New Member Application

ADA 25 Advancing Leadership is seeking new Members to join the Members Network. Apply today to join as a new Member!

Applications are open year-round!

For questions regarding this opportunity, contact Risa Jaz Rifkind, or 312-994-4215.

For questions regarding technical issues when submitting your application, contact


Lead With Power and Influence

Are you ready to lead with power and influence by serving on a nonprofit board, public board, or making change at your company, but just need a platform to move your leadership plans forward? Join ADA 25 Advancing Leadership to access exclusive leadership opportunities and an empowering network of leaders.

Members are positive disrupters who are leading with their disability identity shaping a more inclusive, just, and equitable society.

New Member Benefits

Being part of the Members Network gives you access to:

  • A network of over 140 leaders with disabilities who are supporting each other’s leadership plans to lead at tables of power and influence
  • Networking events throughout the year
  • Mentors for civic engagement, leadership development, disability rights advocacy, and more
  • Opportunities to expand participation in civic engagement in the nonprofit and public sectors
  • Training sessions/materials on disability rights and civic engagement
  • Speaking opportunities on panels, facilitation, media interviews, etc.
  • Scholarships to relevant conferences or trainings
And more!


You may apply to be a Member if you:

  • Identify as a person with a disability
  • Have a passion for civic engagement & some demonstrated experience
  • Have at least 10 years of leadership experience (professional or volunteer)
  • Live in the seven-county Chicago region
  • Are familiar with (or willing to learn about) disability identity


New Members are expected to:

  • Attend monthly programming (currently virtual opportunities)
  • Commit to any new leadership position’s specific requirements

How To Apply

1. Submit your application. APPLICATION LINK

2. Selected applicants will be invited for a short interview.

3. Join the Members Network!


There is no cost to apply to Advancing Leadership. Events and program offerings will have nominal costs for participation.


Only completed applications will be considered; a completed application includes one nomination form.

To complete the application:

1. Start your application here: APPLICATION LINK

2. You can save and continue as you work, and we encourage applicants to save work as a separate document. If the information is lost due to technical issues and we are unable to retrieve an application, you will have a saved document.

3. Identify your nominator. Once you identify your nominator in the application, an automatic email will be sent to them. One nominator is required for consideration. They must be from a professional context, either an employer or supervisor.

4. Complete part one and two including the short answer questions and uploading your resume. You may preview the questions here: New Member Application Download

5. Be sure to click submit to finish the application.

6. Once both steps (application and nomination) are completed, you will receive an email from staff notifying you that your application is complete. The email will include details regarding next steps if applicable.

Alternate Formats

Alternate formats are available upon request, including in Spanish. Contact Risa Jaz Rifkind to request alternate formats, or 312 994 4215.

Application FAQ

Who should apply?

Applicants who identify as having a disability and are passionate about civic engagement and ready to join a nonprofit board, public board, or are already serving in leadership positions including at work or in their communities.

What information will help strengthen my application?

Appropriate answers include information that illustrates how joining Advancing Leadership will further identified goals as well as how you lead with your disability identity.

Who is a Nominator?

A Nominator should be a professional reference and someone familiar with your talent, experience and passion for civic engagement and can speak to that. (You cannot serve as your own Nominator.)

What is the difference between this application and the application to participate in the Leadership Institute?

The  Leadership Institute is a year-long program for emerging leaders with disabilities. Fellows participate in intensive retreat sessions, year-long mentoring, and additional networking events to grow leadership skills and disability identity. To learn more, visit the Leadership Institute page.

This application to join the Members Network is for established leaders with disabilities who have a track record of demonstrated leadership. Additionally, new Members may have a further understanding of their disability identity. New Members will participate in a number of events and program offerings throughout the year, but will not be required to attend an intensive retreat session.

How do you define disability?

Disability is a natural part of the human experience and can be  visible, invisible, or acquired. ADA 25 Advancing Leadership uses the broad definition of disability, which is a person who identifies as having a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity. For example, some, but not all, Members accepted into this program self-identify as: blind, Deaf, low vision, Autistic, Deafblind, hard of hearing, having a physical or mobility, mental health or learning disability.

Can I save and return to my application?

You can save and return to your application for Step One and Step Two by generating a private password. You are encouraged to save work as a separate Word document in case you experience technical difficulties.

Why does the application include questions about gender, sexual orientation, disability, race and ethnicity, and veteran status?

ADA 25 Advancing Leadership seeks to collect a variety of demographic information about our applicants. Your response will not influence a decision regarding acceptance and will only be used to help measure our success in attracting a diverse applicant pool. Please note that you are only required to indicate your self-identified disability, all other information is voluntary.

While we annually review and revise this section based on user feedback with the intention of including diverse response options, we would like to acknowledge that this system is imperfect. We recognize the limitations of the response options provided and value the opportunity for all applicants to self-identify. We encourage the utilization of the “Other” response option as a way to self-identify beyond the categories provided.

Additionally, we have created a resource to further explain the various category options. We encourage applicants to educate themselves on the variety of ways that individuals self-identify in order to promote learning and inclusive interactions. Click here for this resource.

If you have any feedback, we welcome you to reach out to Risa Rifkind at

What is an accommodation and what accommodations are provided?

Advancing Leadership is committed to a high standard of accessibility and creating a fully accessible experience. Accommodations are your right as a person with a disability. In an employment setting, “reasonable accommodations are adjustments or modifications that enable people with disabilities to perform the essential functions of a job efficiently and productively.” (See  Ask EARN). For Advancing Leadership, reasonable accommodations pertain to all of our activities and programs.

To date and as an example, Advancing Leadership has provided the following accommodations on request: communication access real-time translation (CART) (on site and remote), American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation, Cued Speech transliteration, screen reader tagging of PDF/Word documents for JAWS, wheelchair accessible venues with accessible bathrooms and entry points, adjusted/added break time, preferential seating, and scent-free environments. Participants have also brought their personal assistants, service dogs, and support personnel as needed for a participant to participate fully. We also ask for dietary preferences for all meals provided throughout the program. For additional examples of accommodations, please see  Ask JAN. Accommodations, program activities, and requirements are discussed as one-on-one conversations upon acceptance into the program or prior to interviews as needed.

I’m interested in supporting ADA 25 Advancing Leadership. How do I do that?

Thanks for your intended support! Advancing Leadership is supported by generous donors like yourself. For ways to get involved by donating, contact Alex Perez-Garcia, or 312-994-4216.