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RespectAbility Doubles Board: Congressman, TV pioneer and other leaders join RespectAbility’s board

New members include principal authors of the ADA Steve Bartlett and Tony Coelho, as well as inventor of reality television, Jonathan Murray

Rockville, Md., May 10 – RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization working to empower Americans with disabilities to achieve the American Dream, is proud to announce that we have added major leaders to our boards of directors and advisors. Our diverse board of directors now includes the Congressional co-authors of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the inventor of reality television, and major leaders in philanthropy, communications, management and business. Our board of advisors includes experts who are steeped in disability issues and nonprofit management.

Founded in 2013, RespectAbility works to educate, sensitize and engage Americans to focus on what people with disabilities can do, rather than on what they cannot. RespectAbility seeks to increase the number and percentage of Americans with disabilities who engage in competitive, integrated employment, start and sustain their own businesses, lift themselves into the middle class and participate in their communities. In its first two-and-a-half years, RespectAbility met one-on-one with 43 of the nation’s governors and all of the presidential candidates, including those who have since suspended their campaigns, to discuss issues of concern to people with disabilities – especially employment and stigma. Collaborating with Jonathan Murray and A&E, RespectAbility promoted Born This Way through an event on Capitol Hill and social media, helping to get the show renewed for a second season. RespectAbility’s social media channels continue to grow, with more than 57,000 fans on Facebook and nearly 5,000 followers on Twitter.

“We are thrilled to add a wonderful group of leaders to our boards,” RespectAbility Co-Founder and Chair Donn Weinberg said. “For decades, approximately 70 percent of working-age Americans with disabilities have been outside the workforce. We are building a strong, coordinated and bipartisan voice for the 1-in-5 Americans who have a disability.”


In order to further this work, RespectAbility’s board of directors welcomes five new members, bringing the total size to 10 directors. We also have five leaders on our board of advisors.

Our board of directors recently welcomed our new members:

Headshot of Steve Bartlett

Steve Bartlett

The Honorable Steve Bartlett

was the principal author of 18 major pieces of legislation — including many legislative initiatives on advancing the cause of independence for people with disabilities — while serving as a member of Congress from 1983 to 1991. In addition to being a principal author of the Americans with Disabilities Act, legislation included Medicaid eligibility, Section 1619 for Medicare eligibility, supported employment, assistive technology, creation of Towards Independence, the President’s Council on Handicapped 1984 report, and mainstreaming reforms for IDEA. He currently serves as a Senior Advisor with Treliant Risk Advisors and has more than 30 years of experience in financial services, business strategy, corporate governance, ethics and compliance, and public policy at the highest levels of the private sector and government.

headshot of Tony Coelho

Tony Coelho

The Honorable Anthony “Tony” Coelho

has spent his entire adult life helping advance the lives of people with disabilities. He calls this his “ministry” while those in the disability community call him their “voice” and “champion.” Diagnosed with epilepsy when he was 22 years old, Coelho’s ministry is marked by significant milestones: primary author and sponsor of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) — the most important piece of civil rights legislation in the last 30 years; advocating for the ratification of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; and convincing President Clinton to establish the Office of Disability Employment Policy at the U.S. Department of Labor. Coelho continues to advocate for civil rights for individuals with disabilities by convincing President Obama to issue an executive order enforcing Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requiring federal contractors and subcontractors to hire people with disabilities as they have been doing since 1973 for women and minorities.

Headshot of Judith Creed

Judith Creed

Judith Creed

is an accomplished business and healthcare professional with more than 45 years of working experience. She is a founding member of Linda Creed Breast Cancer Foundation; Operation Smile, Philadelphia; and Judith Creed Homes for Adult Independence (JCHAI). Presently, Creed sits on the board of the Schwartz Foundation and is the Board Chair of JCHAI. The Schwartz Foundation supports Jewish charities, as well as Israeli, educational and disabilities organizations. JCHAI provides supportive, inclusive independent living and vocational training for people with disabilities. JCHAI serves more than 100 people with disabilities. Seventy percent of the JCHAI members are employed in competitive employment. All live independently with JCHAI supports.

Headshot of Jonathan Murray

Jonathan Murray

Jonathan Murray

is widely credited with helping to usher in the modern reality television genre with his late partner Mary-Ellis Bunim. He continues to inspire, influence and entertain television audiences worldwide. Since the launch of The Real World on MTV in 1992 through Bunim/Murray Productions (BMP), Murray has created and executive produced some of the industry’s most innovative, unscripted, entertainment television programs from The Real World to Born This Way (A&E), which documents the lives of young adults with Down Syndrome and their families. In 2007, his company launched BMP Films, which sold its first critically acclaimed documentary, Autism: The Musical, to HBO.

 

head shot of Robert Schwartz

Robert Schwartz

Robert Schwartz

is the President and CEO of Food Sciences, Inc., which is a corporation that manufactures and sells weight loss programs and nutritional supplements to hospitals, diet clinics, individual doctors and weight loss companies. He personally funds The Schwartz Foundation and supports nonprofits who serve underserved children, after-school education, Israel, people with disabilities and the Jewish Community. Fifteen years ago, Schwartz established and personally funded a national after-school program called Foundations, Inc. that still provides services to school-age, underserved children.

“Our new board members represent different areas of our work and are poised to enhance RespectAbility’s level of expertise,” Weinberg said. “Change will require strong bipartisan cooperation, and we are so pleased to have both Steve Bartlett and Tony Coelho join our board, bringing bipartisan support to an issue important for all. In addition, as we ramp up our efforts to reach out to Hollywood and the media, we welcome Jonathan Murray’s critical support. Judith Creed and Robert Schwartz have expertise in running their own foundation as well as faith inclusion.”

These new board members join five existing board members.

  • Co-Founder and Chair Donn Weinberg, executive vice president of the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation;
  • CEO & President Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi
  • Co-Founder and Secretary Shelley Cohen, founder and director of The Jewish Inclusion Project and active advocate for the inclusion of children with disabilities in Jewish educational and recreational environments;
  • Evelyn Kelley, a young self advocate with a severe hearing disability who graduated from RespectAbility’s Fellowship program;
  • Thomas “Doc” Sweitzer, cofounder of The Campaign Group, a Democratic consulting firm with offices in Philadelphia and Washington.

In addition to its Board of Directors, RespectAbility is honored to have five disability leaders on its Board of Advisors.

head shot of Linda Burger

Linda Burger

Linda L. Burger, MSSW,

became CEO of Jewish Family Service Houston in 2005. Under her leadership, the agency has quadrupled its programs and services and been recognized as a premiere social service agency in the region. She is particularly proud of her leadership in launching the JFS Disability Services Department and The Alexander Institute for Inclusion, the 2014 recipient of the Ruderman Prize in Inclusion. She serves as the President of Houston’s Network for Behavioral Healthcare Providers, the CEO network of  Houston’s thirty leading mental health agencies and hospitals.

Headshot of Dana Marlowe

Dana Marlowe

Dana Marlowe

is an architect of inclusion and accessibility. She is the Principal Partner and co-founder of Accessibility Partners LLC, a disability and accessibility advocacy IT consulting firm. From empathetic personal practices to making an accommodating workforce in her business, she fights for a world that accepts the contributions of those with disabilities. As an accessibility subject matter expert, Marlowe has been featured in national and international industry publications to promote inclusivity. Marlowe lives with her family near Washington, D.C.

Headshot of Donna Meltzer

Donna Meltzer

Donna Meltzer

is CEO of the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities (NACDD), a national nonprofit organization that supports the nation’s 56 governor-appointed Developmental Disabilities Councils that work within state government to promote independence, productivity and integration of people with disabilities through systems change activities. In this capacity, Meltzer oversees the organization’s public policy and advocacy agenda as well as technical assistance to the members. Previously she was the senior director of government relations for the Epilepsy Foundation.

Image of Debra Ruh standing behind her daughter Sara Ruh with a slideshow projector behind them

Debra and Sara Ruh

Debra Ruh

created and built Tec-Access, an ICT Accessibility firm, with the majority of employees being technologists with disabilities. By 2011, Ruh had built TecAccess into a multi-million-dollar firm. She then created Ruh Global Communications and became a global disability inclusion strategist. Her daughter, Sara, who was born with Down Syndrome, is an internationally renowned keynote and motivational speaker. Ruh, who is extremely active on social media and blogging platforms, is the co-founder of AXSChat, a Twitter chat about accessibility and disability inclusion.

Headshot of Steven James Tingus

Steven James Tingus

Steven James Tingus

is recognized as a national expert on disability, aging and health care policy. Tingus has more than 20 years of experience in managing policy issues impacting the disability community, including advocating for diversity and inclusion within the entertainment industry. Tingus worked at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in Washington, D.C., as deputy assistant secretary for Planning and Evaluation for Disability, Aging and Long-Term Care Policy. Previously, Tingus served as director of the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research.

“RespectAbility continues to grow and expand our impact,” Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi said. “By doubling our board with more leaders from the community, I am excited about new possibilities and opportunities. As we prepare to welcome the summer class of fellows to our National Leadership Program, we are poised to double down on our efforts to remove stigma and other barriers facing people with disabilities for employment and other issues.”

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RespectAbility Staff
RespectAbility Staff

For more information, email info@RespectAbility.org.

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