Tekki Lomnicki is the co-founder and Artistic Director of Tellin’ Tales Theatre, dedicated to shattering the barriers between the disabled and non-disabled worlds through personal story. Tekki performs her critically acclaimed solo work for schools, conferences and theater audiences, and works as a Marketing Copywriter for True Value Hardware.
Courtney Sass is a Student Aide at the British International School of Chicago and the creator of the Museum Accessibility Toolkit, a website that features basic and inexpensive accommodations cultural institutions can provide for people with disabilities. Courtney earned a M.A. in Museum and Exhibition Studies from the University of Illinois at Chicago and a B.A. in Art History from Loyola University Chicago.
Liz Davis is a User Experience Designer with a passion for making technology accessible. She currently works at SPR Consulting and will graduate in 2019 with a Master’s in Human Computer Interaction from DePaul University. She gives talks, workshops and consultations about the accessibility of technology.
At KPMG, Valerie Gilles brings over seven years of experience working on national and global transformations, and specializes in strategic planning, acquisition integration, and process improvement. In her role as Manager, her key responsibilities are managing targeted strategic projects to help determine business and/or operating model changes required to stay competitive across our network, including financial forecasting, public trust strategy development, etc., managing the organization and developing the content of leadership meetings (e.g. Board meetings, wider international leadership conferences, etc.) to leverage them as channels for strategy approval or dissemination, and identifying opportunities for improvement in our team’s ways of working and internal processes. She also is involved in recruiting and onboarding of new team members and continuous mentoring at KPMG. She serves as the Chair KPMG Chicago’s business resource group for employees with disabilities and caregivers and is responsible for developing our local vision for the next 3-5 years and its associated strategy and managing our local team and collaborating with our national team. Valerie earned a B.S. in Biology at Iowa State University, accompanied by minors in Chemistry, General Business and Spanish.
Joyce Otuwa is a Staff Attorney at Equip for Equality, investigating, negotiating, and litigating social security and discrimination cases on behalf of clients. Joyce believes in public service, mentorship, and the deconstruction of exclusive ideology through education, activism, and legal advocacy. Joyce earned a J.D. and B.A. from the University of Illinois.
Azeema Akram is an ALJ at the Illinois Commerce Commission, where she adjudicates matters involving licensing regulatory violations and licensing matters in several transportation industries including relocation and safety towing, intrastate trucking, collateral recovery, and household goods movers. Azeema serves on the Board of Directors of Red Clay Dance Company and is a Community Representative on the Regional Transportation Authority’s Paratransit Certification Formal Appeals Program Eligibility Review Board. Azeema earned her JD from DePaul University College of Law and BA in International Studies from the University of Missouri-Columbia.
Grishma Shah is the Co-Director for the Chicago ReelAbilities Film Festival and an Artist completing her PhD in Community Psychology. Grishma’s passion for social justice is depicted through storytelling and art, as catalysts to thinking deeper, in hopes to question our pre-conditioned viewpoints and evoke awareness of our unconscious biases.
Evelyn Keolian is a Librarian in the Chicago Public Library (CPL) system. Evelyn also serves as the founder and chair of the Diversability Advocacy Committee at CPL. Evelyn is an adjunct instructor in American Sign Language at Oakton Community College. She serves on the Board of Directors of Changing Worlds. Evelyn received a M.L.I.S. from the University of North Texas/California State University, Northridge in 2012.
Zully JF Alvarado is an educator, trainer, public speaker, entrepreneur and international leader and advocate on the rights of children, women, and persons with disabilities. Zully currently lives in Gary, Indiana and raises awareness on the importance of accessibility in infrastructure, transportation and outdoor recreation. Zully earned an M.Ed. from the Erikson Institute.
Maureen Reagan founded and operated MRA Architects, Ltd. for over 25 years, designing creative environments, usable by all people, including people with disabilities. Maureen recently transitioned from MRA to pursue other interests, along with the continuation of universal design and accessibility consulting. She served on the committee, which produced an extensive update to the accessibility code of the Chicago Building Code. Maureen earned a Masters in Architecture from the University of Illinois, a B.S. with Distinction in Environmental Design from Purdue University, and was awarded a scholarship to study architecture at L’Ecole d’architecture, Universite de Paris III, Versailles, France.
Alice Palmer represented the state’s 13th Senate District from 1991-1997. Previously, Alice served as a special assistant to the president at Malcolm X College and associate dean of students at Northwestern. Alice currently sits on the Board of Directors at Access Living. Alice holds a Ph.D. in Educational Administration from Northwestern University and an M.A. from Roosevelt University.
Peter Berg coordinates and provides technical assistance, and trains on various aspects of the ADA at Great Lakes ADA Center. Peter serves as a member of the Illinois Attorney General’s Illinois Accessibility Code Task Force. Peter chaired the Mayor’s Advisory Commission on Disability for the City of Naperville and the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Chancellor’s Committee on the Status of Persons with Disabilities. Peter is a graduate of North Central College.
Gary Arnold is the Program Director for Progress Center for Independent Living. Previously, Gary worked as the Public Affairs Manager for Access Living. Gary is the co-chair of the Board of Directors for Crossroads Fund. He is the immediate past president of Little People of America, and has served on the Board of Directors for Public Narrative (previously known as the Community Media Workshop). Gary is a 2013 Leadership Greater Chicago Fellow. Gary earned a B.A. from Beloit College and an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters in 2018.
Rachel Arfa is a staff attorney at Equip for Equality and represents clients with disabilities in employment discrimination and civil rights violations. She also manages the PABSS program and the Illinois ADA Project. Rachel currently serves on the Cook County Anti-Harassment Task Force and the City of Chicago Accessible Airport Advisory Committee. In the past, Rachel has served on the Board of Directors for the New Leaders Council, Illinois Telecommunications Access Corporation, and the Midwest Center on Law and the Deaf, and the Metra ADA Advisory Committee. Rachel is a founding Steering Committee member of the Chicago Cultural Accessibility Consortium Steering Committee and serves on the Board of Directors for 3Arts, which supports artists of color, women artists and artists with disabilities. Rachel is a 2016 Leadership Greater Chicago Fellow. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan (B.A. in American Culture) and the University of Wisconsin School of Law (Juris Doctorate).
As Deputy Commissioner, Joe Albritton oversees Employment Services, Training Services, and Deaf and Hard of Hearing Programs. Joe is a member of the Mayoral Task Force on Employment and Economic Opportunities for People with Disabilities, and the Financial Advisory Council for the Empowerment of People with Disabilities. Prior to MOPD, Joe served as a Therapeutic Recreation Instructor for the Chicago Park District and a Job Developer at the Chicago Lighthouse. Joe is a graduate of Florida State University.
As Director of Civic Engagement at SPR, Pat Maher manages non-profit relationships within the tech sector. Pat supports the success of historically overlooked and discounted segments of the workforce – including professionals and aspiring candidates with disabilities, girls and young women, and younger candidates who lack social capital in the continually evolving technology industry. SPR’s strategic focus is supporting students through early-in-career (EIC) professionals to have the greatest impact.
Cheryl (Farney) Hahn is a Certified Recovery Support Specialist and works for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois as a Recovery Support Assistant. Cheryl is on the Board of Directors at Trilogy, Inc., is the Secretary for Gift of Voice, and is a WRAP Recovery Educator. Cheryl is a member of the PAIMI Council at Equip for Equality. She is also on the Program Committee for ADA 25 Advancing Leadership. Cheryl earned a B.A. in Theatre and Classics from the College of Wooster in Ohio and a Master’s Certificate in Women’s Studies from Loyola University of Chicago.
Brian Heyburn is a Ph.D. candidate in Disability Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago, having first received an M.S. in Disability and Human Development. At UIC, Brian serves as a Graduate Assistant at the Disability Cultural Center assisting with the development disability culture events across campus. Brian earned a B.A. in Religion from Centre College.
Michele Lee is a diversity leader at Aon and founder of the Empowering Abilities Employee Resource Group. Michele is passionate about disability employment, universal access, and accessible transportation. Michele represents Aon on the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab’s Business Advisory Board. Michele earned a B.A. from the University of Arizona.
Kevin is an Office Supervisor at Faithful+Gould. He is also a presentation coach, actor, writer, motivational speaker, storyteller, and teacher. As a storyteller, Kevin is a winner of The Moth StorySLAM. As a teacher: He created a personal narrative storytelling lab for detainees in Cook County Jail; at Piven Theatre, he helped establish a theatre games program for adults with development disabilities. Kevin presents anti-bullying motivational speeches to middle schoolers and high schoolers. He wrote a stageplay, Nobody Talks Nice about the journey of living with a disability. He is a graduate of The ACADEMY at Black Box Acting and is represented by Paonessa Talent. Follow him over social media: @kdaspeaker
Tsehaye Geralyn Hébert is a nationally recognized playwright. Her accolades include being a Rising Voices Fellow at the Vermont Studio Center and a Frank McCourt Memoir Competition finalist. Her work has received numerous awards including the Alliance Kendeda National Graduate Playwriting Award, the Native Voices and Visions Award at Louisiana State University, and being part of the New Works/New Vision Midwest Playwrights Project. She is a past president of the African American Theatre Alliance and and a former member of Pegasus Theatre Advisory Council. She also sits on the honorary board of the Piven Theatre Workshop. A Northwestern University graduate, she earned the MFAW from School of the Art Institute, Chicago, where pygMALI, her disrupture of Shaw’s Pygmalion, won its RhinoFest competition. She is a proud member of ADA 25 Advancing Leadership and sits on its Program Committee.
Risa Jaz Rifkind oversees Advancing Leadership’s Civic Connections Project by engaging with Members and partners to identify opportunities for Members to lead with power and influence. She leads Advancing Leadership’s external and internal marketing, communications, and outreach. Previously, Risa was Program Manager at the Chicago Community Trust and managed disability inclusion initiatives including the Disabilities Fund and ADA 25 Advancing Leadership. Risa is passionate about the arts and serves as the Co-Chair of the Steering Committee for the Chicago Cultural Accessibility Consortium as well as on its Board of Directors as Treasurer. Risa also serves on the Accessible Airports Advisory Committee for the City of Chicago and the Access Advisory Committee for the Chicago History Museum. Risa received a B.A. from Johns Hopkins University.
Mary Rosenberg is a Staff Attorney for the Civil Rights Team at Access Living of Metropolitan Chicago. As a Staff Attorney, Mary represents people with disabilities in fair housing cases, conducts education and outreach about disability rights laws, and is involved in public policy advocacy. Mary received a M.S.T. from Pace University and a J.D. from The John Marshall Law School.
D. Erick Allen is devoted to increasing disability diversity in the workplace. Erick is a former Director of Inclusion Consulting & Training at Access Living. Erick serves on the Chicago Jobs Council Board of Directors and previously served on the Board of Commissioners for the Chicago Commission on Human Relations. Erick received a B.A. and M.S. from Loyola University of Chicago.