ABLE to Save Podcast Series

The ABLE to Save podcast series is brought to you by the ABLE National Resource Center, which is managed by National Disability Institute.

Hear from leaders in the public and private sectors, as well as from ABLE account holders and their family members, about how ABLE accounts can be an effective savings tool to help improve health, independence, and quality of life for people with disabilities.

To listen to the ABLE to Save podcast series, visit each episode profile below.

Where to Listen


Season 3 – ABLE to Save Podcast Episodes

Featured Guest: Molly Sullivan, Griffin-Hammis Associates

Molly SullivanIn this podcast, nationally renowned self-employment topic expert, Molly Sullivan with Griffin-Hammis Associates, shares her perspective and insights on the role that ABLE accounts can play in helping people with disabilities become self-employed.

The “ABLE Accounts: A Tool for Self-Employment Planning” podcast episode includes:

  • How an ABLE account has the potential to support building individual savings and assets for those who wish to pursue self-employment.
  • Examples from Griffin-Hammis Associates on how ABLE accounts can be built into self-employment planning.
  • Specific self-employment strategies that utilize an ABLE account.


Featured Guest: Chris Peterson, Penny Forward

Chris PetersonIn this podcast, asset-building topic expert and ABLE account owner, Chris Peterson, discusses  his personal financial story. Learn how Chris uses his ABLE account to continue to build and shift into working full-time for his new nonprofit organization, Penny Forward , a community of blind people building bright futures one penny at a time.

The Using an ABLE Account to Become Self-Employed Podcast episode includes:

  • How building assets can support career advancement for people with disabilities and, specifically, people who are blind.
  • Examples of ABLE accounts being used by Penny Forward community members who are ABLE-eligible due to blindness or vision loss.
  • ABLE account strategies that Chris Peterson, founder of Penny Forward, uses to support his financial independence and, specifically, how he is using his ABLE account to transition into self-employment.


Season 2 – ABLE to Save Podcast Episodes

Featured Guest: Nathan Turner, ABLE Advocate and Account Owner

Nathan Turner is a 2021 BIPOC Outreach Ambassador for the ABLE National Resource Center. As an African-American member of the ADA generation, Nathan serves on a wide variety of stakeholder groups, including on the Board of Trustees for Legal Aid of Western Ohio, the Ohio Statewide Independent Living Council and Advocacy Task Force, the Ohio Self-determination Association, Lucas County Board of Developmental Disabilities Board of Directors and the Ability Center of Greater Toledo. All of these organizations provide substantial support to the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) community. Nathan has a vast amount of personal experience navigating many types of public benefits, including Medicaid, Medicare, home and community-based waivers and Social Security work incentives.

He was educated in Political Science and International Studies at Wright State University, and has received awards from several organizations, including Lucas County Board of Developmental Disabilities, Courageous Community Services and Partners for Inclusion. Nathan is the first person who is served by the Lucas County Ohio Developmental Disability System that then went on to serve as a member of the Lucas County Board of Developmental Disabilities Board of Trustees.

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Featured Guest: Hector Ramirez, ABLE Ambassador

Hector Ramirez is a 2021 BIPOC Outreach Ambassador for the ABLE National Resource Center.

Hector Ramirez is a disability rights advocate (pronouns he/they/them) and a Latino Chiricahua Apache, Two Spirits who is also a member of the LGBTQ community. As an individual with Autism and Bipolar Disorder, Hector is ABLE-eligible and has been saving funds in their ABLE account to maintain a safety net while working to become self-sufficient. Hector used their ABLE funds to save for a home, something they were able to achieve due to having an ABLE account through CalABLE. Hector serves on the board of directors for Disability Rights California and with the National Disability Rights Network in Washington, D.C.

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Marlene Ulisky is a Manager of Financial Empowerment at National Disability Institute, which manages the ABLE National Resource Center. Marlene Ulisky began her 35-year career with the Social Security Administration (SSA) serving in various roles including the Director of the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. After relocating to SSA in Florida, she established relationships with partners across the state educating them on the disability programs administered by SSA and increasing the level of support and successful outcomes of individuals with disabilities served by multiple systems. After leaving SSA, she worked with the Florida Office of Vocational Rehabilitation to establish the Partnership Plus Program under the Ticket to Work Program and then was re-hired by SSA to conduct training and assist them with managing critical integrity workloads including Office of Inspector General investigations. In her work with National Disability Institute and the ABLE National Resource Center, she provides guidance on complex SSA issues and develops and assists in the implementation of solutions to further the financial independence of individuals and families living with disability. In particular, her pioneering work at the intersection of ABLE accounts and means-tested benefits, and subsequent development of best practices for SSA recipients with the ABLE NRC team, has increased the understanding and opportunity within the field about this ground-breaking area of policy implementation.

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Katy Oliver works full-time as a member of a research team for PPD Global Pharmaceutical Contract Research Organization specializing in data management. In this podcast, Katy shares her experiences as a working person who accesses her state’s Medicaid Buy-In Program and uses her ABLE account to save for disability-related equipment. She also looks to her future in which she hopes to use her ABLE account to support her dream to design and build an HGTV quality accessible home.

You can use this account and can spend it or save it and keep your benefits. I promise you it is possible.” – Katy Oliver

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Taylor Carty is a graduate of the University of California with a B.A. in Molecular and Cell Biology. She is currently working at the Burton Blatt institute as a research assistant. As someone with cerebral palsy, Taylor is using her ABLE account to navigate the financial challenges of applying for medical schools and working a full-time job.

“My ABLE account has been a lifesaver and helped me to build my own future.” – Taylor Carty

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In a successful career as a software developer, Chris Peterson has learned a great deal about managing his finances. In 2020, he decided to make it his mission to teach other blind people some of the things he had to learn the hard way. Knowing he could not do it alone, he began building Penny Forward, a community of people who are blind, who share his interest in financial independence. In this podcast, Chris shares his perspective on the impact and opportunity that ABLE accounts present to working people with disabilities.

“It is very powerful to start now. The earlier you start in investing, the more your investment has time to grow before you might need to use it to weather a hard time or take advantage of an opportunity.” – Chris Peterson

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Season 1 – ABLE to Save Podcast Episodes

Featured Guest: Michael Morris, Founder, National Disability Institute

Michael Morris is the Founder of National Disability Institute (NDI) and a Senior Strategic Advisor. He has more than 30 years of experience in and outside of government pioneering new strategies to improve the lives of people with disabilities. Mr. Morris serves as an advisor and technical expert to multiple federal agencies on policy and systems relationships at federal, state and local levels to advance economic stability, mobility and asset development for persons with disabilities. In 1981, he was named the first Joseph P. Kennedy Fellow in Public Policy and came to Washington, D.C. to work in the Office of Connecticut Senator Lowell Weicker, as legal counsel to the United States Senate Subcommittee on the Handicapped. Mr. Morris also served subsequently as counsel to the U.S. Senate Small Business Committee. From Capitol Hill, he went to work at United Cerebral Palsy Association as the first director of government relations, then as director of community services and finally as national executive director. During his 14-year tenure, his leadership put a focus on needed assistive technology and its essential role in accommodating people with disabilities in the areas of employment, education, communications and daily living. In 2001, Mr. Morris helped establish NDI to advance the social and economic independence of persons with disabilities through strategic investment and technical assistance activities nationwide that bring together government, corporations, foundations and community and faith-based organizations. Mr. Morris received his undergraduate degree with honors in Political Science from Case Western University in Cleveland, Ohio and his law degree from Emory University School of Law in Atlanta, Ga.

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Featured Guest: Betsy Blair, SSA Policy Analyst

Ms. Blair works at SSA headquarters as a policy analyst on the SSI income and resources team. Prior to working at the agency, she was employed by State of Maryland and specialized in eligibility policy for income assistance programs such as Medicaid, SNAP, and TANF.

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Featured Guests: Stephen Dale and Amy Tessler

Stephen W. Dale, Esq., LL.M is a disability rights advocate whose interest in the disability community began at an early age. He comes from a family of institutional workers that served in California’s State Hospitals and Developmental Centers for more than three generations. For 17 years, he worked as a psychiatric technician in a variety of institutions in California, and later became an intern at the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF) working on disability access cases, and later transitioned to a private practice focused on drafting and administering special needs trusts. Stephen is currently the principal attorney at the Dale Law Firm which is dedicated to providing quality estate planning to clients by working cooperatively with the clients’ tax, financial and insurance professionals. He is also the trustee of the Golden State Pooled Trust which serves beneficiaries in California. Part of his duties is to oversee a series of MCLE programs accredited by the California State Bar, which provides education to attorneys and trustees on a wide variety of disability-related subjects focused on quality of life for persons with disabilities. Stephen is a long-standing member of the Special Needs Alliance, a national, not-for-profit organization of attorneys dedicated to the practice of disability and public benefits law. Amy Tessler’s son was diagnosed on the Autistic Spectrum when he was two years old. Just like most Moms of special needs children, Amy immersed herself in learning about the vast number of autism therapies in hope of finding something that would really help. She attended conferences about how to plan for his future. Although unlikely, Amy struggled with who would take care of Scott and his sister if something happened to her and her husband. Therefore, the Special Needs Trust was created when Scott was 10 years old in order to establish a funding source and provide direction for Scott’s safety and emotional well-being in the event of a worst case scenario. Even though Scott has an SNT, he opened an ABLE account in March of 2018.

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Featured Guest: Jennifer Casselman

Jennifer Casselman is Vice President of Commercial Operations with Greater Lending in Nevada. She also serves as a member of the Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities. Jenny opened an ABLE account to allow her daughter, Kenley (11), who has Down syndrome, to save for her future without jeopardizing her benefits. As a family member and advocate for ABLE accounts, Jenny has spoken before the Nevada Legislature to thank them for supporting ABLE accounts as a tool to help loved ones today and to plan for tomorrow. She is a 2020 ABLE National Resource Center Ambassador.

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Featured Guest: Kathy DeAngelo

Kathy DeAngelo is a Certified Benefits and Work Incentives Planner for Chenango-Delaware-Otsego (CDO) Workforce in upstate New York, providing advocacy for Social Security beneficiaries with disabilities who are seeking assistance to return to employment. She previously worked in various positions for Otsego County, both at the Department of Social Services and at Otsego County Office of Employment and Training, cultivating a unique perspective that led to her successful role as Disability Resource Coordinator and Sr. Employment & Training Counselor.

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Featured Guest: Edward Mitchell

Edward Mitchell is an ABLE account owner and independent living specialist for the Jackson, Tennessee Center for Independent Living. In 2003, at the age of 17, he was a victim of a hit-and-run accident while on his bicycle that resulted in quadriplegia with an incomplete spinal cord injury at the C5 and C6 levels. That hasn’t slowed him down, though. Edward went on to get his bachelor’s degree from Lane College, a private Historically Black College, and his Master’s in Business Administration from Union University. He’s also an active member Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, the first black Greek letter organization founded in 1906. In 2018, Edward came onboard as an inaugural ABLE National Resource Center Ambassador and testified before the U.S. Senate’s Special Committee on Aging at their hearing on “Supporting Economic Stability & Self Sufficiency as Americans with Disabilities & their Families Age.” Last year, Edward was inducted to the Lane College Hall of Distinction for the Young Alumni Achievement Award.

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Additional Podcast Resources

Penny Forward Podcast:

The Penny Forward podcast is about blind people building bright futures one penny at a time. Click the links to listen to Penny Forward podcast episodes featuring guest speakers from the ABLE National Resource Center.