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Bio – Speakers Bureau Women and Nonbinary Persons

Baksha Ali

RespectAbility’s National Disability Speakers Bureau

Baksha Ali holding a white cane, smiling

Baksha Ali
Photo courtesy of Rick Guidotti, Positive Exposure 109

Baksha Ali (she, her) was a Community Outreach Fellow in RespectAbility’s National Leadership Program (Spring 2020). Ali was born in Bangladesh. Her family moved to the United States when she was six years old because she was diagnosed with Retina Pigmentosa (RP). Ali attained her Associate’s degree in Business Administration in LaGuardia Community College in New York City in June 2017. Recently, she graduated from Queens College with her Bachelor’s degree in Sociology. During summer 2019, she served as a Work Force Development Intern at VISION, a nonprofit organization that assists people with disabilities in attaining employment and finding alternative ways to live an independent life. Her role consisted of conducting online research and locating job fairs and networking events for a client case load of 30 job seekers with disabilities. [continue reading…]

Carly Okyle, MA

RespectAbility’s National Disability Speakers Bureau

Carly Okyle headshot smiling

Carly Okyle

Carly Okyle (she, her) is a self-advocate and proud New Jersey native who earned her Bachelor’s degree in English from Tufts University (go Jumbos!) and her Master’s degree in journalism from NYU (go Violets!).

Okyle has written about disabilities from various angles – both in reported pieces and in essays that reflect her lived experience with Cerebral Palsy – for publications including Time.com, School Library Journal and Entrepreneur.com, among others. Okyle has wanted to be a writer and a journalist for as long as she could remember, and she dreams of one day running a disability-centric publication. These days, she merges her writing skills with her disability advocacy as a Writing Specialist, wherein she teaches writing and literature to adults with developmental disabilities with the ADAPT Community Network (formerly United Cerebral Palsy of New York City). [continue reading…]

Ketrina Hazell

RespectAbility’s National Disability Speakers Bureau

Ketrina Hazell seated in her wheelchair, smiling

Ketrina Hazell
Photo courtesy of Rick Guidotti, Positive Exposure 109

Ketrina (“Trina”) Hazell (she, her) is the former Ms. Wheelchair NY 2018. She resides in Brooklyn, NY. Hazell’s platform is to bring self-advocacy into schools and make them more inclusive. A strong self-advocate, motivational speaker, blogger and college student, Hazell graduated from Partners in Policymaking in 2014. Hazell is the founder of her own advocacy group called Voices of Power. She is affiliated with many disability-related organizations. Hazell serves on many disability related councils. [continue reading…]

Khadija Bari

RespectAbility’s National Disability Speakers Bureau

Khadija Bari walking down a street holding a white cane, smiling

Khadija Bari
Photo courtesy of Rick Guidotti, Positive Exposure 109

Khadija Bari (she, her) is the Student Career Coordinator in the Workforce Development department at VISIONS/Services for the Blind & Visually Impaired. VISIONS is a nonprofit rehabilitation and social service organization whose purpose is to develop and implement programs to assist people of all ages who are blind or visually impaired to lead independent and active lives in their homes and communities.

Bari lives in Queens, New York with her husband, stepdaughter and their dog. Bari was born in Pakistan and immigrated to the United States at the age of 22 with her parents and younger brother. It is then that she learned she had a disability and was diagnosed as being legally blind. Bari wrote a personal reflection that RespectAbility published during Women’s HERstory Month in 2020. [continue reading…]

Lauren Arena

RespectAbility’s National Disability Speakers Bureau

Lauren Arena smiling wearing glasses and a suit jacket. Arena is a wheelchair user.

Lauren Arena
Photo courtesy of Rick Guidotti, Positive Exposure 109

Lauren Arena (she, her) is Ms. Wheelchair NY 2020 and an accomplished Wheelchair Ballroom Dancer, and a certified dance therapy teacher. In 2021, Arena plans to compete for Ms. Wheelchair America. Her platform as Ms. Wheelchair NY is to encourage others to hold tight to never give up on their dreams; to share her passion for wheelchair ballroom dancing; and to raise awareness and funds for MEAK (Myoclonic Epilepsy and Ataxia).

Arena is one of only 20 known cases of MEAK worldwide and was the first person in the United States to be diagnosed with MEAK.  She is the co-founder of the Lauren Arena Foundation for MEAK Research page on Facebook to spread awareness about MEAK and to connect with others who have the condition. Arena also co-founded the Lauren Arena Fund for MEAK Research at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia where promising research is being done into a possible treatment for MEAK. To date she has raised more than $21,000 that is being used to conduct further research. [continue reading…]

Lachi

RespectAbility’s National Disability Speakers Bureau

Lachi smiling headshot seated backwards on a chair.

Lachi
Photo courtesy of Rick Guidotti, Positive Exposure 109

Lachi (she, her) is an award nominated recording artist and songwriter with releases on SONY, Universal Music Group (UMG) and Warner Music. Lachi is a voting member of the Recording Academy and member of the Grammy Advocacy committee. Her songs have aired on TV, radio and feature film. She is prolific in Pop EDM and Soul, with songs featured on Oprah Radio, Huffpost, YourEDM, CBS, NPR, MTV, CW, Oxygen and more.

Legally blind, Lachi does not allow her disability to limit her creative endeavors: she is also an author, voice-over actress, performing artist, musical director and record producer. She performs music and presents keynotes at festivals and disability awareness events across the country. [continue reading…]

Zazel-Chavah O’Garra, MSW

RespectAbility’s National Disability Speakers Bureau

Zazel Chavah O'Garra smiling headshot

Zazel Chavah O’Garra
Photo courtesy of Rick Guidotti, Positive Exposure 109

Zazel-Chavah O’Garra (she, her) is a brain tumor survivor, disability advocate, social worker, dancer, actress, model, and founder and artistic director of ZCO/DANCEPROJECT. O’Garra holds a Master’s degree in social work from Fordham University, and currently works with the Brain Injury Association of New York State and YAI/National Institute for people with disabilities. [continue reading…]

Pamela Schuller

RespectAbility’s National Disability Speakers Bureau

Pamela Schuller smiling headshot with her hands behind her head

Pamela Schuller

As a teen, Pamela Schuller had the worst-diagnosed case of Tourette in the country, a touch of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and a whole lot of pent-up anger. She spent years depressed, suicidal, and wishing her differences away. Over time, she started looking at her life differently and turned her obstacles and challenges into the very fuel that propels her. [continue reading…]

Rabbi Lauren Tuchman

RespectAbility’s National Disability Speakers Bureau

Rabbi Lauren Tuchman smiling headshot

Rabbi Lauren Tuchman

Rabbi Lauren Tuchman is a sought after speaker, spiritual leader and educator. Ordained by The Jewish Theological Seminary in 2018, she is, as far as she is aware, the first blind woman in the world to enter the rabbinate. She provides consulting to individuals and organizations across the Jewish community on a variety of matters pertinent to disability access and inclusion. She has taught in numerous synagogues and other organizations across North America. She was named to the Jewish Week’s 36 under 36 for her innovative leadership concerning inclusion of Jews with disabilities in all aspects of Jewish life. In 2017, she delivered an ELI Talk entitled We All Were At Sinai: The Transformative Power of Inclusive Torah. She is a participant in the Institute for Jewish Spirituality’s Clergy Leadership Program. In 2020, she was honored by the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance (JOFA).

[continue reading…]

Lily Coltoff

RespectAbility’s National Disability Speakers Bureau

Lily Coltoff smiling in front of the RespectAbility banner

Lily Coltoff

Lily Coltoff was a Communications Fellow in RespectAbility’s National Leadership Program for Spring and Summer 2020. Originally from Philadelphia, Coltoff graduated in December 2019 from American University in Washington, D.C., with a bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies and Public Health. Her decision to pursue these majors came from a passion for writing and science, as well as a desire to make health information more accessible and understandable to everyone. [continue reading…]

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