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 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 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 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 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 a Senior Accessibility Specialist, Benro Ogunyipe directs and administers the bureau’s program and training activities to ensure department compliance with Titles I & II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the department’s legal obligations under the Illinois Human Rights Act. Benro has 15 plus years of professional experience in public service administration, non-profit leadership management and multiple advocacy and policy board positions driven to promote full inclusion and accessibility for people with disabilities as well as personal and professional advocacy for Deaf and hard of hearing people in all settings of the society. 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 including twice as a Commissioner of the Illinois Deaf and Hard of Hearing Commission. He served as President and Board Chairman of the National Black Deaf Advocates, Inc. Benro received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Gallaudet University and a Master of Public Administration (M.P.A.) from the School of Public Service at DePaul University.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 the Vice President, Finance & Business Manager at JPMorgan Chase. Chad serves as a member of Chase’s Access Ability Business Resource Group’s national board as the liaison to the Midwest state chapters. Chad is an alumnus of the Alpha Phi Omega National Service Fraternity (APO). Additionally, Chad is a governing member ambassador for the Chicago Zoological Society, a former member of the Museum of Science & Industry’s Mission Accessible Task Force, and an incumbent member of Access Living’s finance committee. Chad received both an undergraduate and a graduate degree from Bradley University, where he serves on the Department of Accounting Advisory Council.
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.
Adam Ballard develops policy priorities and messaging in housing, transportation, and related planning issues. He prepares public comments on proposed legislation and regulations, acts as a thought leader on integrating accessibility for disabled people, and manages relationships with elected officials and public agencies that that can help advance the advocacy agenda. Adam earned a B.A. from Lincoln Christian 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.
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 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 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.