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Ollie Cantos

Ollie Cantos, Board of Advisors – Vice Chair

Ollie Cantos smiling in front of an American flag

Ollie Cantos

Ollie Cantos has been active in the civil rights arena since 1990.  He is Special Assistant to the Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education and Member of the President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities (PCPID).  He is also Chairman of the Board of Advisors for Scholarships for Eagles, Board Member of the Virginia Organization of Parents of Blind Children, Attorney Mentor for the American Bar Association Commission on Disability Rights, and Member of the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary.  Past positions include Staff Attorney and Director of Outreach and Education at the Disability Rights Legal Center, General Counsel and Director of Programs at the American Association of People with Disabilities, Special Assistant and later Special Counsel to the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Justice, and Associate Director for Domestic Policy at the White House under President George W. Bush. Prior leadership posts include Vice Chair of PCPID, Legal Officer for the Coast Guard Auxiliary, Vice President of the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, President of the California Association of Blind Students and the National Association of Blind Students, and member of the boards of directors of the ENDependence Center of Northern Virginia, the Blind Children’s Center, the Disability Community Resource Center, Community Lodgings, the California Association to Promote the Use of Braille, and the National Federation of the Blind of California.

But Ollie is most grateful for his adoption of three blind triplet boys – Leo, Nick, and Steven.  Their compelling story has been told by National Public Radio, PEOPLE Magazine, The Washingtonian Magazine, USA Today, and videos that went viral on NowThis.com, HeartThreads.com, and others. In addition to local media coverage, they were featured as Persons of the Week on ABC’s World News Tonight with David Muir In December 2017 for attaining the coveted rank of Eagle Scout as part of Boy Scouts of America. Their story has now reached a grand total of more than 53 million views.

Meet our Boards of Directors and Advisors

Learn about all of the members of RespectAbility’s Board of Directors and Advisors: https://www.respectability.org/about-us/meet-our-boards-of-directors-and-advisors/.

Meet the Author

Lauren Appelbaum
Lauren Appelbaum

Lauren Appelbaum is the Vice President, Communications, of RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for and with people with disabilities, and managing editor of The RespectAbility Report, a publication at the intersection of disability and politics. Previously she was a digital researcher with the NBC News political unit. As an individual with an acquired invisible disability - Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy - she writes about the intersection of disability, employment, Hollywood and politics. From entertainment professionals to presidential campaigns, journalists to philanthropists, she conducts trainings on the why and how to be more inclusive and accessible. Behind the scenes in the entertainment industry, Appelbaum engages decision makers and creatives to improve the quality and number of authentic, diverse and inclusive presentations of people with disabilities on TV and film so audiences can see people with disabilities as vital contributors in America and around the world. She and her team have consulted on projects with Amazon, Disney/ABC Television, NBCUniversal, Netflix, and The Walt Disney Studios, among others. Appelbaum also enriches the pool of disabled talent in Hollywood by nurturing and connecting them to those who can assist with their careers, both on the creative and business sides of the industry. She is the author of The Hollywood Disability Inclusion Toolkit, which was created to help entertainment professionals to be as inclusive of people with disabilities as possible, and the creator of an innovative Lab Program for entertainment professionals with disabilities working behind the camera. To reach her, email LaurenA@RespectAbility.org.

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