Chandler to speak at first IgniteCon

Inverness resident Dustin Chandler will be a featured speaker at this year's IgniteCon on Aug. 13. (Contributed)

Inverness resident Dustin Chandler will be a featured speaker at this year’s IgniteCon on Aug. 13. (Contributed)

By MOLLY DAVIDSON / Staff Writer

On Aug. 13, musicians, authors, philanthropists and industry leaders will descend on Birmingham for the first IgniteCon, a conference designed to start conversations about inclusion of individuals with special needs. Inverness resident, Dustin Chandler, will be one of the featured speakers at the event.

Chandler is the father of a special needs child. His 4-year-old daughter, Carly, suffers from the rare genetic and seizure-inducing condition, CDKL5. According to the International Foundation for CDKL5 Research, many children with CDKL5 “cannot walk, talk or feed themselves,” and there is no known treatment or cure.

An advocate for the special needs community, Chandler spearheaded the grassroots campaign for Carly’s Law, organized the all-inclusive Carly’s Clubhouse playground project in Pelham and has held numerous events to raise money for research and bring awareness to CDKL5.

Chandler will bring his perspective as both an advocate and a parent to IgniteCon.

“My talk is going to really be about inclusion,” Chandler said. “We need to do a better job of welcoming special needs families into businesses, restaurants and the private sector.”

Like Chandler, each of the IgniteCon speakers brings a unique voice to the discussion. Speakers include Rupert Isaacson, Laura Kasbar, Dawn Neufeld, Sho Baraka, James Gallini, Matt Murphy, Michael Bo, M.L. Carr, Steve Andrews, Rajeev Nirmalakhandan, Patrick Whaley, Kit Cummings and Chandler.

The conference will follow a similar format to TED Talks, Chandler explained.

“What we wanted was a conference aimed at the special needs community, because there’s nothing like that,” Chandler said. “We’re really just trying to empower people.”

Chandler said he hopes IgniteCon will inspire people to “start thinking out of the box” about including individuals with special needs in the workforce and in everyday activities.

“We want people to start thinking about equal rights for all children,” Chandler said. “No matter if you can talk or walk or anything, there’s always a person or a child in those kids.”

IgniteCon will be held at UAB’s Alys Stephens Center on Aug. 13. Tickets cost $40 per person. For more information, visit Ignitecon.com.