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Bio – Staff

Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi

Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, President

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Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, President

Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi is the President of RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for people with disabilities. She regularly works with disability organizations, national, state and local policy leaders, workforce development professionals, media, employers, philanthropists, celebrities and faith-based organizations in order to expand opportunities for people with disabilities. Mizrahi has submitted testimony on employment for people with disabilities in all fifty states and at the Federal level.

She has published dozens of op-eds and publications on disability issues, including in USA TodayThe Hill and other publications. She has columns in The Huffington PostTimes of Israel and The Mighty. Mizrahi is a co-author of Disability & Criminal Justice Reform: Keys to Success, which brought critical attention to the school-to-prison pipeline for people with disabilities and was featured on the PBS NewsHour. She is involved in the Emmy-winning TV show Born This Way and advancing diversity in Hollywood. Dyslexic herself, she also knows what it means to parent a child with multiple disabilities.

Mizrahi has met one-on-one with 43 of America’s governors on disability issues. She also has done projects with the White House and more than 60 U.S. Senators, as well as helping elect Prime Ministers and Presidents around the world. She is an expert in strategic communications, political strategy and on numerous public policies including international relations. A former spokesperson for a national political party, Mizrahi became “post-partisan” after 9/11 when she dedicated the next decade to “winning hearts and minds” on issues of terrorism and Middle East peace. She has worked with ambassadors from 85 different nations.

Mizrahi founded and led Laszlo Strategies and previously was political and training director for Campaigns and Elections magazine, campaign manager for a winning Congressional campaign, and founder of the District of Columbia Jewish Community Center’s award-winning community services program and public policy programs. She was a regular columnist for The Daily Record where she published more than 300 columns/op-eds on policy and politics. She has produced numerous videos, and has been more than a hundred times on national television including on CNN, MSNBC, FOX and others.

The co-founder/director of The Mizrahi Family Charitable foundation, Mizrahi is active in the philanthropic community. A graduate of Emory, Mizrahi also studied at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, L’Institute Catholic in Paris and successfully completed further work on performance metrics at Harvard.

Contact Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi

Reach Mizrahi at JenniferM@RespectAbility.org or on Twitter @JLMizrahi.

Meet our Staff

Learn about all of the members of RespectAbility’s staff: https://www.respectability.org/about-us/meet-our-staff/.

Lauren Appelbaum

Lauren Appelbaum, Communications Director

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Lauren Appelbaum, Communications Director

Lauren Appelbaum is the Communications Director at RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for and with people with disabilities. She brings more than 15 years of experience in strategic and crisis communications, writing, video and web production, news gathering and social media to the disability agenda. Previously she was a digital researcher with the NBC News political unit, where she worked with Chuck Todd and Andrea Mitchell.

As an individual with an acquired invisible disability – Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy – she writes about the intersection of disability, employment, Hollywood and politics. Appelbaum currently oversees RespectAbility’s outreach to Hollywood to promote positive, accurate, diverse and inclusive media portrayals on TV and in film. Working with more than 40 partners, she educates studio and network executives on the why and how to be more inclusive – both in front of and behind the camera. 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.

Appelbaum also oversees RespectAbility’s nonpartisan political outreach. She works with political candidates to ensure their campaigns are accessible (both for events and online presence) and are educated in policy issues important to the disability community. She is the Managing Editor of The RespectAbility Report (www.TheRespectAbilityReport.org), a publication at the intersection of disability and politics. During the 2016 election season, Appelbaum led a team of Communications Fellows in interviewing all of the presidential candidates about the importance of disability employment, reporting all interviews via accessible video and articles in The RespectAbility Report.

Focusing on employment best practices, she is the talent behind #RespectTheAbility campaign, which highlights model employers that demonstrate how hiring workers with disabilities benefits the employer, the employee and society. The campaign’s goal is to erase negative and untrue stigmas associated with hiring people with disabilities.

She also supervises several Fellows through RespectAbility’s Fellowship Program. Her Fellows ultimately want to go into careers in journalism, public relations, political communications or the entertainment industry.

Outside of work, Appelbaum is active in community theater. She has served in a variety of behind-the-scenes roles for more than a dozen musicals and plays. Having organized volunteer ASL interpreters and coordinated ADA seating at performances, as well as directing a nonverbal actor with cerebral palsy who uses a wheelchair, she understands first-hand the importance of inclusion of both performers and others with disabilities.

Born and raised in the Philadelphia area, Appelbaum has a master’s degree in Broadcast Journalism from Syracuse University; she also has undergraduate degrees from Columbia University and the Jewish Theological Seminary. She serves on several national and local nonprofit boards. Appelbaum currently lives in Maryland with her husband, daughter and dog.

Contact Lauren Appelbaum

Reach Appelbaum at LaurenA@RespectAbility.org or on Twitter @laurenappelbaum.

Meet our Staff

Learn about all of the members of RespectAbility’s staff: https://www.respectability.org/about-us/meet-our-staff/.

Philip Kahn-Pauli

Philip Kahn-Pauli, Policy and Practices Director

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Philip Kahn-Pauli, Policy and Practices Director

Philip Kahn-Pauli is the Policy and Practices Director of RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for and with people with disabilities. He educates leaders at the federal and state level about best practices to expand opportunities for people with disabilities. Kahn-Pauli coordinated the development and distribution of both the Disability Employment First Planning Toolkit and Disability and Criminal Justice Reform: Keys to Success report. He frequently organizes accessible webinars on best practices, which are attended by workforce boards, agencies, VR, disability organizations, public officials, artists and more – reaching a national audience of more than 2,000. Kahn-Pauli also speaks at national and regional conferences for workforce boards, agencies and professionals.

Kahn-Pauli serves as the co-chair of the Employment and Training Task Force of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD). He works with more than 110 national disability organizations to impact federal policy and move the disability employment agenda forward at the national level. At the state level, Kahn-Pauli advocates for cost effective solutions, replicable models and school-to-work transition programs for youth with disabilities.

Kahn-Pauli’s career in disability began with several years of work at a local nonprofit focused on traumatic brain injury. He holds a master’s degree in social policy and philosophy from the George Washington University and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Denver. Raised by a single mother with serious chronic health issues, he is deeply committed to building a better future for people with disabilities.

Contact Philip Kahn-Pauli

Reach Kahn-Pauli at PhilipP@RespectAbility.org.

Meet our Staff

Learn about all of the members of RespectAbility’s staff: https://www.respectability.org/about-us/meet-our-staff/.

Ben Spangenberg

Ben Spangenberg, National Leadership Program Director

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Ben Spangenberg, National Leadership Program Director

Ben Spangenberg is the director of RespectAbility’s National Leadership Program where he recruits and trains talented young leaders for careers in public policy, advocacy and media. RespectAbility is a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for and with people with disabilities.

Spangenberg was previously RespectAbility’s Special Assistant to the President and was responsible for scheduling appointments and travel for the president, coordinating monthly Board updates and assisting with the day-to-day administrative operations of the office.

He also assisted with RespectAbility’s democracy work, spending several weeks in Iowa and New Hampshire interviewing presidential candidates. He has met 100 percent of the candidates on both sides of the aisle, educating their campaigns on the importance of not only ensuring accessibility of events and materials but also creating thoughtful policies for helping people with disabilities achieve employment goals.

Prior to working with RespectAbility, Spangenberg worked on Capitol Hill and spent seven years working with a government contractor on several disability-related projects pertaining to employment, education and community living. Spangenberg received his Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley.

Contact Ben Spangenberg

Reach Spangenberg at BenS@RespectAbility.org.

Meet our Staff

Learn about all of the members of RespectAbility’s staff: https://www.respectability.org/about-us/meet-our-staff/.

Debbie Fink

Debbie Fink, Director of Community Outreach and Impact

Debbie Fink smiling in front of a building

Debbie Fink, Director of Community Outreach and Impact

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.

A published author and musician, Fink managed a woman-owned small business, developing and delivering books and programs that educate, motivate, and celebrate diverse people including those with disabilities. She also served as VP of Global Programs for a 100 percent volunteer-run organization that provided free services to families of wounded warriors and other service members. Fink’s numerous books and curricula have impacted more than 500,000 beneficiaries worldwide, and she was a recording artist on the CD All in Good Time.

With global experience developing and delivering innovative, ‘multi-intelligence’ programs, Fink’s edu-tainment has reached more than 70,000 people. The USO selected Fink as a Guest Educator and performer, sending her on global tours to edu-tain our troops’ families throughout South Korea, Japan/Okinawa, Italy, and Germany, including performing for (and with) wounded warriors. The Obama White House’s Joining Forces staff asked Fink to draft a script for former First Lady Michelle Obama, who then recorded a heartwarming video message for military-connected children. Fink shared this priceless message at her USO events in South Korea, Germany and Italy.

One of Fink’s favorite programs is her disability awareness program, entitled Brain Power! Celebrating Learning Differences. A multi-cultural, multi-intelligence program, Brain Power! was commissioned by a school serving students with learning disabilities. Fink has performed Brain Power! for approximately 4,500 students, educators and parents throughout the Washington, D.C., area.

Born in Los Angeles, California, Fink holds a master’s degree combining education, public administration and psychology from George Mason University; a bachelor’s degree in psychology from American University; and is a certified gymnastics and diving coach. She and her husband have three grown children.

Contact Debbie Fink

Reach Fink at DebbieF@respectability.org.

Meet our Staff

Learn about all of the members of RespectAbility’s staff: https://www.respectability.org/about-us/meet-our-staff/.

Franklin Anderson

Franklin Anderson, Development Manager

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Franklin Anderson, Development Manager

Franklin Anderson is the Manager of Development and Inclusive Philanthropy at RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for and with people with disabilities. Anderson is a passionate professional who fights for equal rights and opportunities for all marginalized communities. His passion in the disability space is ensuring the disability community has access to education, economic opportunity and fair representation in society broadly.

At RespectAbility, his work is focused on foundation and donor relations, as well as leading the inclusive philanthropy program. Anderson helps enable major foundations, philanthropists and corporations ensure their philanthropic dollars go the furthest – by enabling investments in organizations and programs to be inclusive of people with disabilities. Hispanic himself, he also is heavily involved in the work of RespectAbility to serve the Latinos with disabilities community, and connecting the Latino community as a whole to inclusive philanthropy.

Prior to joining RespectAbility, Anderson earned his Master’s of Public Affairs in Nonprofit Management from Indiana University Bloomington. During his time in Indiana, he worked with a local environmental organization providing volunteer management and administrative support. He also held academic positions at Indiana University, worked as a grant writer at a local nonprofit, and career development office. Anderson also served as an advisor to new nonprofits to help develop their fundraising efforts. He also earned his Bachelor’s in Political Science from Eastern Michigan University, concentrating in public policy and political theory.

Contact Franklin Anderson

Reach Anderson at FranklinA@RespectAbility.org.

Meet our Staff

Learn about all of the members of RespectAbility’s staff: https://www.respectability.org/about-us/meet-our-staff/.

Elizabeth Jones

Elizabeth Jones, Manager of Partnerships

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Elizabeth Jones, Manager of Partnerships

Elizabeth Jones is the Manager of Partnerships for RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for and with people with disabilities. A lifelong advocate for people with disabilities, she helps create positive collaborations and progress on behalf of the one-in-five people who have a disability.

She is responsible for supporting the day-to-day work of the CEO/President, building board success, ensuring smooth operation of general operations of the office and expanding impact on work for people with disabilities. Additionally, she reaches out to celebrities and advocates to increase their awareness of RespectAbility’s goals and coordinate engagement.

Prior to joining RespectAbility, Jones worked at the Computer Electronic Accommodations Program, a centrally funded Department of Defense program that provides assistive technology to federal employees of 69 partner agencies who have disabilities, as well as wounded, ill and injured Service members. In that work, she helped ensure that talented people with a wide variety of disabilities had the tools and accessibility they needed to maximize their performance.

Jones also has previous nonprofit experience advocating for migrant and seasonal farmworkers throughout the U.S. She was the Program Associate for Migrant Legal Action Program, Inc., where she supported day-to-day office requirements and directly assisted the Executive Director. Born in and adopted from Tegucigalpa, Honduras, she has lived in Poland, Brazil and New York. She graduated from Shenandoah University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Spanish Language. Jones speaks English, Portuguese and Spanish to varying degrees.

Contact Elizabeth Jones

Reach Jones at ElizabethJ@RespectAbility.org.

Meet our Staff

Learn about all of the members of RespectAbility’s staff: https://www.respectability.org/about-us/meet-our-staff/.

Eric Ascher

Eric Ascher, Communications Associate

RespectAbility Communications Associate Eric Ascher smiling in front of the RespectAbility banner

Eric Ascher, Communications Associate

Eric Ascher is the Communications Associate for RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for and with people with disabilities. As the Communications Associate, he is responsible for supporting RespectAbility’s Communications Director in developing and implementing advocacy efforts and communications of various types. Ascher manages RespectAbility’s social media channels, website and emails; organizes and develops webinars; and supervises Communications Fellows.

Ascher graduated from Goucher College in May 2016 as a communications major and political science minor. He initially joined RespectAbility as a Communications Fellow in the Spring 2018 cohort. He was drawn to RespectAbility because, being on the autism spectrum himself, he knows that people with disabilities are capable of doing great work, just like everyone else. He is excited to help RespectAbility build on its messaging because he cares about the work that RespectAbility does every day.

Ascher previously completed internships at GMMB, PFLAG National, Maryland New Directions, NIH, Verasolve and StartFinder. Through his coursework and internship experience, he has gained experience writing short and long-form blog posts, social media posts and press releases. He also has filmed and edited videos, designed websites and print flyers, proofread documents and completed research projects. In his free time, he enjoys watching and podcasting about reality talent competition shows, attending concerts and playing video games.

Contact Eric Ascher

Reach Ascher at EricA@RespectAbility.org.

Meet our Staff

Learn about all of the members of RespectAbility’s staff: https://www.respectability.org/about-us/meet-our-staff/.

Tonya Koslo

Tonya Koslo, Director of Finance and Administration

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Tonya Koslow, Director of Finance and Administration

Tonya Koslo is the Director of Finance and Administration of RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for and with people with disabilities. Koslo is an experienced administrator whose skills include database management, state charitable registrations, computers, billing, legal requirements of human resource administration, websites and support services.

Prior to joining RespectAbility, Koslo worked for Laszlo and Associates as the Executive Assistant and Office Manager and for eleven years in various capacities for the Mayor, Town Board and Town Administrator Biltmore Forest, North Carolina. In her free time, she volunteers at her church, is the president of her homeowner’s association and is active in local adoption groups.

Contact Tonya Koslo

Reach Koslo at TonyaK@RespectAbility.org.

Meet our Staff

Learn about all of the members of RespectAbility’s staff: https://www.respectability.org/about-us/meet-our-staff/.

Victor Santiago Pineda

Dr. Victor Santiago Pineda, Senior Advisor

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Dr. Victor Santiago Pineda, Senior Advisor to RespectAbility

Dr. Victor Santiago Pineda is Senior Advisor to RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for and with people with disabilities. Born in Venezuela and fluent in English and Spanish, he is advising on intersectionality and success for English-as-Second Language Learners with disabilities, inclusive philanthropy and other issues.

The President of World Enabled and the Global Alliance for Accessible Technology and Environments (GAATES), Pineda is a recognized leader in inclusive urban development and human rights. Dr. Pineda serves on the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board and serves as the Co-Chair of the Global Network for Disability Inclusive and Accessible Urban Development. He teaches as an Adjunct Professor in City & Regional Planning at University of California, Berkeley. His research explores the theory and practice of inclusive development through urban policy, planning and design. Dr. Pineda’s work helps improve equity based outcomes in urban resilience, inclusion and sustainability.

Previously he held positions as the UC Berkeley Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow, Fulbright-Hays Fellow and Senior Research Fellow at the World Institute on Disability. He has received numerous grants and awards, including a National Science Foundation (NSF) Innovation research grant, Jefferson Award, and the AAPD Paul G. Hearne Leadership Award. Dr. Pineda holds a Master’s in City and Regional Planning from UC Berkeley, and a Ph.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Meet our Staff

Learn about all of the members of RespectAbility’s staff: https://www.respectability.org/about-us/meet-our-staff/.

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