Thought Leaders

Sorretie Jaro

When I first started getting involved with learning about advocacy I was a student in High School in a disability organization named “People First” I’ve gained in learning about leadership, team building, and speaking up for myself and I’ve participated in doing activities with the group in my class. After I finished high school ... Read more

Joseph Stramondo, PhD

Dr. Joseph Stramondo is an assistant professor of philosophy and associate director of the Institute for Ethics and Public Affairs at San Diego State University. He holds advanced degrees in both philosophy (PhD, 2015, Michigan State University) and public policy studies (MA, 2007, Trinity College, Hartford). His teaching and research interests focus primarily on ... Read more

Catherine Blakemore, JD

Catherine Blakemore has worked as an attorney and director, in legal aid and disability advocacy programs for 40 years.  She recently retired as the executive director of Disability Rights California, the non-profit agency established under federal law to protect and advocate for individuals with disabilities.  In 2016, she received the Loren Miller Legal Services ... Read more

Angela Van Ostran teaches ASL and Deaf culture in schools and the community

Angela Van Ostran a fierce advocate for social change, earned a degree in journalism, and has a Bachelor’s in Psychology from San Diego State University. Angela enjoys opportunities to bring the disability, Deaf, and LGBT communities together through education and identifies proudly as a queer Deaf gimp. She has worked with several Pride organizations, ... Read more

Day Al-Mohamed

Day Al-Mohamed currently works for the U.S. Department of Labor leading the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) premier safety and health management recognition program, the Voluntary Protection Programs. Ms. Al-Mohamed’s other work at Labor has included the design and implementation of the multi-million dollar Add Us In initiative to identify and develop strategies ... Read more

Caren Sax, EdD

Dr. Caren Sax is Professor and Chair of the Department of Administration, Rehabilitation, and Postsecondary Education and Director of the Interwork Institute at San Diego State University. Dr. Sax teaches in the Rehabilitation Counseling Master’s Degree program and the Doctorate of Education in Educational Leadership/Community College Leadership Concentration. As Institute Director, she oversees external ... Read more

Shain Neumeier

Shain Neumeier is a lawyer, activist, and community organizer, as well as an out and proud member of the disabled, trans, queer, and asexual communities. Their passion on the issue of ending abuse and neglect of youth with disabilities in schools and treatment facilities stems from their own experiences with involuntary medical treatment and ... Read more

Judy Heumann

Judith Heumann has devoted her life to fighting for the rights of people with disabilities, herself included. She’s not only been at the forefront of great strides in the disability rights movement, she’s led the charge. Born in Brooklyn in 1947, she was paralyzed after contracting polio as a toddler. Denied the right to ... Read more

Andy Imparato

Andy Imparato began work in February 2020 as the Executive Director of Disability Rights California (DRC) after a high impact career in Washington, DC in disability advocacy and policy. DRC is the federally funded legal services agency that serves Californians with all disabilities across the age spectrum. While in DC, Imparato served as the ... Read more

Paula Kluth

Dr. Paula Kluth is a consultant, author, advocate, and independent scholar who works with teachers and families to provide inclusive opportunities for students with disabilities and to create more responsive and engaging schooling experiences for all learners. Paula is a former special educator who has served as a classroom teacher and inclusion facilitator. Her ... Read more

Eden Rapp

Hi my name is Eden Rapp. I am 24 years old and have many abilities. Music is my passion, and I love to write; I attended community college for two years, use public buses, and cook dinner for my family on the weekends. My goals are to become a stronger self advocate and a ... Read more

Steven E. Brown, PhD — Disability Scholar and Author

Historian Steven E. Brown, PhD is a retired Professor and Disabilities Scholar, Center on Disability Studies (CDS), University of Hawaii; and Co-Founder of the Institute on Disability Culture. Brown has published many articles about disability rights and disability culture and is a national and international speaker. His books include Movie Stars and Sensuous Scars: ... Read more

Lateef McLeod

Lateef McLeod is building his career as a writer and a scholar. He has earned a BA in English from UC Berkeley and an MFA in Creative Writing from Mills College. He is four years into the Anthropology and Social Change Doctoral program at California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco. Lateef McLeod ... Read more

Nico Marcolongo

Nico Marcolongo is a veteran of the Iraq conflict who served 14 years as a Marine Officer. After his second Iraq deployment, Nico was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress. After the conclusion of his military service in February 2008, Nico joined the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF) where he leads the CAF Operation Rebound program for ... Read more

Michelle Nario-Redmond

Michelle Nario-Redmond specializes in stereotyping, prejudice, and disability studies. She graduated from the University of Kansas in 1996 with a Ph.D. in social psychology, and her research on disability identity shows that self-conceptualization as a member of the disability community has positive implications for self-advocacy and political participation. Other research demonstrates that simulating disability ... Read more

Jonathan Mooney

Jonathan Mooney is a writer and learning activist who did not learn to read until he was 12 years old. He is a graduate of Brown University’s class of 2000 and holds an honors degree in English Literature. Jonathan has spent his entire professional career as a social entrepreneur developing organizations, programs, and initiatives to ... Read more

CJ Jones — comedian, actor, writer, director, producer

? For the entire world, 2020 brought new challenges. For CJ Jones, 2020 brought opportunity to live his passion. Having a decades long career as a deaf comedian, actor, entertainer, writer, director and producer, Jones is using his wealth of knowledge and experience in the entertainment industry to give back. He’s seen the need for ... Read more

Edlyn Peña, PhD

Dr. Edlyn Peña is the Chair, Director, and Associate Professor of the Education Leadership doctoral program at Cal Lutheran. She is an award-winning researcher who studies ways to support autistic students in the preschool through higher education pipeline. Her edited book, “Communication Alternatives in Autism” (2019) and “Leaders Around Me” (2019) feature prominent autistic ... Read more

Lydia X. Z. Brown

Lydia X. Z. Brown writes about disability, race, and queerness. They are an organizer, advocate, educator, attorney, strategist, and writer whose work has largely focused on interpersonal and state violence targeting multiply-marginalized disabled people living at the intersections of race, class, gender, sexuality, nation, and language. Lydia co-edited All the Weight of Our Dreams: ... Read more

Keith Jones

Keith Jones is the President and CEO of SoulTouchin’ Experiences. As an African American community activist and entrepreneur with cerebral palsy. As a strong advocate for independent quality living in the community, Mr. Jones has participated actively in various issues that face people with disabilities. These areas include, but are not limited to housing, ... Read more