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trainees, mentors, and guest allies at a Women and Nonbinary Speakers Bureau: NYC convening smile together

RespectAbility Launches National Disability Speakers Bureau: Women’s Division with 11 Talented Women with Disabilities

Speakers available to train organizations on how to be inclusive of the one-in-five people with disabilities

New York City, June 23 – At a time when people across America are learning about equity and justice, RespectAbility is proud to announce a brand-new National Disability Speakers Bureau: Women’s Division. These fantastic speakers are ready to offer “Disability 101” training in how to welcome, respect, and include diverse people with disabilities.

RespectAbility’s new Speakers Bureau includes 11 remarkable women with disabilities who live in New York City, who were chosen and trained to advance disability, diversity, equity and inclusion. Their diverse backgrounds, disabilities and professions have culminated in a vibrant speakers bureau. Each speaker has successfully completed RespectAbility’s intensive, seven-month training program. Following their graduation this week of the second phase of this multi-year program, they are available to speak virtually anywhere.

Five women of color with disabilities smile together

(L-R): Dr. Nelle Richardson; Khadija Bari; Dr. Donna Walton; Zazel-Chavah O’Garra, MSW; and Lachi.

“These speakers will usher in a fresh perspective and a new lens for looking at disability inclusion,” said Dr. Donna Walton, RespectAbility Senior Advisor and Consultant who has helped advance the program. Dr. Walton is also the founder of The Divas With Disabilities Project and a former member of RespectAbility’s Board.

The origin of this process, or “Phase I,” began in January 2018, when RespectAbility’s Women’s Disability Leadership, Inclusion & Advocacy initiative crafted and delivered six first-ever Empowerment Trainings for Women and Nonbinary Individuals with Disabilities, all in New York City. Each training was targeted for specific communities within the overall disability community (e.g., Latinas with disabilities, college students with disabilities, etc.). To learn more, visit its website at:

These trainings took place with support from the New York Women’s Foundation and the Coca-Cola Foundation; with thanks to fully accessible, gracious hosts: Guttman Community College (for five of the trainings) and Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan (for the sixth training). To maximize the series’ outreach and impact, approximately 40 collaborations were established with nonprofits in New York City that serve women and girls – with and without known disabilities – and its resources were developed, piloted and implemented as best practices.

Attendees at the November 2019 launch of Women and Nonbinary Speakers Bureau: NYC at Positive Exposure smile together

Attendees at the November 2019 launch of Women and Nonbinary Speakers Bureau: NYC at Positive Exposure

Debbie Fink, RespectAbility’s Director of Community Outreach & Impact who leads the Speakers Bureau initiative and its NYC pilot, said, “This speakers bureau builds the pipeline of trained self-advocates who are able to elevate the dialogue and expand the knowledge base of others so that our communities can be more inclusive, equitable and successful. These 11 dynamic women now are prepped and primed to lead ‘Disability 101’ trainings throughout New York City and beyond; both virtually and in-person (in NYC). Their voices, individually and collectively, amplify the much-needed message that advocates for disability inclusion. In the course of this seven-month training, we learned as much from them as they did from us.”

The speakers are available to deliver “Disability 101” trainings whether it be for a high school or college classroom, a volunteer or staff training for a nonprofit, a government agency, or a corporate training on disability as part of its DEI efforts. Trainings comprise appropriate interpersonal interactions with people with disabilities; disability etiquette; the “whys” and “hows” of making your work environment and its websites accessible, and more. The cost is a sliding scale and depends on the nature of the presentation, and whether it is virtual or in-person.

RespectAbility’s Hollywood Inclusion Associate Tatiana Lee has played a key role in this program, as have several RespectAbility board members:  Vivian BassShelley CohenGabby Einstein-SimIla Eckhoff and Janet LaBreck.

Participants in the program include:

Dr. Walton added, “The women leading these ‘Disability 101’ trainings as part of the Disability Speakers Bureau: Women’s Division illuminate the intersection of marginalized identities, such as race, disability, and gender. They are living testament to the power of intersectionality.”

This program is made possible with support by The New York Women’s Foundation and The Coca-Cola Foundation.
Individual headshots of 11 women with disabilities smiling

About RespectAbility

RespectAbility is a nonprofit nonpartisan organization that fights stigmas and advances opportunities so people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of community. RespectAbility provides trainings, tools and a team of speakers to elevate disability, diversity, equity and inclusion for all.

Meet the Author

Debbie Fink

Debbie Fink was the Director of Community Outreach & Impact for RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for and with people with disabilities.

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