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Three women with disabilities

Training for Female College Students with Disabilities and Their Allies

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About Our Presenters

Barbara Bookman smilingBarbara Bookman is CUNY’s University Director of Disability Programs. Prior to her role at CUNY, she was the Director of Services for Students with Disabilities at Queensborough Community College. She earned her Master of Arts, Counseling & Vocational Rehabilitation, from Teachers College, Columbia University.

Crystal M. Vazquez headshotCrystal M. Vazquez is the Associate Director of AccessABILITY Services and Women’s Resources Services Specialist at Stella and Charles Guttman Community College. She has extensive equal access and leadership experience in higher education. Ms. Vazquez holds a master’s degree in public administration and a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Her work focuses specifically on equal access, developing diversity and social justice focused programs specifically around college success and supporting young adults through their educational journey.

Brilynn Rakes headshotBrilynn Rakes is originally from Visalia, California. She completed a dual-degree program in New York City at Fordham University earning both a BA in Communications and Media Studies and a BFA in Dance from the Ailey/Fordham Dance Program. In addition to performing in various concerts in California and NYC, she also competed in the New York City Finals of the Youth American Grand Prix in 2012 and 2013. In addition, Rakes was featured as the AT&T Spotlight Performer on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars where she performed alongside Emmy-nominated dancer and choreographer Derek Hough. Currently, Rakes is working toward a degree in Business Administration and resides in Rhode Island with her fiancé.

Rebecca Gross headshotRebecca Gross was first diagnosed with a variety of learning disabilities, at the age of eight, and transferred to several different mainstream day schools before eventually ending up in a specialized school for learning disabilities, where she remained through the end of high school.  She then transferred back into mainstream education and, with the help of appropriate accommodations, graduated from Sarah Lawrence College in 2017 with a BA in Liberal Arts concentrating in Theater, Disability Studies, and Education. She was one of the leaders of the Sarah Lawrence Disability Alliance (SLCDA) an organization focusing on addressing issues of disability rights and accessibility on campus and in the surrounding community.  In this role, she led weekly meetings giving students with disabilities a platform to support one and other and planned events and publications aimed at highlighting the perspective of disabled students and disability rights in general for the wider student body.  As a leader of this organization she also acted as a student representative on the administration’s Ad Hoc Accessibility Committee and contributed ideas and research to the architectural design team for a new student center which is set to be completed later in 2019. Currently, Rebecca is working as a tutor for students with disabilities, teaching general study skills, homework help, and a variety of specific subjects.  She is also the Art Specialist for a Sunday social skills program for students with Autism Spectrum Disorder.   She has recently begun working towards a Master’s Degree in Disability Studies from the CUNY School of Professional Studies and is pursuing a career in disability advocacy.  She is passionate about providing students with disabilities with practical self-advocacy skills so that that they can find success in their desired field.

headshot of Gabrielle Einstein-Sim smiling and facing the camera wearing a tank top color photoGabrielle Einstein-Sim is a graduate of the University of Michigan where she studied economics. She is currently a Master’s Student in Community Health Education at Teachers College Columbia University. She is a member of the Jewish National Fund’s Disability Task Force, focusing specifically on the Special in Uniform program, which enables people with disabilities to serve in the Israeli army.

Valora Blackson smilingValora Blackson, Director of Partnerships & Community Engagement for Guttman Community College, is an innovative thinker, visionary leader, and dynamic career coach. She joined the Guttman team in 2015 and has strategic oversight for Partner Relations with the primary goal of developing industry partnerships for experiential, workforce, and career preparation opportunities for the Guttman student population. Valora holds degrees from Medaille College and the Ohio State University and is currently pursuing a PhD in Postsecondary Education and Adult Learning. Valora has held past Board positions with the Staten Island Arts Council, the American Association of University Women, and the New York City Employment and Training Coalition.

Candace Cable smilingCandace Cable is a Public Policy/Employment Fellow in RespectAbility’s National Leadership Program for Spring of 2019. Cable’s involvement in sports after a spinal cord injury in 1975 at the age of 21 gave her renewed health, the ability to socially re-engage and a purpose in life. After her 27-year Paralympic athletic career, she uses this platform to effect positive global cohesive change for people with disabilities through her disability education training, consulting, writing, volunteering and speaking.

Learn more about our New York training series and register to attend in-person:

Meet the Author

Debbie Fink
Debbie Fink

Debbie Fink is Director of Community Outreach and Impact for RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for and with people with disabilities. She brings more than 15 years of diverse leadership experience in public health, education and arts programming to serve RespectAbility’s mission. Fink has a lifetime commitment to enabling people with disabilities to have a better future and is passionate about the constructive impact volunteers can make in the world. To reach her, email

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