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As Nearly 500,000 Women and Girls with Disabilities Live in New York City, Unprecedented Empowerment Training Is Created for Latinas with Disabilities

New York City, May 1 – Nearly 500,000 women and girls with disabilities live in New York City, with a stunning 44 percent of New York women with disabilities living below the poverty line. Furthermore, in the city itself, only 24 percent of Latina women with disabilities have jobs. Hence, ensuring the inclusion of diverse women with disabilities in civic engagement, nonprofits, foundations and government sectors is vital. After all, people who have struggled with challenges and know the solutions are best able to create progress.

Women with disabilities are underrepresented significantly when it comes to civic engagement in the nonprofit, foundation and government sectors. In the name of inclusion and equity, it is imperative that women – including women with disabilities – take a place and secure a space as active participants and leaders in these civic-centered sectors: as employees, volunteers and board members.

Carol Robles-Román sitting at a table holding an iPad, smiling looking to her left

Carol Robles-Román

With this backdrop, Carol Robles-Román, Esq., Hunter College’s General Counsel and Dean of Faculty and former NYC Deputy Mayor, will address critical issues impacting Latina women with disabilities in New York City on May 18, 2019 in a first of its kind program, Empowerment Training for Latinas with Disabilities. The session is part of a monthly six-part series created by RespectAbility, a national disability advocacy organization. However, it is unprecedented in its unique focus on Latinas with disabilities. Robles-Román and additional Latina speakers will talk about disability disclosure, mental health advocacy, self-advocacy empowerment tools and opportunities for civic engagement.

Ms. Robles-Román has worked tirelessly on behalf of women’s rights and the rights of New Yorkers through her stalwart leadership. She has a clear message for self-advocates and allies: “Training and advocacy work such as this are critical, as it addresses the intersectionality between women’s rights, disability rights, and civil rights – all within the Latinx community.”

“To change these outcomes, we need to shift the conversation, such that the voices of Latinas with disabilities here in NYC are heard; that we have opportunities to contribute our unique energies and perspectives; and, as a result, that our communities improve and the city changes for the better,” said Ms. Robles-Román.

Headshots of 9 speakers at the training Top row (L-R): Amanda Lopez, Allilsa Fernandez, Shirley Leyro Middle row (L-R): Clarissa Ramos-Cafarelli, Jessica Palacios, Kaliris Salas-Ramirez Bottom row (L-R): Stephanie Infante, Crystal Vazquez, Elizabeth JonesRobles-Román’s keynote speech will be bookended by the gifted singer Amanda Lopez, and followed by notable facilitators leading interactive experiences on relevant topics: Dr. Shirley Leyro, CUNY and Mental Health First Aid and Dr. Kaliris Salsa-Ramirez, CUNY School of Medicine; Clarissa Ramos-Cafarelli, HR at JP Morgan Chase and Jessica Palacios, HR at BlackRock; Stephanie Infante, Bronx Independent Living Services; Crystal Vazquez and Kris Robinson, Guttman Community College’s AccessABILITY; as well as Allilsa Fernandez, Mental Health Advocate and Debbie Fink, Vivian Bass, and Elizabeth Jones, RespectAbility.

This convening brings together key Latinx and other organizations from across New York City. Collaborators include: Hunter College; Guttman Community College; INCLUDEnyc; Girls for Gender Equity; L.O.V.E. (Latinas On the Verge of Excellence) Mentoring; Mano a Mano; Masa; Sinergia; Loisaida, Latin Women in Action; the Consulado General del Mexico en New York; and the Consulado General del Ecuador en New York.

The empowerment training series for NYC women with disabilities upskills and empowers women with disabilities and their allies. One of its goals is to engage them in New York City’s vibrant civic life as volunteers, board members and employees. Through these trainings, participants are better prepared to bring the lens of inclusion and equity to civic engagement work. Hence, they will be able to help close the representational gap in participation and civic leadership for this generation and future generations.

“Only when our place and space are secured can we ‘lean in’ and speak up, bringing the disability lens wherever we go,” said Debbie Fink, RespectAbility’s Director of Community Outreach and Impact, who oversees the NYC training series. “Only when we – as social change agents / Disability Inclusion Advocates and Allies – encourage this shift to happen can our communities and cities become accommodating for everyone, everywhere.”

Last week RespectAbility released a major new study on disability in philanthropy and nonprofits. It showed that most foundations and nonprofits exclude people with disabilities by denying them access to the good they are doing. For example, many nonprofits do not put captions on videos – which makes it impossible for people who are deaf or hard of hearing to participate. Today captions can be generated instantly and for free due to new technologies. Many of New York’s nonprofits also host public events in facilities that are not ADA accessible, hence excluding wheelchair users and others with mobility impairments.

Said Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, president of RespectAbility, “One goal of the trainings is to empower NYC’s women with disabilities to advocate and educate around the importance of inclusion and access. Indeed, there are many simple and effective measures to enable many more people to be included and successful.”

The series is made possible by funding from the New York Women’s Foundation and Coca-Cola Foundation. This Empowerment Training for Latinas with Disabilities is being hosted by Guttman Community College, which is fully accessible. ASL interpreters will be present and participants are invited to request additional accommodations on the registration forms. Online attendance also is available, with live captioning.

Empowerment Training for Latinas with Disabilities:

Date: May 18, 2019
Time: 12:30 p.m. – 4:45 p.m.
Location: Guttman Community College, Room 401, 50 West 40th St.
To participate online, register at: (only the opening presentations, not the small-table facilitated conversations following)
Cost: Lunch and training are free!

Meet the Author

Lauren Appelbaum

Lauren Appelbaum is the VP, Communications and Entertainment & News Media, of RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities so all people with disabilities can fully participate in every aspect of community. As an individual with an acquired nonvisible disability – Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy – she works at the intersection of disability, employment, Hollywood and politics. She regularly conducts trainings on the why and how to be more inclusive and accessible for entertainment executives throughout the industry. Appelbaum partners with studios, production companies and writers’ rooms to create equitable and accessible opportunities to increase the number of people with lived disability experience throughout the overall story-telling process. These initiatives increase diverse and authentic representation of disabled people on screen, leading to systemic change in how society views and values people with disabilities. She has consulted on more than 100 TV episodes and films with A&E, Bunim-Murray Productions, NBCUniversal, Netflix, ViacomCBS, and The Walt Disney Company, among others. She represents RespectAbility on the CAA Full Story Initiative Advisory Council, Disney+ Content Advisory Council, MTV Entertainment Group Culture Code and Sundance Institute’s Allied Organization Initiative. She is the author of The Hollywood Disability Inclusion Toolkit and the creator of an innovative Lab Program for entertainment professionals with disabilities working in development, production and post-production. She is a recipient of the 2020 Roddenberry Foundation Impact Award for this Lab. To reach her, email [email protected]

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