palacios

Join activist/artist Maria R. Palacios for a session of disability pride, poetry, and artistic advocacy. Using art as the main voice of her story, Palacios will take us through the journey of her experience as a BIPOC disabled artist whose work has become a force in dismantling ableism.


Palacios is a polio survivor, disability activist, feminist poet, writer, and artist whose creative expression is one of the tools and weapons of her activism. She believes that art itself can narrate the story of our collective struggle. 

Palacios's work includes various genres of art ranging from published written collections of rebellious poetic story telling, to passionate spoken word pieces and sarcastic illustrations of disability themed cartoons aimed at calling out ableism. Her muse has also ventured into song re-writing —dressing up old popular songs in disability themed lyrics giving a new voice to the power of artistic advocacy. 

Palacios is one of the Capitol Crawlers from the iconic march of 1990 that passed the Americans with Disabilities Act. Her advocacy, since then, has taken many forms eventually morphing into her current voice—a voice unafraid of sharing the survival stories of the disabled people the world wants to forget.

In the artistic world, Maria R. Palacios is known as the Goddess on Wheels.

Featured Keynote Speaker: Peter Shankman

Diversity is More than Skin Deep—Neurodiversity in Today’s Schools and Society


Over the next 10 years, upwards of 35 percent of both your students and your employees are going to be considered “neuroatypical.” This means that they will have some level of neurological brain structure such as ADD, ADHD, anything categorized under the autism spectrum as well as all things cerebral diverse. Neuroatypical has been coined in the autism community to describe anyone that does not align with the medical community’s definition of “normal.”

How your school or organization engages this rapidly growing segment of society will directly affect and impact your school's growth, reputation, and ultimate bottom line for the next several decades.

In this fast-paced, future-looking keynote, Peter Shankman will guide you through key learning points:

  • How to harness your students' superpowers

  • Top five ways to hire a neuroatypical employee

  • How to ensure your workplace recognizes this diversity

  • How to avoid losing valued neuroatypical employees

  • How to reach the diverse student—including Generations Y, Z, and Gen Alpha

  • How to gain the 2.7 seconds of attention they’re willing to give to you, and use it to your advantage

  • Why relevance is the most important tool in your arsenal

The New York Times has called Peter Shankman "a rockstar who knows everything about social media and then some." He is a six-time best-selling author, entrepreneur, and corporate keynote speaker, focusing on neurodiversity in the workplace, customer service, and the new and emerging customer and neuroatypical economies. With three startup launches and exits under his belt, (most notably Help a Reporter Out) Shankman is recognized worldwide for radically new ways of thinking about customer experience, social media, PR, marketing, advertising, and neurodiversity. Additionally, Shankman is the futurist in residence at Price Benowitz and Blushark Digital.

About the ABLE Conversation Symposium

The ABLE Conversation symposium is an exceptional professional development opportunity in the field of arts education and individuals with disabilities, bringing together educators, artists, researchers, policymakers, school administrators, program administrators, and students to share best practices, explore new research, and learn from each other. The symposium includes presentations, performances, and opportunities for facilitated discussion. We aim to move the conversation in the field forward, and we want you to join us.

Clips of the introductory remarks and the discussion panel from the 2021 ABLE Conversation symposium can be viewed below.