Who We Are

This video uses closed-captions only. An Audio Described version can be accessed by clicking here.

VISION: People with disabilities will lead with power and influence for full participation and equal opportunity.

MISSION: To build a pipeline and network of leaders with disabilities who are deeply engaged in the civic life of the Chicago region and advancing in their careers — consistent with the spirit of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

What We Do

    Four concentric circles within a web of interconnected lines. The circles are embedded within each other to indicate the expanded network that a person participating in the program could have access to. The smallest innermost circle says Leadership Institute followed by Members Network followed by Civic Connections Project. The largest outermost circle says Diverse Leadership of the Chicago Region indicating the overall goal of the program.
  • Civic Connections Project: Increasing the number of people with disabilities in civic and professional leadership positions

  • Members Network: Growing a network of leaders with disabilities who come together to expand civic engagement

  • Leadership Institute: Developing emerging leaders through a first-of-its kind year-long fellowship program including a 5-day retreat, ongoing mentoring, and opportunities to learn about disability rights history, connect with Chicago’s civic and professional leaders, and set personal leadership goals.

    Learn more about this unique one-year program.


Two rows of people featuring our Inaugural Fellows of ADA 25 Advancing Leadership

In 2015, 200 organizations throughout metropolitan Chicago came together under the banner of ADA 25 Chicago to celebrate and commit to the civil rights principles behind the ADA: equal opportunity, independent living, economic self-sufficiency, and full participation. ADA 25 Advancing Leadership emerged as a legacy of this 25th anniversary celebration, designed to activate and connect people with disabilities to civic leadership opportunities and professional advancement in metropolitan Chicago. In the years following the signing of the ADA, progress has been made to further inclusion of people with disabilities, but there are still disparities in opportunities, including in leadership roles. ADA 25 Advancing Leadership aims close this gap by enabling civic engagement roles of the Chicago region reflect the diversity, including disability, of the population.

In January of 2016, ADA 25 Advancing Leadership's inaugural class of 16 Fellows attended the first Leadership Institute hosted by Deloitte and Hyatt. The Fellows came from all walks of life and included a range of disabilities that fit the ADA broad definition that includes physical, mental health, learning, and other disabilities that substantially limit activities of daily living. A second Leadership Institute in January and March 2017, held at BMO Harris and Microsoft with a cohort of 16 Fellows, refined the model in response to year one feedback, and utilized a new facilitation team with expertise in the independent living movement, and included a facilitator who identifies as a member of the disability community. Our Members Network continues to grow and be engaged in various leadership opportunities, planning committees for the future of the program, and are continuing their commitment to become more civically engaged. In December 2018, we welcomed a fourth class of Fellows who will set leadership plans in motion through the 2019 Leadership Institute.

ADA 25 Chicago Final Report: Creating A More Inclusive Chicago: Today and Everyday

Executive Committee


  • Paulette Jagers, Head, Strategic Initiatives and Leadership, BMO Financial Group
  • Karen Tamley, Commissioner, The Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities


  • Mark Ishaug, CEO, Thresholds
  • Kenton Klaus, Principal, Deloitte
  • Tricia Myers, Head of Diversity and Inclusion, BMO Financial Group (US)
  • Steve Solomon, Vice President, Corporate Relations, Exelon
  • Shelley Stern Grach, Director of Civic Engagement, Microsoft
  • Manika Turnbull, Vice President, Chief Diversity Officer, Health Care Service Corporation

Program Committee


  • Ann Manikas, Director, Organizational Development and Learning, American Medical Association Chicago
  • Karen Tamley, Commissioner, Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities


  • Laurie Dittman, Senior Policy Analyst, City of Chicago
  • Daisy Feidt, Executive Vice President, Access Living
  • Joanie Friedman, Director of Civic Partnerships, University of Chicago - Office of Civic Engagement
  • Sarah Helm, Manager, Diversity and Inclusion, Talent Management, Discover Financial Services
  • Bob Eichinger, Director of Donor Services, The Chicago Community Trust
  • Melissa Reishus, President, Seaglass Group


  • Bridget Evans, Patient Safety Analyst, Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago
  • Tsehaye Geralyn Hebert, Playwright
  • Sam Knight, Community Organizer, Wil Grundy Center for Independent Living
  • Randall Owen, Clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Disability and Human Development (DHD), University of Illinois at Chicago; Associate Director, Institute on Disability and Human Development


  • Emily Harris, Executive Director
  • Robin Burnett, Program Manager
  • Risa Rifkind, Program Manager
  • Alexandra Perez-Garcia, Program Associate