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Bio – Speakers Bureau Women and Nonbinary Persons

Kathleen L. Brockway

RespectAbility’s National Disability Speakers Bureau

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Kathleen L. Brockway

Kathleen L. Brockway was a Nonprofit Management Fellow in RespectAbility’s National Leadership Program. RespectAbility is a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for and with people with disabilities. Kathleen earned her bachelor’s degree in 2006 from the University of Phoenix. She was a graduate student at Goucher College and studied Cultural Sustainability. She hopes to become a historian, folklorist or cultural worker to sustain deaf history and culture. [continue reading…]

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

Based in NYC, Kiah (they/she) is a filmmaker, consultant, educator, producer, Production Accessibility Coordinator, and media industry activist Their work focuses on identity, fluidity, commonality, misconception, and all things “deviant from normal” – stories from the Disability, LGBTQ+, and Underrepresented Gender Communities as well as Accessibility as a production need for all. As a person with Peripheral Neuropathic UCTD, they have a unique ability to connect to Disability intersections from Spoonie/Chronic Illness and Neurodiversity to Mobility, Vision, and Non-Verbal Communication.

Kiah’s background in disability art and education working with nonprofits like Penguin Project, Chicago Children’s Theatre, New York City Children’s Theatre, Co/Lab, Actionplay, and others, impacts the scope of their work ensuring inclusive learning is an integral part of every space they create or step into. Her education and outreach work presents research backed data that prioritizes intersectionality and flexibility as a tool to promote initiatives that uplift community wellness while creating a higher quality and more inclusive product. Kiah has spoken at The Met, MoMA, S&P Global, ReelAbilities NY, Arts for All Abilities and many more.

In 2018, Kiah founded IndieVISIBLE Entertainment, a production company and artist collective supporting and telling representational stories from Disabled and other marginalized communities. IndieVISIBLE films have been seen at festivals across the country including a Best Film win for its first short, The Identity Pas de Deux, an experimental dance film about the experience of gender identity, at the 2020 LA Feedback Festival. Through IndieVISIBLE, Kiah works as an educator, public speaker, and consultant, advocating the need for authenticity and diversity in the media industry, making films and websites and social media more accessible, and providing resources for marginalized independent artists and production groups. Especially focused on intersectional Disabled Queer TGNC stories, they continue to push for Production Access Coordinators to be included on all productions and support any creative looking to uplift unheard voices. Kiah is a 2021 RespectAbility Entertainment Media Fellow and a Dance/NYC Disability and Social Justice 2020 Fellow. www.indievisibleentertainment.com

[continue reading…]

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. Abbott was never picked first for any team sport, but had there been a Reading Olympics, she certainly would have won!

Abbott is an award-winning poet for her debut book, PORGY’S REVENGE, which is available in several libraries across the country. The book is 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.” As Abbott’s publisher asserts: “her imagery haunts, one that readers will not soon forget, even when the collection is closed.” Her poetry speaks volumes, challenging us and pushing us just as great art should.

Read an article about Abbott in The Montclair Times.

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

[continue reading…]

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 (she/her/hers) is a writer, public speaker, actress, and advocate for disability and autism representation in the entertainment industry. A graduate of Sarah Lawrence College class of 2020, Rigelhaupt’s concentrations were screenwriting, acting and psychology.

As a speaker on RespectAbility’s Jewish Speakers Bureau and Women and Nonbinary Speakers Bureau, Rigelhaupt shares her story as a Chinese, Jewish, neurodiverse adoptee. Her story breaks stereotypes of both disability and Judaism. She has shared her lived experiences and expertise through multiple speaking engagements and public/internal panels (e.g. Disney and Netflix writers’ rooms, Actors’ Equity, Sundance Film Festival, synagogues, and community organizations). Rigelhaupt publishes articles and critiques of disability representation in media, interviews with entertainment professionals, and experiences as a disabled AAPI woman. [continue reading…]

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