Category Archives: Casual Friday

ITKAN Advisory Team Members and the Stein brothers gather with Year Up Director, Jack Crowe, after he is honored with the Rose Stein Light From Within award.

ITKAN’s 4th Annual Business After-Hours Recap

ITKAN’s 4th Annual Business After-Hours was last Thursday (the 14th) evening at the incredibly renovated Microsoft Technology Center Chicago. For those who registered and were unable to join us, we missed you and you missed a great evening. Sorry you were unable to make it, but we’ve attached a photo of the award celebration!

Top 10 things you experienced – or missed – at ITKAN’s 4th Annual Business After-Hours! ​

  1. Drinks and food in the MTC’s spacious and elegant front lobby with great conversation, networking, and camaraderie!
  2. A spontaneous tour by Adam Hecktman of our Advisory Team and Microsoft Philanthropies!
  3. Introductory remarks by Pat Maher with video of ITKAN meetings through 2019 and soundtrack!
  4. Keynote remarks by Danielle DuMerer focused on City of Chicago tech efforts to benefit all, including PwD and Shedd’s innovative programs engaging the disability community!
  5. Presentation by Adam Hecktman of a signed copy of George RR Martin’s A Game of Thrones to Danielle!
  6. Poignant remarks by Marc Stein, brother of Rose Stein, on the significance of the Light from Within Award!
  7. Presentation of the Rose Stein Light from Within Award to Jack Crowe, Executive Director of Year Up Chicago!
  8. Jack’s impassioned remarks following the award presentation that we all have responsibility to level the playing field for opportunity for youth with disabilities…YU Chicago wants to screen them for future cohorts!
  9. Val Kendrick, Advisory Team member and mother of Gerise – long-time ITKAN member and YU cohort grad – gives very personal closing remarks on Finding our Light from Within!
  10. Gina Figliulo of SPR keeps the bar open for our first after, after-hours much to the delight of all!

There you have it…hope to see everyone throughout 2020 and for our 5th Annual After-Hours!


Passion starts with ITKAN, and StopGap shows how passion works.

Recently, I came across an article about Luke Anderson and StopGap, an organization in Toronto that is based around raising awareness  of accessibility issues to local businesses.

Luke Anderson, speaking at the Canadian Urban Institute forum in November 2011.

You might think that StopGap was an initiative of an aggressive disability advocacy organization or well-oiled city government, but in fact it’s the concept of passionate 12 and 13 year olds. Coupled with the support of grassroots educators and area professionals, StopGap is making a big difference in overall accessibility.

After reading this great story, I immediately made connections to our efforts within ITKAN. Our mission is to strengthen our members’ professional technology network, expand their knowledge base in developing IT applications and tools, and better prepare them for a career in this exciting and demanding field. We are a passionate and engaged membership – and we’re always looking to grow!

Throughout 2013 we’re exploring four Megatrends in technology at ITKAN. We’ve begun with mobile which we’ll continue covering in February and March. We will explore social media, big data and cloud computing respectively through the balance of year.

Come join us to find out more to gain insights and career-impacting knowledge in technology Megatrends!.

A message from ITKAN and Pat Maher – National Disability Employment Awareness Month

Come Celebrate NDEAM at the Microsoft Technology Center Chicago!

by PAT MAHER on SEPTEMBER 24, 2012

Members of ITKAN Visionary Innovation Team

Members of ITKAN’s Visionary Innovation Team

In early 2008 we founded an initiative dedicated to creating a community of candidates with a passion for technology who managed disability in their lives. ITKAN was launched at the Illinois Technology Association’s (ITA) TechNexus incubator space with their generous support. Our tagline, “Fostering Knowledge, Network and Opportunity” remains a central theme to this day. We have met each month – with some exceptions – to establish this community by bringing in expert presenters in leading edge technology applications and processes, educating members on a variety of assistive technologies, considering applied technology shifts such as the evolution in the mobile office and engaging our members in forward-thinking projects to enhance their career or future career opportunities.

We have been supported in this mission by the ITA – and now the Illinois Technology Foundation (ITF), SPR Companies and its strategic family, and for the past two years theMicrosoft Technology Center (MTC) and staff. We moved our meetings to the MTC in Autumn, 2010. With the support of Adam Hecktman, Director, and Shelley Stern, Citizenship and Public Affairs Director of Microsoft we have settled into the beautiful MTC with its Envisioning Center, many creative spaces and generous hosts.

Information Technology Knowledge Abilities Network

Join us on Eventbrite

Join us at the Microsoft Technology Center Chicago (directions in Eventbrite link at bottom of post) from 3-5PM on Monday, October 22nd in celebrating the ITKAN collaboration as we recognize National Disability Employment Awareness Month and our Computerworld HonorsLaureate, tour the technology world of the future in the Envisioning Center, and view the CINE Golden Eagle and Chicago International Filmfest Silver Hugo award-winning short film the forerunners in this creative environment

“The forerunners is a great film! Very powerful. Beyond the business case, I really enjoyed a lot of the insights it gave into the broader disability experience – putting a strong, tender and human face to it. Bravo.”

– Rob McInnes, Diversity World

Register for this MTC Chicago and ITKAN special event today at!

VoiceOver is Being Heard in Innovative Ways!

I was taking a look at the upcoming entries, which will include more interviews with ITKAN members and supporters, and I came across a video today about hands-on usage of the iPad by Wesley Majerus. Wesley was an Access Specialist for the National Federation for the Blind, and he is giving a great demonstration on how the iPad can become such an effective tool with their VoiceOver utility.

Excellent stuff!

One of the most insightful comments came across here:

…Cutting edge developers are keenly sensitive to ALL users of their products…no matter what abilities the tech user posesses. Keep up the good work Apple and hopefully folks with visual impairments can be advisors for updates to the iPad, Galaxy, Xoom, etc…

ITKAN’s Visionary Innovation Team is looking towards the future with monthly meetings and insight on accessibility for those with visual disabilities. Our next meeting is Interested in joining us at SPR offices in Willis Tower?  Email us here.

Casual Fridays…with a message or two.

On Fridays every so often, ITKAN will let its hair down and celebrate the upcoming weekend, but we want to keep our passionate focus on becoming leaders in technology. As geeks at ITKAN, we think, address and debate about current tech issues or VERY far into the future regarding the latest interfaces, software or what have you. My opinion is that the most creative ideas occur around assistive technology.

Assistive technology is an area where ITKAN can share views on today or casually toss ideas about distant future and ask questions about various science, technology engineering and mathematical (STEM) issues. For example, does a user need extensive training to use this specific technology? Will it be focused on a certain disability demographic? When will it be here to stay?

These questions are relevant, and relevant can be very cool…ask Joe Blasi keeping notes on Microsoft’s research on human body tracking for the Kinect game system, or take a look at the video below. We see that a very small set of neurons in our brain really do change the world, and we need technology to make the translation from a bulky machine to what fits into our pocket to the unknown.

Have a great Friday!

“Getting to Know” ITKAN Members – Joseph Blasi

As the Information Technology Knowledge Ability Leadership Network (ITKAN) continues through 2012, we have focused on displaying our membership and their skills. This week, Bill O’Connor focuses on our first member interview, Joseph Blasi.


Name: Joseph Blasi

Home: Des Plaines, IL

Involved and Interested in IT – 10 years


Hello, Joe.

“Call me Joseph.”

Sorry, Joseph…Some questions for you as an I.T. professional…What 3 factors do you bring to the table in IT?

¨     “I have worked on various projects building and repairing hardware and configuring software and PC systems.

¨     “I really enjoy keeping up on technology, especially new releases of Microsoft products.

¨     I enjoy participating in technical forums. They allow me to look into different aspects of technology and be proactive in helping people with current problems and solutions.

Pretty solid background, Joseph. Where do you think technology will be in the next ten years?

“It really depends on the big players. How will Apple continue gaining of market share? Will Microsoft’s release of Windows 8 be a game changer? Will Linux build a general standardization in their niche? Even Internet service providers will havetheir say, as will the verdicts regarding network neutrality issues.”

What are the 5 Internet sites that you go to the most and why?

VP Forums – – This is a site that talks about virtual pinball. Pinball overall looked dead, but it seems to be having a rebound! 

Slashdot – – Good tech discussions, stories and articles. 

DSL Reports – Discussions on new sites and, like Slashdot, good dfiscussions about tech 

Simtropolis – – This discusses the game SimCity, and I always want to keep up on it. The possibilities are endless with the program!

Mame World – – This talks about vintage arcade games, game simulation, and being able to play hundreds of arcade games on your PC. Awesome! 

What do you think about ITKAN? It’s a budding group, but what makes them special and productive?

It’s an interesting group. You’re focusing on people that have a lot of talent in the IT industry, but each one of them is really unique. It’s a tough job market, but these people need to be examined more closely. It’s a good idea, and hopefully, the members of the group will get some exposure. 

Thanks Joseph! Anything else?

Yeah, Bill, I’d like to be interviewed again! 

You bet, Joseph!

Coming next week, we meet with Brendan Ginty, an IT Security pro in Chicago.