Gene Skonicki is a graduate of Georgetown Law where he co-founded a group for law students with disabilities. He has clerked for three federal judges and currently serves as a permanent law clerk to a federal judge in Chicago. Before law school, Gene was the CTO of a successful technology start-up.
Deb Decker is an Assistant General Counsel at Commonwealth Edison Company. Deb avidly supports enhancing diversity and inclusion in business and works on various initiatives supporting that goal. She is a graduate of North Central College (B.A. in Spanish, Psychology and Speech Communications/Theatre) and University of Wisconsin Law School (J.D.).
Keidra Chaney is a writer and communications professional focused on reproductive justice, disability justice, accessibility, and equity/inclusion. Her two-decade career includes experience in independent magazine publishing, non-profit digital strategy, and social media training. She is a Certified Professional in Accessibility Core Competencies by the International Association of Accessibility Professionals (IAAP).
Corryn Antonizio is the Sustainability and Social Responsibility Champion at RTC Industries, a leading global design and manufacturing firm that specializes in creating retail experiences. RTC is headquartered in Rolling Meadows and has a presence in 13 countries with over 900 employees. As Sustainability and Social Responsibility Champion, she leads RTC’s efforts in reducing their impact on the global environment as well as supporting the overall diversity and inclusion program.
Ann has over 30 years of advertising experience. Previously, she was Vice President at the Brenda Borri Company where she wasthe sales partner for the US territory and developed relationship with advertising agencies, public relations firms, companies, and consultant in the national 10-second television media marketplace. Ann’s volunteer experience includes serving as President of the board of SitStayRead and Treasurer of the Women’s March Chicago.
Molly Wiesman has volunteered for disability organizations including Best Buddies, Easter Seals DuPage, and the Human Library of Chicago. She serves as a member of the Board of Directors for Tellin’ Tales Theatre. She is currently employed at an IT Security firm in Chicago’s western suburbs.
Christophe Quancard is a manager with Deloitte’s tax practice. Christophe is part of the Global Employer Services group, assisting clients with their global mobility policies and practices for employees on international assignments. Christophe has over 15 years of experience in Global Mobility consulting and International Human Resources.
Anne Nash is a Google for Education Senior Program Manager who works to create tools and programs that empower all learners to reach their highest potential. She has been with Google since 2012. Anne believes strongly in enhancing diversity, equity, and inclusion; and is particularly passionate about accessibility and improving opportunities for everyone. Anne holds a degree in psychology and international studies from Northwestern University.
Abdul Hakim Khan grew up in Pakistan and relocated to Pittsburgh to study Engineering. After graduating he worked for John Deere in Iowa and then joined Honeywell in the Chicago area. He has worked in different roles since then and is currently a Manager in the Honeywell Energy Services Group.
Nakia J. Green is the founder of Culture Solutions and Culture Solutions In Action, for-profit and not-for-profit organizations designed to decrease unemployment and underemployment amongst minority and disabled college graduates. She also founded Nakia J Consulting, a consulting firm with specialized capabilities in Leadership Development, Organizational Development, and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Nakia hopes to further the conversation on invisible disabilities in the workplace and its impact on minorities.
Ather Sharif is a PhD Student studying Human-Computer Interaction at University of Washington, and a Software Engineer at Comcast’s Core Application Platforms Team. Ather is passionate about researching accessibility and developing tools to make the web a more accessible place. Ather is a recent graduate of Saint Joseph’s University with a M.S. in Computer Science and earned his B.S. in Software Engineering from the GIK Institute of Science and Technology in Pakistan.
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.
Bryen Yunashko is the Owner of Access 256 Productions. Bryen is a national DeafBlind advocate and leader, and currently serves as president of the Chicagoland DeafBlind Alliance and was recently appointed to the congressionally-mandated FEMA National Advisory Committee’s Integrated Public Alert and Warning Systems Subcommittee. Bryen attended Gallaudet University and then California State University, Northridge, studying film.
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.
As Director of the Division of Rehabilitation Services, Rahnee Patrick directs Illinois’ state agency to assist Illinoisans with disabilities to reach personal goals of employment and education. Rahnee conceived the ADAPT Youth Summit, and was the recipient of the 2008 Paul Hearne Award of the American Association of People with Disabilities. Rahnee graduated from Indiana University and co-founded Students Together Able and Respected, comprised of disabled students.
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.
Horacio Esparza is the Executive Director of Progress Center for Independent Living, an Independent Living Center serving suburban Cook County. Horacio is also the host of a radio show called Vida Independiente. Horacio is a member of Not Dead Yet and the Illinois Statewide Hispanic Council. Horacio served on the ADA 25 Chicago steering committee. Horacio earned a B.A. from University of Wisconsin Whitewater and a degree in philosophy from Autonomous University of Guadalajara in Jalisco, Mexico.
Since 2006, Justice Anne M. Burke has been a member of the Illinois Supreme Court’s First Judicial District. Prior to joining the Supreme Court, she served the Appellate bench from 1995. Prior to her judicial career, Anne was a physical education teacher with the Chicago Park District, working with children with disabilities. Anne went on to co-found the Chicago Special Olympics in 1968 and later served as director as it grew to become the International Special Olympics. Anne served as interim chair for National Review Board of the United States, Conference of Catholic Bishops and currently sits on the Executive Steering Committee of Kennedy Forum Illinois. Justice Burke earned a B.A. from DePaul University and a J.D. from Chicago Kent College of Law.
Greg Polman (Sr. Vice President of Public Policy)’s career at The Lighthouse spans over 30 years, and has managed 14 different programs and serves as The Lighthouse’s representative on a number of governmental and community Board, committees and panels. Greg serves as co-chair of the Service Delivery Committee of the Chicago Cook Workforce Innovation Board and is Chair of the RTA Transit Access Citizens advisory Board and is the former Chair of the Statewide Rehabilitation Council. Greg is a member on the Mayor’s Task Force for Employment for People with Disabilities. He also sits on several other committees for the City that advocate for accessibility issues. Greg has a B.A. from Southwestern Minnesota State University and a M.A. from Southern Illinois University.
Tuyet Le serves on the board of Access Living, the Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community, and the Leadership Fellows Association for Leadership Greater Chicago. Tuyet formerly served on the Board the Illinois Coalition for Immigrants and Refugee Rights and Asian Americans Advancing Justice. Tuyet is a member of the Advisory Board for the Chicago Community Trust’s Disabilities Fund. Tuyet is a Leadership Greater Chicago Fellow (2004). Tuyet received a B.A. from Northwestern University.
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.
Commissioner Karen Tamley leads numerous disability policy and accessibility compliance initiatives in transportation, city infrastructure, emergency preparedness, housing, education, and technology. Karen serves as the City’s representative regarding disability related policy on Board and committees, including the Pace Board of Directors. In 2015, President Obama appointed Karen to the United States Access Board. Additionally, Karen serves on the Board of Director’s for the Kohl Children’s Museum and Meals on Wheels Chicago Executive Committee. Karen was Co-Chair ADA 25 Advancing Leadership Steering Committee. Karen is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley and a Leaderhsip Greater Chicago Fellow (1999).
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.
Since 1999, Daisy Feidt has led Access Living through multiple strategic planning efforts and has managed both development and program operations activities. Daisy serves as Vice President of Board of Directors for the Business and Professional People for the Public Interest. She also serves on the Board of Directors for the Illinois Network of Centers for Independent Living. Daisy is Leadership Greater Chicago Fellow (2007) and holds a B.A. in Psychology from Lawrence University.
We recently lost distinguished member and disability rights champion, Marca Bristo, President and CEO of Access Living. You can read more about her career here and the civil rights she championed for our community.
After her passing, many news outlets chronicled her life championing the rights of people with disabilities. A selection is below. Rest In Power.
Marca Bristo was the Founder, President, and Chief Executive Officer of Access Living. In addition to heading Access Living, one of the nation’s leading disability rights organizations and centers for independent living serving Chicago, Marca Bristo served as the Presidentially-appointed chairperson of the National Council on Disability from 1994-2002. As the former president of the National Council on Independent Living, she worked with the broader civil rights community on the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1987, the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988, and the Americans with Disabilities Act. She is the most recent emeritus President of the United States International Council on Disabilities, a member of Human Rights Watch Disability Advisory Committee, and the co-chair for the ADA 25 Chicago Steering Committee.
Bristo received the Distinguished Service Award of the President of the United States for her role in the creation and passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). She was named a Henry B. Betts Laureate for significantly improving the quality of life for people with disabilities, and earned the 1993 United Way of Chicago Executive of the Year Award. She was also was named by Crain’s Chicago Business as one of Chicago’s 100 Most Influential Women, the Chicago Sun-Times list of 100 Most Powerful Women, and named 2007 Chicagoan of the Year, by Chicago Magazine and has received numerous other awards and honors.
Bristo was a Trustee of Rush University, a Board member of Forefront, a Life Member of the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, a member of The Chicago Network, a Leadership Greater Chicago Alumni, and was appointed as a co-chair of Governor-elect Pritzker’s Transition Committee on Human Rights. She earned a B.A. from Beloit College and a B.S. in Nursing from Rush University.
Amber Smock oversees policy, community organizing, leadership development, and issue education as the Director of Advocacy at Access Living. Amber is a Commissioner of the Cook County Commission on Human Rights, as well as a member of the Illinois Department of Health and Family Services Medicaid Advisory Committee. She served on transition subcommittees for both Governor Pritzker and Mayor Lightfoot. She is the facilitator of the federal-state working group Disability Power for Community Integration. Amber is a member of ADA 25 Advancing Leadership and Leadership Greater Chicago (class of 2014), and a recipient of several local and national awards for her disability advocacy.
Cheryl (Farney) Hahn is a Certified Recovery Support Specialist and works as Trilogy, Inc.’s Development Coordinator. 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.
Kim Brown is a Senior Business Analyst for Commonwealth Edison. Prior to coming to ComEd, Kim worked for Chicago Public Schools as a Teacher and Reading Coach. Kim is Ms. Wheelchair Illinois 2012 where she advocated for persons with disabilities focusing on wheelchair accessibility in the workplace as well as assisted rehab technology legislation. Kim is the former President and current Liaison of the Exelon Resource Group ENABLED which educates employees about disability awareness. Kim has recently been elected to Project A.L.E.X Board of Directors as the Co-Director of Outreach. Project A.L.E.X. is a charitable organization working together to creating a safe living environment for young adults with disabilities and individuals without disabilities, thereby fostering a community atmosphere. Kim earned a B.A. and M.A. at Saint Xavier University and an M.A. from Concordia University.
Mark Williams develops and manages foundation and government grants at United Way of Metro Chicago. Mark has served the nonprofit and disability communities for many years and was a member of both the Statewide Independent Living Council of Illinois and the Illinois ADA Project Steering Committee. Mark earned his B.A. in American Studies from Lake Forest College and M.S. in Human Services Administration from Spertus College. He currently serves on the Boards of Directors at Blind Service Association, and Mental Health Association of Greater Chicago.
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.
At Discover, Chaitanya Manchanda is the founder and co-chair of the Discover’s employer resource group, “Accentuating Discover Abilities.” Chaitanya is actively involved in spreading awareness, advocating for disability rights and representing the Deaf/Hard Of Hearing (HOH) Community. Chaitanya was an Executive Committee Member of the Hearing Loss Association of America in Chicago Lincoln Park for two years. Chaitanya earned a B.S. from the University of Windsor in Ontario, Canada.
Bridget Hayman specializes in digital, media, and content marketing with 19 years of experience activating cross-channel communication strategies in healthcare, finance, and the nonprofit sector. Before joining Access Living, Bridget was the director of digital content marketing at Easterseals’ national headquarters and served as the associate director of public relations and social media at Valence Health. Prior to that, she built and executed social media strategies from the ground up for both the American Dental Association and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois. She began her professional career at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
Bridget is a 2018 University of Chicago Civic Leadership Academy Fellow, a 2017 ADA 25 Advancing Leadership Fellow, and a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar. She holds a master’s degree in visual culture from Lancaster University, England, and a triple bachelor’s in English, journalism, and public relations from the University of Northern Colorado.
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.
Francine Bell started The Hilliard Foundation to honor her parents and support families of children with disabilities. Francine is a writer and consultant on disability issues and serves on the Pace Paratransit – Chicago ADA Advisory Committee, Access Living Program Committee, State of Illinois Rehabilitation Council, and the Chicago Disability Coalition, a faith-based effort advancing the inclusion of people with disabilities in churches in Chicago.
As Deputy Commissioner of Compliance, Joe Russo is responsible for reviewing compliance with applicable accessibility codes during the building permit process. Previously, Joe held positions with Illinois Attorney General and the US Department of Justice. Joe serves on the Board of Directors of Openlands and the Center for Disability and Elder Law. Joe earned a B.A. from Georgetown University and a J.D. from New York University School of Law. Joe is a Leadership Greater Chicago Fellow (2007).
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.
Benjamin Lachman is co-founder of Cue Everything, a new media communications channel that curates and produces creative video content about Cued Speech. Benjamin currently serves on the National Cued Speech Association Board of Directors as the Director of Development and is an Advisory Council Member of the Alexander Graham Bell Montessori School. He earned a B.A. from California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo and an M.B.A. from the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Sam Knight is an Independent Living Advocate and community organizer focused on promoting the rights of people with disabilities. Sam is a member of the ADA 25 Advancing Leadership Program Committee. He is also a graduate of Concordia University.
Clark Craig is a Community Organizing Advocate for Progress Center for Independent Living and is responsible for leadership development and organizing people with disabilities and their supporters to create systemic changes. Clark is a lead member of Progress Center’s Membership and Outreach Committee. Clark serves on the Strategy Team for United Power for Action and Justice and as Treasurer for Chicago ADAPT (The Chicago chapter of National ADAPT). Clark received a B.S. from Concordia University and a M.S. from DePaul University.
Jose Mendez consults with businesses to improve programmatic and physical accessibility and to increase disability diversity in employment. Prior to consulting, Jose was previously Program Director at the Illinois Department of Human Services. Jose was a member of the Illinois Council on Developmental Disabilities, the Workforce Employment Resource Collaborative, and the Anixter Center Human Rights Council. Jose earned a B.A. and M.Ed. from the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Bill Bogdan is responsible for the coordination, development, and implementation of programs and services for persons with disabilities for the Illinois Secretary of State’s Office. In 2010, Bill was appointed by the Governor of Illinois to Chair the Illinois Council on Developmental Disabilities. In addition, Bill serves on the Illinois Elevator Safety Advisory Board, the Illinois State Library Talking Books and Braille Service Advisory Council, the Board of Directors for the Spinal Cord Injury Association of Illinois and the Diveheart Foundation. Bill graduated with honors from DePaul University, and is active in many sport and recreational programs offered through Adaptive Adventures and the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab Adaptive Sports & Fitness Program.
Linda Bannon founded Look Ma, No Hands to educate the community and advocate for people with disabilities. Linda is a peer mentor for children with limb differences and their families. Linda is a former teacher for the Bellwood Schoold District. Linda received a B.A. from Elmhurst College and an M.B.A. from Benedictine University.