Christopher Conoboy

Chris Conoboy is the Director of Customer Success at Microsoft in the State and Local Government sector. He has been with the company since 2011. He brings twenty-four years of IT experience to the company. Chris graduated with a BS from Purdue University and a MBA from Lake Forest Graduate School of Management.

Chris has been married for 23 years and has two children. He is a Chicago Area native having grown up in Schaumburg IL. He has a passion for promoting and supporting those with disabilities in corporate America. Chris himself has a neurological disorder that affects his speaking voice and uses his experience to bring people together in understanding and awareness.

Shannon Kelly

Shannon Kelly is the Social Media Manager for United Spinal, as well as the Peer Connect Coordinator for Backbones, a Chicago based non-profit that supports people with spinal cord injuries. She plans monthly online meetings to connect the SCI community and provide resources. Shannon also helps disabled writers tell their stories through her work as an editor for Disability Horizons magazine.

Barbara Padilla

Barbara Padilla an architect with experience designing public and commercial buildings and interior spaces. Currently an accessibility specialist consultant providing review for compliance with the ADA title III public accommodations and commercial facilities. Barbara received a bachelor’s degree in architecture from UW-Milwaukee and masters from University of Illinois—Chicago.

Kirstin Safakas

Kirstin Safakas is an advocate for equity in both her personal and professional capacities. As a Community Involvement Coordinator with the USEPA, she acts as liaison to residents throughout the Superfund process. In her free time, she enjoys working with Chicago refugee families as well as traveling, cooking, and running.

Phil Mungai

Phil is an empathetic individual who can connect with people on a personal level to better understand their needs, concerns, goals, and aspirations. Phil can take that information and work with others to build a solution to any problem and ensure that everyone’s voice is heard.

James Ferg-Cadima

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.

Azeema Akram

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.

Bryen Yunashko

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.

Zully JF Alvarado

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.

Alice Palmer

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.

Benro Ogunyipe

Benro T. Ogunyipe is the Executive Director of the Illinois Deaf and Hard of Hearing Commission. He previously worked 17 years for the Illinois Department of Human Services as Senior Accessibility Specialist, Reasonable Accommodation Specialist, and Investigator of the ADA/Section 504 Discrimination Complaints . He served for 6 years as president, vice president, and chair of the board of National Black Deaf Advocates, Inc.

In 2014 and again in 2016, U.S. President Barack Obama appointed Benro to the National Council on Disability. Benro was also appointed by three different Illinois governors to public bodies and was an appointed board member of the National Association of the Deaf. He is a seasoned guest lecturer at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Disability Studies and Columbia College Chicago’s Interpreter Training Program on Multicultural Issues. Benro received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Gallaudet University and a Master of Public Administration (M.P.A.) degree from DePaul University, School of Public Service.

Kareem Dale

Kareem Dale grew up in Chicago and received his BA, JD, and MBA from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He currently serves as Director and Senior Counsel with Discover Financial Services. In 2009, he was appointed by President Obama as a Special Assistant to the President for Disability Policy, the highest ranking position on disability ever to be created by a President. At the White House, he also led outreach and engagement to the legal community, including coordinating outreach for nomination of two U.S. Supreme Court Justices and numerous federal appellate and district court judges. Before joining the Obama administration, he was the Managing Partner of The Dale Law Group, and a litigation attorney at Winston & Strawn.

Kareem was a 2017 Leadership Greater Chicago Fellow, a past president of Black Ensemble Theater, a Steering Committee member of ADA 25 Chicago, and a member of the Access Living Board of Directors. He was recently appointed by Governor Pritzker to the University of Illinois Board of Trustees.

Rachel Arfa

Rachel Arfa was appointed Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities (MOPD) by Mayor Lori Lightfoot in July 2020. Rachel comes to MOPD with years of experience as a disability and civil rights attorney. As MOPD Commissioner, Rachel leads the City of Chicago’s efforts to make Chicago a more accessible city. MOPD provides services including in the areas of independent living services (information and referral, home-delivered meals, and homemaker services), employment and youth transition services, home modifications, assistive technology, accessible housing and architectural accessibility. MOPD also creates policies on disability accessibility, accessible transportation, and emergency preparedness.

Her extensive professional, and civic leadership experience has prepared her for this role. Rachel previously was employed as a Staff Attorney at Equip for Equality, Illinois’ governor-designated protection and legal advocacy agency which advocates for the civil and human rights of people with disabilities. Her work focused on representing people with disabilities in employment discrimination cases and civil rights violations. In this role, she managed the PABSS Project and served as the Chair of the Illinois ADA Project Steering Committee.

Rachel is the President of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Bar Association and in December, 2019, made the motion using spoken language and ASL for 10 deaf and hard of hearing attorneys to be admitted to the United States Supreme Court Bar. Rachel served as the Accessibility Lead for the Women’s March Chicago, developing expansive accessibility for large scale outdoor gatherings. Rachel served on the Board of Directors for the Chicago Cultural Accessibility Consortium and the Board of Directors for 3Arts, which supports artists of color, women artists, and artists with disabilities. She is a Leadership Greater Chicago Fellow (2016), Member of ADA 25 Advancing Leadership, and a past Fellow of the Illinois Women’s Institute for Leadership (2017) and the New Leaders Council (2013). She is a graduate of the University of Michigan (B.A., American Culture) and the University of Wisconsin School of Law (J.D.).

Joe Albritton

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

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.

Patrick Maher

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.

Amber Smock

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.

Norma Jane “Janie” Mejias

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

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

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 E. Turner

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.

Risa Rifkind

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.

Adam Ballard

Adam Ballard has a demonstrated career history in advocating for housing choice and transportation access for individuals with disabilities.

He has spent the last 11 years of his career at Access Living and currently serves as a Housing and Transportation Policy Analyst. He is instrumental in developing legislation and policy by partnering with government offices, grass roots community organizations, and other stakeholder groups to set both long term and short term agendas in housing and transportation policy. Prior to his current position, he served as Access Living’s Advocacy Manager where he oversaw a team working on issues that affect people with disabilities, including education, immigration, racial justice, housing, and transportation. Prior to Access Living, Adam worked at Chicago Public Schools as a Chicago HOPES Coordinator where he helped manage a program providing educational support to youth in homeless shelters. He was instrumental in creating a 501(c)(3) that is still running today and serving youth across Chicago.

Adam also serves on several committees and advisory boards and is currently a member of Chicago’s Equitable Transit-Oriented Development (eTOD) task force, aimed at advancing racial equity, wealth building, public health, and climate resilience within the city. He is also co-chair of The Disabilities Fund of The Chicago Community Trust; serves on the Cook County Community Advisory Council for Equity; is a current Board Member of the Chicago area Fair Housing Alliance; and serves as the Vice Chair of the Land Use and Housing Committee within the Chicago Metropolitan Agency on Planning.

Adam is constantly finding ways to involve the community in his work and wants to place the decision making power in the hands of the communities that are the most vulnerable. He seeks to build relationships that allow change to happen – from grass roots leaders and those who are most affected by broader policy decisions, all the way up to partnerships with stakeholders and decision makers who can help implement those changes on a widespread level.

Mary Rosenberg

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.

Linda Mastandrea

Linda Mastandrea is a disability law attorney and Paralympic gold medalist. Prior to working with FEMA, Linda served an appointment to the Cook County Forest Preserves Conservation and Policy Council. Linda chairs the International Paralympic Committee Legal and Ethics Committee. Linda is a graduate of the University of Illinois and earned a J.D. at Chicago-Kent College of Law.

Bill Bogdan

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.

Stephanie Anderson

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.