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Volunteer Spotlight

Volunteer of the Month: Carla Boyd

“Disability inclusion creates synergistic innovation in organizations, and the world in which we live.”

– Carla Boyd

Carla Boyd smiling headshot in front of a brick wallCarla Boyd, a faithful ally to people with disabilities, is the Arizona State Representative for RespectAbility’s Volunteer Corps.

She played an instrumental role in coordinating and facilitating RespectAbility’s Empowerment Training for Female College Students with Disabilities focused on advocacy skills and preparing attendees for civic engagement. The adult and student participants had great dialogue, Carla recalled, and they were grateful for the information they learned from the webinar. Carla currently is promoting RespectAbility’s National Leadership Program within her network of students and disability professionals. [continue reading…]

Volunteer of the Month: Richard Phillips

“I enjoy RespectAbility’s strong sense of mission. I really like the very positive atmosphere. It doesn’t feel like the [disability] community is victimized or there is something to mourn, it is a super positive approach to some of the issues the community faces. It is rarer than you might think.”

– Richard Phillips

Headshot of Richard PhillipsRichard Phillips, based in the Philadelphia area, is a loyal ally of people with disabilities who serves on the board of RespectAbility. He chairs RespectAbility’s strategic planning committee, and helps connect like-minded individuals who are potential supporters of RespectAbility. Additionally, Phillips speaks to cohorts of Fellows about his own personal and professional experiences, and how these relate to the disability community.

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Volunteer of the Month: Valora Blackson

“We all have gifts and talents. Discovering our strengths and leading from a position of ability is the way forward for us all.”

– Valora Blackson

Valora Blackson smilingValora Blackson, an ally to people with disabilities, participated in a RespectAbility training program at Guttman Community College in New York City: Empowerment Training for Female College Students with Disabilities. The training focused on women’s disability leadership, inclusion, advocacy, and empowerment for college students in the greater NYC area. Valora led a small group session, entitled Community-wide Advocacy 101: How to Broaden Inclusive Advocacy Beyond Campus. She focused on internships, volunteer experience, and the issue of when to disclose a disability to an employer. Valora was inspired by the incredible women she met and considers it an honor to have been asked to participate in the empowerment training. [continue reading…]

Volunteer of the Month: John Lawson

“It’s nice to have an ally like RespectAbility that sees a need and then takes the necessary steps to help inclusion across multiple platforms—not only in film and television, but also in the political arena.”

– John Lawson

John Lawson black and white headshot. Lawson is a double amputee.John Lawson, a self-advocate, has been an integral part of RespectAbility’s team fighting stigmas in Hollywood. He has participated in panels discussing disability and representation in the media; accompanied RespectAbility’s vice president of communications to meetings with various studio heads and network officials; and recently participated in RespectAbility’s inaugural Summer Lab Program. John says the Lab program has been the highlight of his time with RespectAbility so far, because he has had the opportunity to be both a mentor and a participant. [continue reading…]

Volunteer of the Month: Vivian Bass

“It is an honor and privilege serving on the Executive Committee of RespectAbility and in a wide myriad of roles. I enjoy interacting with the extraordinary staff, Fellows, our board colleagues and others in the greater community of people with disabilities. It is truly beyond remarkable the extraordinary strides that we’ve made in six short years in such a wide arena—from empowerment of women with disabilities in NYC to fighting stigmas in Hollywood to training the next generation of disability community leaders through our National Leadership Program to promoting employment opportunities for all.”

– Vivian Bass

headshot of Vivian Bass smiling at the camera with long hair color photoVivian Bass has volunteered with RespectAbility in a multitude of capacities since its founding in 2013. She became a resource as work was being done to launch the organization, as she knew RespectAbility’s Co-Founder/President, Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, from various leadership and national organizations. [continue reading…]

Volunteer of the Month: Jonathan Murray

“It is exciting to work for Respectability! I truly value the organization’s concrete steps towards increasing employment opportunities for people with disabilities and pushing for better representation for people with disabilities in Hollywood – both in front of and behind the camera.”

-Jonathan Murray

headshot of Jonathan Murray wearing a gray striped shirt and facing the camera color photoJonathan Murray has been involved with RespectAbility since its beginning. His commitment to supporting people with disabilities has grown, noting that this is a marginalized community that has been historically left out of the discussion when talking about inclusion and diversity. [continue reading…]

Volunteer of the Month: Gary Norman

“The greatest role for any public servant is to be involved with the community. Through my volunteering with RespectAbility, I have had this great feeling – I have been able to advance the conversation about how to increase the opportunities for people with disabilities, particularly expanding the role of young leaders in public affairs and service.”

– Gary Norman

Gary Norman smiling wearing a suit and tie in front of a black backgroundGary C. Norman is a dedicated public servant who has donated his time to teach various cohorts of RespectAbility’s Fellows about public service and disability-related topics. Some of these topics include assistive technology, the laws surrounding reasonable accommodation, and what the process can be for gaining meaningful federal employment. Gary connected with RespectAbility in 2015 when he served as a Visiting Fellow for the Robert J. Dole Institute for Politics. He was drawn to the organization because of his interest in non-partisan disability work. [continue reading…]

Volunteer of the Month: Andrea Jennings

“RespectAbility is an organization that leads by example. The team is very supportive of teaching and helping companies and individuals understand best practices for diversity and inclusion. RespectAbility doesn’t want to blame people – it wants to teach people.”

– Andrea Jennings

Andrea Jennings smiling in front of a white backdropAndrea Jennings, a passionate self-advocate living and working in California, has volunteered with RespectAbility in a variety of ways. One of her key roles has been to represent RespectAbility at Hollywood events. She makes certain that questions are being asked regarding disability inclusion in Hollywood. In addition, she has spoken on panels on behalf of RespectAbility. Andrea also mentors younger individuals with various disabilities who are interested in the entertainment industry. She works to ensure that people recognize their implicit biases and determine how they’re going to move past those biases. [continue reading…]

Volunteer Spotlight: Paola Vergara

Spanish-Language Resources Team Co-Chair

Paola Vergara headshot

Paola Vergara

“Being a volunteer for RespectAbility makes me feel as if I am making a difference. Sharing my experience and knowledge with the people who need it most helps me live a meaningful life. I gave birth to an atypical child, and thanks to him I can say I am living a life full of purpose.”

“Ser voluntaria para Respectability me hace sentir como alguien que marca la diferencia. Cuando comparto mi conocimiento y experiencia con la gente que más lo necesita, siento que mi vida tiene un significado. Soy madre de un niño atípico y gracias a el puedo entender que estoy acá para cumplir un gran propósito.”

Paola Vergara is a public lawyer who graduated in Colombia. She began her career working in public and government affairs as well as in health and education. Outside her professional career, she has been a disabilities and inclusion activist since her first son was born with a special condition 13 years ago. She currently works at a higher education institution for a program focused on Latin American issues, and recently completed a certificate in disabilities studies.

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