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Staff Spotlight

Staff Spotlight on Nelly Nieblas

Nelly Nieblas smiling, seated in a wheelchair on a sidewalkNelly Nieblas is the Manager of Policy, Advocacy and Engagement at RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities so people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of community.

Nieblas is a first-generation college graduate from the University of Southern California and a proud Latina with a physical disability. She also holds an MPA from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. [continue reading…]

Staff Spotlight on Vanni Le

Vanni Le smiling in front of a staircase

Vanni Le

Vanni Le is RespectAbility’s first-ever Entertainment Outreach Program Manager. She brought brand strategy and program management experience from both the entertainment and nonprofit fields, having previously worked at the Walt Disney Studios, Sony Pictures Entertainment, the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, March of Dimes and most recently A+E Networks.

“Vanni Le has only been on our team since November of last year, but she already has made a massive difference,” said Lauren Appelbaum, Vice President of Communications at RespectAbility. “As our work in the entertainment industry continues to rapidly expand, we are so lucky to have her on our team.” [continue reading…]

Staff Spotlight on Ian Cherutich

Headshot of Ian Cherutich smiling in front of trees and bushes.

Ian Cherutich

Ian Cherutich only joined RespectAbility’s Staff in October 2020. But in just a few months, he has already helped expand RespectAbility’s capacity to build partnerships with foundations and other nonprofits, enabling our national footprint to grow in size and scope.

“Although I have been with the organization for less than a year, it has already been a very educational experience,” said Cherutich. “RespectAbility’s development department tackles each opportunity for funding in a thoughtful way and includes different staff members’ perspectives to inform our approaches.  Having met with advocates of our work in the nonprofit and philanthropic spaces, I can see that the reputation we’ve built will continue to pay dividends as we push for the full inclusion of people with disabilities in all spheres of life.” [continue reading…]

Award-Winning Cinematographer Nasreen Alkhateeb Channels Progress on the Campaign Trail

Nasreen Alkhateeb smiling headshot

Nasreen Alkhateeb

New York City, Nov. 12 – Nasreen Alkhateeb is an award-winning director and cinematographer who has dedicated the last decade to creating content that amplifies underrepresented voices. She is a leader on diverse storytelling projects that include broadcast, digital, and film. Most recently, she has spent the last two months as the cinematographer for Kamala Harris’ campaign as she was seeking the Vice Presidency. I sat down with her after the monumental win to discuss her creative trajectory, life on the campaign trail, and what the future of American filmmaking looks like.

When did you start developing your voice?

I started to develop my voice at a young age… It didn’t feel like a good thing then, because I was ostracized for being different and othered. People didn’t really know how to relate to me, because of my ethnicity, culture, my parents’ religion; because of my skin color. I was raised by a women’s rights activist who taught me at a young age to ask for what I want – and to use my voice not just on behalf of myself, but the people around me as well. At Pratt Institute, I found a community that was like me in that it used its artistic gifts to create work that can potentially influence the world. That was there I started to envision how I can take my weird film, sculpture, and monster make-up, and turn it into social justice work. [continue reading…]

Steinberg Uses Personal and Unique Understanding of Disability Community to Help Others Achieve Success

Joshua Steinberg headshot wearing a suit and tie

Joshua Steinberg

Joshua Steinberg lives near the beach and enjoys spending his free time there, as well as walking and playing fetch with his beloved dog Shady. During the day, Steinberg spends his time working to make change possible for others with disabilities. Recently that has included fighting to ensure that people with disabilities who rely on food stamps can get food delivered at home. That way they do not have to risk a virus in-order-to eat.

“It only takes one act of kindness to change a person’s life for the better,” he said. “People with disabilities are often an overlooked population. I do not believe that having a disability should hinder you from success, and because of that, it is my passion and mission in life to give others with disabilities the opportunities and skills they need to succeed with their disability and advance their lives for the better.” [continue reading…]

Eric Ascher: Conversation Starter and Disability Agenda Setter

Eric Ascher smiles taking a selfie at Apple Park's visitor center

Eric Ascher at Apple Park’s Visitor Center

Eric Ascher is one of the most interesting young leaders in America. He’s a fountain of knowledge around two key passions – live television talent contests and innovations in technology. It’s like he’s always looking for the best in man and in machines.

Eric Ascher is the Communications Associate for RespectAbility, where he is on the front lines of fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for and with people with disabilities. As the Communications Associate, he is responsible for supporting RespectAbility’s Vice President of Communications 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. [continue reading…]

Franklin Anderson Brings A Passion for Equity and Better Future

Franklin Anderson smiling, standing in front of a waterfallRockville, Maryland, Oct. 9 – Franklin Anderson is quiet and unassuming. Yet, when it comes to advancing equity, access and inclusion, he’s a lion. As RespectAbility’s Manager of Development and Inclusive Philanthropy, he is on the front lines of fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities so people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of community.

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. “No effort to benefit a community is complete until it is accessible for all members of that community,” Anderson said. [continue reading…]

Debbie Fink Makes Powerful Moments

Debbie Fink smiling in front of a buildingRockville, Maryland, June 28 – Known for her multidisciplinary approach and exemplary soft and hard skills, Debbie Fink is the Director of Community Outreach and Impact for RespectAbility. Maximizing this approach and dual skillset, she efficiently and effectively crafts trainings, programs and events that elevate purpose, deepen understanding, broaden community and quantify impact.

What does that mean, and how does she do it? A keen observer of all people around her, Fink elicits personal stories, cultivates connectivity and garners buy-in. Fink then identifies common threads among individuals and groups, pinpoints gaps and weaves together programming that promotes powerful change – change that is woven with earned trust, mutual respect and common goals.

After any such event, Fink assesses impact through ongoing surveys, data collection and analysis. At RespectAbility, Fink’s trainings, programs and events advance opportunities and fight stigmas for—and with—people with disabilities. Several best practices have emerged from her diligent work. [continue reading…]

Ben Spangenberg – Mentor to Young Leaders

headshot of Ben Spangenberg

Ben Spangenberg

Rockville, Maryland, June 20 – When Ben Spangenberg was young, he saw a news article reporting that people like him – who used wheelchairs – had few employment opportunities. He set out to prove them wrong for himself and to create a better future for others with disabilities. For the last 13 years, he has worked professionally on employment for people with disabilities.

“I want young people in the disability community to know they are loved and appreciated for their unique dreams, talents, and skills,” Spangenberg said. “Our community needs the opportunity to share and be recognized for our talents.” [continue reading…]

From Unsolved Mysteries to Renowned Public Policy Leader

Philip Pauli as a child on an episode of Unsolved MysteriesRockville, Maryland, June 13 – If you watched the 90s TV show “Unsolved Mysteries,” then you might have seen a profile of a young boy named Philip Pauli. That episode profiled Philip for his high IQ, his reputation as a “boy genius” and his wide range of talents at a young age. Indeed, at six months of age, Philip began to talk. By eighteen months he was reading and by age three, he began to play the violin and study astronomy. The episode features Philip at his chosen playground of the Denver Museum of Natural History and working at an archeological dig.

Since that time, Philip continued his extraordinary journey. While an honors student at the University of Denver, he was chosen to spend a year studying at Oxford University. Ten years ago, he moved to Washington, D.C., to pursue a master’s degree in social policy from The George Washington University.

Philip chose a career in public policy because these are deeply personal issues for him. He achieved and experienced so much because of the support of a single mother with significant chronic health disabilities who taught him compassion and kindled in him a deep commitment to justice. [continue reading…]

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Respect Ability - Fighting Stigmas. Advancing Opportunities.


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