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Bio – Speakers Bureau Women and Nonbinary Persons Division

Susan Sygall

RespectAbility’s National Disability Speakers Bureau

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Susan Sygall

As CEO and co-founder of Mobility International USA, Susan Sygall is an internationally recognized expert in the area of international educational exchange, international development, and leadership programs for persons with disabilities, and especially women with disabilities. Susan, a wheelchair rider, has had a personal and professional commitment to disability rights and women’s issues for more than 30 years. She has co-authored numerous publications and has lectured throughout the world on a variety of topics related to inclusive development, international exchange opportunities for persons with disabilities, women’s empowerment, and disability rights. [continue reading…]

Ila Eckhoff

RespectAbility’s National Disability Speakers Bureau

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Ila Eckhoff

Ila Eckhoff, CPA, Managing Director, is a member of BlackRock’s Business Operations as part of Investment Operations. She is responsible for leading BlackRock’s Industry and Counterparty Management strategy and TSS Services for Aladdin clients. Ms. Eckhoff serves on a number of committees, including the Business Operations and Technology Leadership Committees, and Government Relations Steering Committee. She is also a leader of Blackrock’s ABN- Ability Network. [continue reading…]

Shelly Christensen, MA, FAAIDD

RespectAbility’s National Disability Speakers Bureau

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Shelly Christensen

Shelly Christensen is a pioneer in the Jewish and interfaith disability inclusion movement. She is an international speaker, author and consultant. Her newest book is From Longing to Belonging–A Practical Guide to Including People with Disabilities and Mental Health Conditions in Your Faith Community.

After one of Shelly’s sons was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, she recognized herself in the literature she poured over to understand ADHD.  Soon after being diagnosed, she earned her Master of Arts degree in Developmental Disabilities at St. Mary’s University. Her graduate research and thesis focused on the experiences of parenting a child with a disability. A few years later, Shelly was diagnosed with depression and anxiety disorder. Shelly candidly shares her living with a mental health condition in her book and her presentations. [continue reading…]

Denise Sherer Jacobson

RespectAbility’s National Disability Speakers Bureau

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Denise Sherer Jacobson

Author/educator Denise Sherer Jacobson, M.A., has worked as an activist, counselor, administrator, and oral historian (at UC Berkeley) in the Independent Living Movement for over 50 years. She penned the multi-layered memoir, The Question of David: A Disabled Mother’s Journey Through Adoption, Family, and Life,  as well as a plethora of disability/Jewish-themed blogs, articles, stories, and poetry published on websites and in newspapers, magazines, and anthologies. In 2015, she was the subject of a New York Times online photo essay. She is the story consultant for the acclaimed 2020 Netflix documentary Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution and a featured personality in the film. She is deeply connected to her Jewish community, helping to establish the Access Committee of  Temple Sinai (Oakland) in 2003, and acting as its first Chair. Sherer Jacobson has given presentations on disability-related issues both nationally and worldwide. As a writer/educator, her goal is “Weaving the Disability Experience into the Tapestry of Living.[continue reading…]

Kiah Amara

RespectAbility’s National Disability Speakers Bureau

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Kiah Amara

Kiah Amara (she/they) is a New York City based filmmaker, interdisciplinary artist, producer, consultant, and activist. Their work focuses on identity, fluidity, commonality, misconception, and all things “deviant from normal” – stories from the Disability, LGBTQ+, and Underrepresented Gender Communities.

With over a decade of experience in Disability Art and Education with Nonprofits like Penguin Project, Chicago Children’s Theatre, New York City Children’s Theatre, Co/Lab, Actionplay, and others, they founded IndieVISIBLE Entertainment in 2018 as a way to provide safe and freeing creative space for Disabled artists and knowledge for non-disabled peers. IndieVISIBLE Entertainment has appeared at festivals across the country and consulted with organizations such as TIE (Theatrical Intimacy Education) and The Okra Project. Kiah designs Sensory Friendly Sets, inclusive production processes, and consults on everything from accessible integrated web design to Disability Justice on international and intersectional levels. Valuing a community approach, they have worked on dozens of projects from pre- through post-production with a focus on Production Access Management with Universal Design and fully integrated inclusion practices.

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Erika Abbott

RespectAbility’s National Disability Speakers Bureau

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Erika Abbott

Erika Abbott is a native of Manhattan and was raised in Montclair, NJ. She began her advocacy very early in life as the ringleader of the disabled posse, the small group of children that had varying disabilities at her school. Though she was young, Ms. Abbott perceived the absurdity and poignance of their challenges. Never picked first for any team sport, had there been a Reading Olympics, Abbott certainly would have won!

Abbott is a recipient of the 2016 Bookvana.com Poetry award for her debut book, PORGY’S REVENGE, endorsed by Tom Hanks, “These poems are from the soul, personal and particular. they are not from us, but speak of us….” and Olympia Dukakis, “PORGY’S REVENGE contains the unique writings of an extraordinary poet-a story-teller both in content and in style.”

Read an article about Abbott in The Montclair Times.

Read some of Abbott’s poetry in our Shabbat Smile.

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Jordyn Zimmerman

RespectAbility’s National Disability Speakers Bureau

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Jordyn Zimmerman

Jordyn Zimmerman obtained her bachelor’s degree in Education Policy from Ohio University and is currently a graduate student at Boston College studying Curriculum and Instruction.

Diagnosed as autistic, Jordyn has challenged the status quo in the education system for many years. Technology helped open Jordyn’s world and in 2014, she began advocating for students through a series of national and global speaking engagements. Jordyn has keynoted conferences such as Alan November’s Building Learning Communities (BLC) and National Council of Teachers of English  — sharing an engaging and powerful message that reminds audiences to believe in the dignity of all people. Jordyn has written blogs for companies in Amsterdam and has been featured by educators in Singapore. To learn more about her work, follow Jordyn on Twitter @Jordynbzim or visit www.JordynZimmerman.com. [continue reading…]

Lisa Sage

RespectAbility’s National Disability Speakers Bureau

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Lisa Sage

Lisa Sage was born in Michigan and moved to California when she was five and a half years old, almost six years old.  She then grew up in Palm Springs, CA, and graduated high school. She then went to UC Riverside and earned her Bachelor’s degree in Human Development and graduated in four years. She then went on to California State University, Northridge, where she earned her Master’s degree in Public Health. She then had some volunteer jobs and part-time jobs before getting her full-time job as a Health Educator for the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services. [continue reading…]

Ava Xiao-Lin Rigelhaupt

RespectAbility’s National Disability Speakers Bureau

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Ava Xiao-Lin Rigelhaupt

Ava Xiao-Lin Rigelhaupt just graduated from Sarah Lawrence College (NY) this May with a BA. Ava has been an actor, writer, and advocate for disability and autism representation in the entertainment industry since 2017, when she became a founding member of a new neurodiverse theatre company, Spectrum Theatre Ensemble, in Rhode Island. Ava wrote and collaborated on the company’s first show, “Identity Spectrum,” about living with a disability. During that time she was a neurodiverse intern with Trinity Repertory Company to create their first complete sensory friendly season. (Sensory Friendly makes performances accessible to patrons with sensory sensitivities such as Autism or PTSD). She was also invited to speak on her first panel, at the Theatre Communication Group’s National conference about being a neurodiverse artist. [continue reading…]

Rachel Handler

RespectAbility’s National Disability Speakers Bureau

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Rachel Handler

Rachel Handler is an actor and filmmaker based in New York City. She grew up by the beach in South Jersey and went to school for musical theatre at Westminster Choir College in Princeton. After graduating she worked at esteemed regional theatres, Bucks County Playhouse and Princeton Festival Opera. On her way to an audition, she was hit by a car and lost her left leg on impact. At the age of twenty-four Handler had to choose between chasing her Broadway dreams or finding a different path. She ended up doing both.

At the time of her accident, Handler had no idea what a prosthetic leg even looked like, let alone how much one would cost. Since joining the disabled community she’s found a passion for writing, producing and directing; advocating for disability inclusion in every project she creates. She won the AT&T Underrepresented Filmmaker Award for her short, “Committed” and the Sundance Co//ab June Monthly Challenge for her script “The A Doesn’t Stand for Accessible.”

Her writing and producing credits include the award-winning short films, “The Housewarming,” “HOW MUCH AM I WORTH?” “The Vanished,” and “Authentically Me” which won the Reelabilities 27 Second Film Competition and screened in taxi cabs throughout NYC. Handler’s TV acting credits include co-starring roles on Law & Order: SVU, Goliath, New Amsterdam, Bull and guest starring on NCIS: New Orleans. Some of her favorite stage credits since the loss of her leg include Lady Anne in Richard III and Maria in The Sound of Music.

Handler has given speeches and lead panels at universities and companies around the country, like Monmouth University, The University of New Haven, and Ogury. She discusses many disability related topics, including disability employment, healthcare and health insurance, and disability representation in the entertainment industry. [continue reading…]

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