Ashley is the PR Coordinator at Access Living. While in college, Ashley competed as the first NCAA triathlete with a disability that required sport-specific adaptations and advocated for the inclusion of people with disabilities in collegiate sports and youth sports. Ashley currently coaches athletes of all ages in adaptive sports.
Brianna Morgan is an African American woman who is differently-abled and has ADD tendencies. She holds college degrees in Health Education and Library and Information Studies. She works full time as a school Librarian. She volunteers with several organizations in her community advocating for equity in educational services and supports.
Alana Clark has a deep passion for finding ways to empower underserved communities through a holistic educational approach to health, which she believes includes everything from nutritional, physical, mental, and medical health to environmental, financial, cultural, and academic health. She strongly believes this vision will help break cycles of poverty and facilitate languages of justice and equity. Alana’s passion stems from her personal experiences growing up socio-economically disadvantaged in Chicago, receiving a B.A. from Princeton University, working in corporate America, and later being diagnosed with a disability.
Kira has worked with children and adults with disabilities for over 17 years in a variety of non-profit, community-based, and educational settings. Professionally, she is an Occupational Therapist and presently serves as a Community Reintegration Advocate at Progress Center for Independent Living. Much of her work has involved supporting individuals who utilize assistive technology and adaptive equipment as a means for communication, completing activities of daily living, supporting mobility, and accessing their environments.
Pursuing her Clinical Doctorate was an extension of her strong belief in the importance and need for service delivery to promote consumers’ and families’ self-determination and to further utilize consumer-directed approaches and empowerment strategies that enhance their choice and control. More specifically, her doctoral project was a continuing education course for educational professionals that support transition-aged youth who have communication barriers. Kira also serves as a special ed advocate for her little cousin, and recently became an Educational Surrogate Parent.
In light of the pandemic and the health disparities our community is facing, Kira also serves as the primary co-leader of the PPE for People With Disabilities Coalition. Her work involves accessing and distributing PPE to folks with disabilities and Personal Assistants living Cook County, as well as engaging in public policy work that addresses the dire need for people with disabilities to be prioritized in Illinois’ emergency response.
Kira is presently developing a business doing home and building modifications, named Empowering Design, LLC.
Pat Daley has dedicated his professional life to working on behalf of people with disabilities, the less privileged, children and bringing the arts and culture to the people of Chicago. He has over 25 years of experience working in the nonprofit sector and in governmental arenas in the city of Chicago.
Most recently, Pat has worked on the numerous projects to advance opportunities for people with disabilities including ADA25 Chicago, and advising and advocating for businesses owned by people with disabilities in Cook County procurement opportunities.
Pat has also authored and illustrated six books for children.
Hugo Trevino is a first-generation Mexican American. Hugo graduated from the University of Illinois at Champaign Urbana ‘14 and Loyola University Chicago, M.Ed. ‘18. During his undergraduate/graduate career, he has studied abroad 5 times to Costa Rica, China, Taiwan, Vietnam, and Italy. Hugo’s history involves advocating for Latinxs, LGBQTIA, and people with disabilities rights on education, healthcare, and self-advocacy. Hugo’s passion led him to his current position helping students access higher education at UIC.
Laura Isaacs has 20+ years of experience as an Executive Assistant and is an Executive Assistant in the Professional Standards Group at Grant Thornton LLP. In addition to her role as the National Coordinator for the Diverse Abilities & Allies BRG, Laura is also a lived experience volunteer with NAMI Chicago.
Chris Huff is a 29-year-old African American male from Chicago’s Southside. He grew up in Auburn-Gresham where he developed a passion for social change and civic engagement. He went on to receive his Bachelor of Arts in Political Communication and Economic Development from Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, Ga. Then, he received his Master of Arts in Social Administration from the University of Chicago – School of Social Service Administration. He has 5+ years of professional experience that includes working with organizations such as Mikva Challenge, Jewish Council on Urban Affairs, Nextdoor, University of Chicago, Vera Institute of Justice, and the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice.
Shannon Maher is currently part of the Exelon Talent Acquisition Team as a Recruiting Programs Specialist. As a rising Human Resources professional she creates and implements recruiting programs strategies that maximize best practices to attract and hire top talent.
Robert Green has worked for 3 years at the University of Illinois as a Peer Health Navigator. The program helps people with disabilities effectively advocate for themselves in order to achieve quality healthcare outcomes. Prior to this, he was the drummer for Chicago Lights for more than 10 years, writing, recording and touring with the band. He is a graduate from Loyola University in Chemistry, and the University of Chicago in Biochemistry/medicine.
Attorney Anthony (“Tony”) M. Abou Ezzi is the Founder of Ezzi Law, a premier law firm in the heart of downtown Chicago that provides legal services in the area of Estate Planning (Wills, Trusts, Powers of Attorney, Special Needs Trusts). He represents families in Probate court in cases of Adult Guardianship, Disability Law, and when a loved one passes. Tony founded Ezzi Law in 2014 after being selected by the Chicago Bar Association’s Justice Entrepreneurs Project.
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.
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.
Jewel Holly Ware is the Owner and Founder of Jewels of Success with a personal mission to provide people with opportunities for personal and professional growth and success. Jewel is a leader in the areas of leadership and management and the interplay between beliefs and behaviors. Jewel earned an M.A. in Organizational Management from Ashford University and B.S. from Northern Illinois University.
Angel received her doctorate in women’s studies at the University of Maryland College Park. After completing her postdoctoral fellowship in the College of Applied Health Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago, she became Healthcare/Home and Community Based Services Policy Analyst at Access Living. She is responsible for monitoring disability rights developments in healthcare and home and community-based services and facilitating systems advocacy efforts through an intersectional lens.
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.
James A. Ferg-Cadima has built a public service career on shaping and enforcing civil rights protections at the federal, state, and local levels. In July 2019, Governor JB Pritzker appointed Ferg-Cadima as Chair of the Illinois Human Rights Commission (Commission), which adjudicates claims of unlawful discrimination under the Illinois Human Rights Act. His appointment is awaiting confirmation before the Illinois Senate.
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.
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.
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.
Karen Tamley was named the new president and CEO of Access Living in January 2020.
Before that, she served as Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities in Chicago for 14 years, where she tackled disability policy and accessibility initiatives under three Chicago mayors. Karen led disability-related work in the areas of transportation, city infrastructure, technology, emergency planning, education, and employment. She also oversaw the delivery of direct services including in-home supports, home accessibility modifications, and employment services to thousands of youth and adults with disabilities.
Karen was appointed by President Obama in 2016 to serve on the United States Access Board, which develops national accessibility guidelines and standards. In March of 2019, she was elected Chair of the Access Board.
In becoming CEO of Access Living, Karen is returning to her roots. She worked at Access Living from 1996 to 2005, under founding CEO Marca Bristo, first for three years as the Housing Policy Coordinator and then for six years as the Director of Programs.
Prior to that, she was the Housing Director at Atlantis Community, Inc. a Center for service and advocacy for people with disabilities in Denver, Colorado.
Tamley has a depth of experience serving on a wide variety of community and nonprofit boards that focus on cultural experiences and diversity and inclusion.
In 2015, Karen received the Motorola Solutions Excellence in Public Service Award from the Civic Federation, which recognizes a non-elected government official for having an extraordinary impact on the quality of state and local government services in Illinois, and she received the Distinguished Fellow award from Leadership Greater Chicago.
Karen is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley. She lives in Chicago with her husband, Kevin Irvine, and their adopted teenage daughter, Dominika. All three have disabilities themselves and are actively involved in grassroots disability advocacy locally and nationally.
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.
Daisy Feidt has worked at Access Living for more than 20 years. She has held a wide variety of management positions and led the organization through multiple strategic planning processes. She has extensive management experience in fundraising, evaluation, and program implementation.
Daisy is an alumna of Leadership Greater Chicago, a prestigious and competitive program that provides community awareness and networking opportunities for leaders in Chicago. Daisy is on the board of BPI, a public interest law, and policy center and is the vice president of the Illinois Network of Centers for Independent Living, the state association of centers for independent living.
Amber has served as Access Living’s Director of Advocacy since 2010. She is responsible for executing Access Living’s advocacy vision through policy, community organizing, and issue education, with support from across Access Living’s program departments. She guides Access Living’s strategic partnerships and significant networking efforts at the local, state, and national levels across a range of disability topics, including healthcare/home- and community-based services, housing, education, transportation, racial justice, immigration, and incarceration of people with disabilities.
Amber facilitates the federal-state working group Disability Power for Community Integration. She also supports international disability learning exchange, particularly through the U.S. Professional Fellows Programs. Amber is a skilled presenter and trainer, a member of ADA25 and Leadership Greater Chicago, and a recipient of numerous local and national awards for her disability advocacy.
Amber is a proud member of the Deaf community who grew up in mainstreamed schools, learned ASL as a young adult, and now relies on lip-reading, ASL interpreters, and video relay technologies for communication access.
As an instructor and doctoral candidate in Disability Studies at University of Illinois at Chicago, Norma Jane Mejias’s work explores experiences of young women with disabilities in support groups. Janie has been involved in disability rights advocacy and many groups at Access Living. Janie is also passionate about volunteering for Canine Companions for Independence with service dog Haven. Janie earned a B.A. from St. Andrew’s Presbyterian College and a M.S. from University of Illinois at Chicago.
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.
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.
Chad Turner is a Director, Senior Treasury Product Manager at Bank of America in Chicago. Previously Chad worked at JPMorgan Chase, where he was a member of Chase’s Access Ability Business Resource Group’s national board as the liaison to the Midwest state chapters. Chad serves on the board for ADA 25 Advancing Leadership as Treasurer and is also an incumbent member of Access Living’s finance committee. Chad is an alumnus of the Alpha Phi Omega National Service Fraternity (APO). Chad previously served as a governing member ambassador for the Chicago Zoological Society, and as a member of the Museum of Science & Industry’s Mission Accessible Task Force. Chad received both an undergraduate and a graduate degree from Bradley University, where he currently serves on the Department of Accounting Advisory Council.
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.
Risa Jaz Rifkind is a justice advocate who seeks to make change by shifting access to power and influence.
As Director of Civic Engagement and Marketing, Risa propels the organization to realize its vision to have people with disabilities lead with power and influence. By identifying and developing strategic partnerships, Risa positions Members to take on leadership roles that advance their careers, civic engagement, and equity for people with disabilities. By integrating this vision into all internal and external communications, she leads Advancing Leadership’s brand awareness, public and private Member programming, and community engagement and outreach. She is also an Advancing Leadership Member.
Previously, Risa was Program Manager at The Chicago Community Trust where she developed their disability inclusion priorities and practices and managed several disability inclusion initiatives including the Disabilities Fund, ADA 25 Advancing Leadership, and ADA 25 Chicago. With the Disabilities Fund, Risa supported a rebrand and strategic plan redesign that resulted in a 500% increase in annual grantmaking for which she acted as the program officer. During 2015, ADA 25 Chicago leveraged the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act to move the spirit of the law forward. This included engaging and supporting over 200 partner organizations’ commitments and event.
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 is an attorney on Access Living’s civil rights team. She represents people with disabilities in discrimination cases, conducts education and outreach about disability rights laws, and is involved in public policy advocacy. Formerly, as an attorney at Prairie State Legal Services, Mary represented homeowners in foreclosure. Prior to law school, Mary taught middle and high school special education in New York City. She completed her undergrad degree at Loyola University in Chicago and received a master’s degree in special education from Pace University. She graduated from John Marshall Law School in the top 3 percent of her class.
Margaret Rose McDonnell is the Director of the Learning Center and Disability Services at Saint Xavier University, working closely with students and faculty providing services and academic assistance to students with disabilities. Margaret received a B.A. and a M.Ed. from Saint Xavier University.
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.
Stephanie Anderson brings commitment and drive to ensure that all Vaughn High School students have opportunities to engage within the community. Prior roles include Diverse Learner Supporter at Chicago Public Schools and an Intervention Specialist/School Psychologist for Northern Suburban Special Education District. Stephanie founded Friends of Vaughan. Stephanie earned a B.A. from Western Michigan University and an M.A. from Concordia University.