SOAR Conference 2021 Keynotes

Portrait image of Senator Tom Harkin.
Michael Beers in a casual conversation
Photo of Hannah, Shane, and their Goldendoodle on the beach.
Portrait image of Senator Tom Harkin.

Tom Harkin

Retired US Senator

As a young senator, Tom was tapped by Senator Ted Kennedy to craft legislation to protect the civil rights of millions of Americans with physical and mental disabilities. He knew firsthand about the challenges facing people with disabilities from his late brother, Frank, who was deaf from an early age. What emerged from that process would later become his signature legislative achievement — The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Thanks to Senator Harkin’s passionate advocacy and legislative accomplishments in the field of disability rights, the United States has made huge strides in respecting the civil rights of people with disabilities, and expanding access and opportunity for those previously excluded. Those who grew up since the passage of the ADA and other disability-rights laws – both those with and those without disabilities – reject the prejudices and stereotypes of earlier generations, and have high expectations for people with disabilities both in the workplace and in their communities. This transformation of the American landscape and culture is Senator Harkin’s greatest legacy.

Michael Beers


Michael Beers has been performing as a stand-up comic for 12 years. He tells stories about his life growing up in Montana with his mother and three sisters, their dogs, and a disability. He also shares his thoughts about social and political topics of our day. Michael works within the disability community to develop leadership and self-advocacy among youth and adults with disabilities.

Michael travels the country performing at clubs, schools, and conferences. He is the 2017 winner of the Montana Comedy Competition, the 2012 FunyFest talent search in Calgary, Alberta Canada, and several other comedy awards. Michael’s humor is surprising, full of insight, and good-natured, leaving his audiences feeling light-hearted with a new perspective on life.


Photo of Hannah, Shane, and their Goldendoodle on the beach.

Shane & Hannah Burcaw

Of the “Squirmy and Grubs” Youtube Channel

Shane and Hannah Burcaw are relationship vloggers on a mission to change the way society understands disability. On their YouTube channel, Squirmy and Grubs, which has gained 850,000+ subscribers and worldwide media attention, the couple shares a hilarious and authentic examination of what it’s like to be in an interabled relationship.

Shane lives with a form of muscular dystrophy that requires him to use an electric wheelchair. Hannah is able-bodied and provides the majority of Shane’s daily care. In addition to their work on YouTube, the couple is co-authoring a nonfiction collection of love stories that involve people with disabilities. Shane and Hannah speak across the country from universities to elementary schools to Fortune 500 companies. They live in Minneapolis, MN with their fluffy goldendoodle, Chloe.


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