The White House honors eight “Champions of Change” who embody the spirit of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This next generation of leaders for the disability community represents the progress that has been made as a result of the ADA and the continued struggle for full equality. They are advocates, role models and true champions for their cause. Already extraordinarily accomplished, they epitomize the type of innovative thinking, optimism and energy of the next generation of civil rights leaders.
“These exceptional individuals being honored as Champions of Change illustrate the continuing disability rights movement’s vitality and bright future. They bring a fresh perspective and a new set of experiences that will continue to invigorate the push for full social and economic equality, “said Paulette Aniskoff, Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of the Office of Public Engagement.
The White House Champions of Change program was created as part of President Obama’s “Winning the Future” Initiative. Through this program, the White House highlights individuals, businesses, and organizations whose extraordinary stories and accomplishments positively impact our communities.
Lydia Brown is an Autistic and multiply-disabled disability rights activist, scholar, and writer. She is currently interning at the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia in conjunction with the American Association of People with Disabilities summer internship program. She will be returning to the staff of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network as a Project Assistant this fall to continue her work in a variety of areas of disability policy. Lydia currently serves as Undersecretary for Disability Affairs at Georgetown University’s student government executive branch, where she is developing a comprehensive no wrong door policy to enhance access to resources for disabled students, providing technical assistance on web accessibility for the student government website, and also working to establish, develop, and sustain a Disability Cultural Center on campus. She is a member of the Board of Directors of TASH New England, the National Council on Independent Living Youth Caucus, and the Georgetown University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities Consumer Advisory Council. Lydia was the 2012 Patricia Morrissey Disability Policy Fellow at the Institute for Educational Leadership, where she worked on a project on customized employment for people with the most significant disabilities. She previously interned with the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, where she also attended the inaugural Autism Campus Inclusion summer leadership academy. In 2011, Lydia served on the Adult Services Subcommittee of the Massachusetts Special Commission Relative to Autism, where she provided recommendations on autism and criminal justice related to legislation she has written, which has been filed in three consecutive sessions of the state legislature. She regularly speaks on disability rights activism, radical disability justice, and disabled cultural identity at conferences and universities across the country.
Zach Garafalo is the Assistant Director of YOUTH POWER! (YP!). YP! is a cross-systems advocacy organization that brings the voices of young people with disabilities to government officials in New York State. A skilled community organizer, Zach built a career focused mentoring program for youth with disabilities who are at risk of entering the juvenile justice system. Under Zach’s leadership, YP!’s mentoring program was recognized by the New York State Office of Mental Health for its positive impact on the social and emotional development on children and teens, their families and loved ones. Additionally, Zach has spoken extensively on engaging with marginalized youth and young adults, including in presentations to a United States Department of State delegation of young people from Belarus and transition-aged youth from the Netherlands. As a young person with ADHD and a learning disability, Zach has learned how to use his high energy levels to his professional advantage. In 2011, Zach was presented the Distinguished Young Alumni Award from his alma mater, Southern Vermont College. Zach is active in his community and serves on the Albany County Juvenile Community Accountability Board and as a member of the Board of Directors of Literacy New York Greater Capital Region. A tireless advocate for equality and opportunities for all, Zach consistently advocates for youth and young adults to have opportunities to provide input into service design and public policy discussions.
Silver Spring, MD
Andrew Phillips is the Policy Counsel at the National Association of the Deaf. He is responsible for providing analysis, recommendations, and counsel to the NAD on policy issues affecting deaf and hard of hearing people across the United States. Phillips is heavily involved with the NAD’s work on federal legislation and the rulemaking processes within various federal agencies such as the Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Justice. After graduating from the California School for the Deaf (Fremont) and Gallaudet University, Andrew Phillips earned a J.D. at U.C. Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco where he was a member of the Hastings Science and Technology Law Journal, and was recognized as “Best Oral Advocate” in his Moot Court class, arguing on behalf of the District of Columbia in D.C v. Heller. Phillips is a former Congressional Intern of U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer and worked in her Capitol Hill office. Between college and law school he did an internship with the Director of Policy / General Counsel at the National Council on Disability. In his spare time Phillips enjoys playing soccer, hiking, rock climbing, surfing, scuba diving, and traveling. He has traveled on six different continents.
Dr. Anjali Forber-Pratt has never let her paralysis distract her from her goals. In addition to being a Paralympic medalist in the sport of wheelchair racing, she has dedicated her life to helping other’s recognize their potential. Her motto, “Dream. Drive. Do.” embodies her spirit and positive attitude. Part of this drive came from her legal fight in high school for equal access to education. Since then, she has completed three degrees at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. In her quest to help other athletes with disabilities, Anjali has co-authored an educational kids’ coloring book about disabled sports. Abroad, she helped to develop and further Paralympic sport in Bermuda and Ghana and is actively involved in the world of disability sport across the United States. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for Disabled Sports USA. She uses her public speaking platform to continue to make a difference for those with and without disabilities by sharing her story, helping to transform perceptions of what it means to be an individual with a disability, helping others accept their own differences and motivating others to take action in their own lives and communities. Anjali received the 2013 Paul G. Hearne award in recognition of her leadership to the disabled community given by the American Association for Persons with Disabilities.
Zoe Gross is a senior at Vassar College and the 2013 Patricia Morrissey Disability Policy Fellow at the Institute for Educational Leadership. She became involved in disability advocacy through her work with the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network. In 2012, Zoe created the annual Day of Mourning vigil, a national, cross-disability event which commemorates the lives of disabled people murdered by their family members or caregivers. She continues to oversee and coordinate the event as a collaboration of the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network, Not Dead Yet, and the National Council on Independent Living, taking place annually with more than a dozen cities participating in holding local events. As part of the American Association of People with Disabilities summer internship program, Zoe interned on Senator Harkin’s staff in the Senate HELP Committee Disability Policy Office. She is the co-president of ACCESS, Vassar’s disabled student union. She is a Disability Studies major and is currently writing her senior thesis on the societal attitudes reflected in media coverage of murders of disabled people.
Ki’tay Davidson is a social justice advocate and innovationist who creates models of inclusiveness to change the way people perceive and address the rights of persons with disabilities. Ki’tay specializes in international disability policy, social entrepreneurship and the school -to-prison pipeline for students of color with disabilities. He fuses together coalition building and community empowerment to promote intersectional approaches to disability rights advocacy. Ki’tay is a proud alumna of the People for the American Way Fellowship Program and the U.S. International Council on Disabilities Youth in Development Program.
Anupa Iyer holds a Juris Doctorate degree from Seattle University School of Law and a B.A. in Political Science from the University of California Los Angeles. She was awarded the 2011 Seattle University School of Law Leadership for Justice Fellowship to work for the Mental Disability Advocacy Center researching violence and abuse against women and girls with intellectual disabilities in Cape Town, South Africa. Prior to this, Anupa interned for Equal Employment Commissioner Chai Feldblum and was an American Association for Persons with Disabilities intern at the Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law. Anupa’s passion for disability rights advocacy stems from her lived experiences with a psychiatric disability. She is the founder of Self Advocates Now Empowered, a self-advocacy organization that uses legislative advocacy to give a cohesive national voice to, and empower, individuals with psychiatric disabilities, with a focus on youth and young adults. Anupa is also board member of the National Association for Rights Protection and Advocacy, and has been profiled by the U.S. Department Labor Office of Disability Employment Policy and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Desiree is a leader who has been working with YOUTH POWER! for two years. Some of her work has included creating a peer support group in a Residential Treatment Facility and also partnering with a state operated children’s hospital to start a youth advisory council. She also serves on the National Youth Leadership Network Board and is a part of the planning team for the SAMHSA BRSS TACs 2013 National Leadership Summit on Youth and Recovery. In 2010 Desiree was awarded the Families Together of New York State outstanding youth advocate award. As a former youth in the foster care system and receiving mental health services Desiree understands the importance of young people feeling supported and having their voice heard. Desiree is currently a college student majoring in event management.
Visit White House Champions of Change to learn more about the program and nominate a Champion.