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CLEAR FILTERS

Azeema Akram

Administrative Law Judge
Illinois Human Rights Commission
(
She/her/hers
)
Law and Public Policy
2018
Fellow

Azeema Akram is an Administrative Law Judge at the Illinois Human Rights Commission (“IHRC”), where she presides over claims of unlawful discrimination pursuant to the Illinois Human Rights Act. Prior to joining the IHRC, she was an Administrative Law Judge at the Illinois Commerce Commission, adjudicating matters involving railroad safety, motor carrier licensing and regulatory violations affecting intrastate trucking, relocation towing, safety towing, collateral recovery, and household goods moving companies. She previously served the Commission as a Special Assistant Attorney General. In December 2019, Azeema became one of 34 members of the national Deaf & Hard of Hearing Bar Association to be sworn in the United Supreme Court Bar. She is also a member of the South Asian Bar Association of Chicago.  As a deaf/hard-of-hearing attorney, Azeema is passionate about accessibility in legal proceedings. She regularly presents to attorneys and judges on accommodating people with disabilities in court. Azeema has been published in the American Bar Association Journal and was awarded the University of Missouri-Columbia College of Arts & Science 2021 Distinguished Alumni Award in recognition of her accomplishments. She is a Community Representative on the Regional Transportation Authority’s Paratransit Certification Formal Appeals Program Eligibility Review Board. Azeema is the Secretary on the Board of Directors of Red Clay Dance Company, Chicago’s premier Afro-contemporary dance company. She was a 2018 Fellow with Disability Lead. Azeema’s history of leadership in public service includes in-house and legislative experience. Azeema served as an Assistant General Counsel at the Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation, where she provided legal counsel to the Director of the Division of Professional Regulation, Department staff, and professional boards (e.g., Medical Licensing and Disciplinary Boards) on legal and policy matters including final agency action. She also drafted and negotiated legislation and administrative rules with various professional industries and members of the General Assembly. Azeema also served as legal counsel for the Department’s statutorily-created Music Therapy Task Force and drafted its final Report, which was reviewed by the Governor and General Assembly leaders to determine whether to require State licensure for the Music Therapy profession. Azeema earned her B.A. in International Studies with a Multicultural Studies Certificate from the University of Missouri-Columbia and studied abroad in London.  Since graduating from DePaul University College of Law with her J.D. and Health Law Certificate, Azeema continues to mentor law students and serve as a guest judge for multiple law school moot court teams in Chicago.

Public
Legal, Public Policy
Azeema  is smiling against a gray background.

Rachel Arfa

Commissioner
City Of Chicago
(
She/her/hers
)
Government, Law and Public Policy
Member

Rachel Arfa was appointed Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities (MOPD) by Mayor Lori Lightfoot in July 2020. Rachel comes to MOPD with years of experience as a disability and civil rights attorney. As MOPD Commissioner, Rachel leads the City of Chicago’s efforts to make Chicago a more accessible city. MOPD provides services including in the areas of independent living services (information and referral, home-delivered meals, and homemaker services), employment and youth transition services, home modifications, assistive technology, accessible housing and architectural accessibility. MOPD also creates policies on disability accessibility, accessible transportation, and emergency preparedness. Her extensive professional, and civic leadership experience has prepared her for this role. Rachel previously was employed as a Staff Attorney at Equip for Equality, Illinois’ governor-designated protection and legal advocacy agency which advocates for the civil and human rights of people with disabilities. Her work focused on representing people with disabilities in employment discrimination cases and civil rights violations. In this role, she managed the PABSS Project and served as the Chair of the Illinois ADA Project Steering Committee. Rachel is the President of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Bar Association and in December, 2019, made the motion using spoken language and ASL for 10 deaf and hard of hearing attorneys to be admitted to the United States Supreme Court Bar. Rachel served as the Accessibility Lead for the Women’s March Chicago, developing expansive accessibility for large scale outdoor gatherings. Rachel served on the Board of Directors for the Chicago Cultural Accessibility Consortium and the Board of Directors for 3Arts, which supports artists of color, women artists, and artists with disabilities. She is a Leadership Greater Chicago Fellow (2016), Member of Disability Lead, and a past Fellow of the Illinois Women’s Institute for Leadership (2017) and the New Leaders Council (2013). She is a graduate of the University of Michigan (B.A., American Culture) and the University of Wisconsin School of Law (J.D.).

Public
Legal, Public Policy
Rachel is smiling in front of the Chicago flag.

Adam Ballard

Associate State Director
AARP IIllinois State Office
(
He/him/his
)
Law and Public Policy
2017
Fellow

Adam Ballard has a demonstrated career history in advocating for housing choice and transportation access for individuals with disabilities and older adults. He spent 11 years of his career at Access Living leading the organization’s work in housing and transportation through community organizing and policy advocacy, and currently serves as an Associate State Director at AARP Illinois. He is instrumental in developing legislation and policy by partnering with government offices, grass roots community organizations, and other stakeholder groups to set both long-term and short-term agendas in housing and transportation policy, regional planning, and other issues impacting livable communities for all. Adam also works with AARP volunteers and staff to develop campaigns and events related to advancing the organization’s advocacy agenda across northern Illinois. Adam also serves on several committees and advisory boards aimed at advancing racial equity, disability justice, wealth building, public health, and climate resilience within the city, region, and state. He is also co-chair of The Disabilities Fund of The Chicago Community Trust and serves as the Vice Chair of the Land Use and Housing Committee within the Chicago Metropolitan Agency on Planning. Adam is constantly finding ways to involve the community in his work and wants to center decision-making power in the hands of the communities that are the most affected by inequity and power imbalances. He seeks to build relationships that allow change to happen – from grass roots leaders and those who are most affected by broader policy decisions, all the way up to partnerships with stakeholders and decision makers who can help implement those changes on a widespread level.

Nonprofit
Public Policy, Advocacy
Adam is smiling against a gray background.

Emily Blum

Executive Director
Disability Lead
(
She/her/hers
)
Communications, Community and Social Services
2018
Fellow

Emily Blum was named Executive Director of Disability Lead in 2019 when the organization was established as an independent 501C3. Believing disability leadership is essential to creating an inclusive and equitable Chicago region, she directs the organization’s efforts to develop and build and network of leaders with disabilities who lead with power and influence. A seasoned nonprofit leader, Emily has more than 20 years’ experience bringing stakeholders together to create and implement effective communications strategies around complex social and political issues. Prior to joining Disability Lead, Emily held senior positions at some of Chicago’s leading nonprofits, including Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC), Chicago Humanities Festival (CHF) and Heartland Alliance. At all three organizations, she drove branding and strategic messaging campaigns that created new kinds of conversations with a wide variety of audiences. Emily serves on the City of Chicago’s Mayor’s Advisory Council for Women, Fair Fight’s Action Disability Council, and is Sectary of the Board of Directors for Inspiration Corporation. As a disabled woman, leading Disability Lead is both personal and professional. Emily is a Disability Lead Member (class of 2018), and that experience gave her additional tools to use her voice on behalf of those who experience disabilities.

Nonprofit
Marketing/Communications, Public Relations
Emily is smiling in a leafy outdoor setting. She is a white, disabled woman with brown wavy shoulder-length hair, and is wearing a pink and purple top with blue accents.

Keidra Chaney

Digital Engagement and Accessibility Manager
National Network of Abortion Funds
(
She/her/hers
)
Communications
2020
Fellow

Keidra Chaney is currently at the forefront of digital communications and digital strategy in the nonprofit sector. Her goals and motivators are reflected in every stage of her multifaceted career. As a marketing professional, writer, and educator, Keidra endeavors to create equitable, just, and safe spaces for marginalized people. She achieves this goal through understanding via any and all modes of communication, by challenging perspectives, and ultimately providing information and services to those in need. Keidra currently works at National Network of Abortion Funds, and in her tenure, she has cultivated broad, yet overlapping skillsets and established herself as a leader in NFP digital marketing and strategy. A self-described “writer in a complicated relationship with the internet”, Keidra is also a pop culture critic. She is the founding publisher of The Learned Fangirl and founder of the TLF Freelance Emergency Fund for freelance writers. Her work with TLF centers around the goal of driving social change through critique of cultural/social norms in pop culture. Keidra’s writing has been featured in a multitude of publications including The Chicago Sun Times, Time Out, Paste Magazine, Camera Obscura; Facta Ficta: Journal of Theory, Narrative & Media; I/S: A Journal of Law and Policy for the Information Society; New Media & Society; Persona Studies; Suffolk University Law Review; University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform; She is a Disability Lead Fellow for their 2020 Institute, the only program in the country for emerging leaders with disabilities.

Nonprofit
Arts and Culture, Marketing/Communications, Technology
Keidra  is smiling against a gray background.

Michelle Garcia

Latinx and Immigration Community Organizer
Access Living
(
She/her/hers
)
Community and Social Services
Member

She has been working for Access Living as the Latino Community Organizer since 2009 in which she took a personal interest, particularly that of educating and collaborating with the Latino community about disability rights and services. Through her work she has had the opportunity to collaborate with other Latino groups and organizations that work within the Latino Community which has helped expand their knowledge about disability related issues. She is the coordinator of a Latinxs and immigrant advocacy group called Cambiando Vidas, whose mission is to create social change within the immigrant Community. As of 2017 she became the Latinxs and Immigration Community Organizer, role in which she is still responsible for increasing the number of Latinxs and immigrant leaders with disabilities; as well as to raise awareness of disability issues such as: Immigration, Healthcare, Disability Rights, within the Latinxs and other immigrant communities; thru her work she has participated in planning numerous educational forums and events in different areas of the city, to educate Latinxs and immigrants with disabilities about disability rights and services. As part of her work, Michelle has been involved with the National Coalition of Latinxs with Disabilities where she was involved in planning several National conferences on the issues that impact Latinxs with disabilities. She was also involved in planning a Disability and Immigration Summit out to which Disability and Immigration advocates came together to have a better understanding of the intersection of these issue areas. Most recently, she has been involved in supporting the Disability and Immigration Taskforce. She currently, serves as the representative of the 7th district Commission on Women’s Issues; as such she is responsible on supporting any events or bring insight to any issues that impact women including immigrant and disabled women.

Nonprofit
Civil Rights, Disability Rights, Immigration
Michelle is smiling in an outdoor setting.

Timotheus Gordon Jr.

Researcher-Activist
Institute On Disability and Human Development
(
He/him/his
)
Education
2022
Fellow

Timotheus “T.J.” Gordon Jr. is an African-American male autistic writer and researcher-activist in Chicago, IL. As researcher at UIC’s Institute on Disability and Human Development, he creates trainings, webinars, guides, and campaigns on inclusion in communities of color, COVID-19 and the intersections of race and disability, autism in communities of color, and inclusion of people with disabilities in the U.S. Census. Gordon is one of the co-founders of Chicagoland Disabled People of Color Coalition, also known as Chicagoland DPOCC. Supported by the Institute on Disability and Human Development, Chicagoland DPOCC promotes disability acceptance and self-advocacy in communities of color throughout the Chicagoland area. As a member of Advance Your Leadership Power (AYLP), a racial/disability justice group within Access Living of Metropolitan Chicago, Gordon supports and helps lead campaigns on combating police violence and mental health within the Chicagoland disability community. Gordon is the creator of the Black Autist, a blog and social media outlet that promotes autism and disability acceptance in the African Diaspora. He uses writing and social media to discuss topics on disability in media, disability pride in marginalized communities, and caregiver violence against people with disabilities.

Public
Arts and Culture, Education, Public Relations
Timotheus  is smiling against a gray background.

LaShon Gurrola

RN- Transitional Care
Rush University Medical Center
(
She/her/hers
)
Health and Medicine
2020
Fellow

LaShon Gurrola is currently a Registered Nurse Care Manager for the Ambulatory Care Management department at Rush University Medical Center, joining December 2016 Shortly after receiving her Associate Degree in Nursing, LaShon began her career as an Inpatient Surgical Nurse at Edward Elmhurst Hospital, building her career at Edward Elmhurst Hospital for over 19 years. LaShon has since received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Purdue University. With experience ranging from Home Health Nursing to inpatient surgery and outpatient care, LaShon has developed a strong clinical background, including experience within Ortho/Neuro/Spine units, Home Health Nursing, and Transitional Care Nursing. With a passion for helping support those with Lupus, LaShon started the first-ever Lupus Support Group at Rush University Medical Center in 2018, with the support of the Rheumatology and Social Work Departments. This support group not only provides a space for those suffering with Lupus to come together monthly and share experiences, but it is open to their families and significant others to learn more about Lupus and how to better support those diagnosed with it. LaShon also serves on the Associate Board of the Lupus Society of Illinois to fundraise and advocate for efforts supporting the Lupus community.

Nonprofit
Disability Rights, Health and Human Services, Seniors/Elder Care
LaShon  is smiling against a gray background.

Whitney Hill

Accessibility Specialist
LCM Architects
(
She/her/hers
)
Business Management and Administration, Communications
2020
Fellow

Whitney Hill is a specialist on accessibility with over a decade of experience in program management and communication. Her background in universal design and public accessibility combined with her personal background of identifying as someone with a disability give her a unique skillset to connect individuals with needed services, while also empowering them to advocate for themselves. Throughout her career, Whitney has aimed to ensure that public and institutional spaces are made readily accessible to all. In her role with LCM Architects and previous position at the Institute for Human Centered Design, Whitney partnered with government and private entities in conjunction with the Americans with Disabilities Act to meet and exceed standards for equal opportunity in accessibility. Prior to these roles, Whitney facilitated services for over 250 clients with the Blind Services Association and implemented new programs monthly to provide an accessible experience for the growing client base. Whitney is the founder and director of SPORK!, a 501 (c) 3 Nonprofit and website that serves as a voice for the disabled community. Named after the quirky utensil that celebrates the merger of two traditional tools, Whitney founded SPORK! as an alternative source to the more rigid representation of non-apparent differences in traditional medical journals. By collecting and sharing different resources for those with cognitive, physical and non-apparent differences/disabilities, Whitney has created a network that welcomes those struggling to find a place within the larger disabled community. Learn more about SPORK! at https://www.sporkability.org/about Additionally, Whitney serves as an elected member of Chicago Transit Authority’s (CTA) ADA Advisory and as a Chair for the CTA Wayfinding Subcommittee, finding new ways to improve the transportation experience for the disabled community of Chicago. Whitney aims to continue her pattern of advocacy in Illinois as a newly elected member of Governor Pritzker’s Blind Services Planning Council.

Private
Arts and Culture, Disability Rights, Program Development
Whitney  is smiling against a gray background.

Kenneth Jennings

CEO
Gridiron Alliance
(
He/him/his
)
Community and Social Services
2022
Fellow

Kenneth Jennings, is a founder and CEO of the Gridiron Alliance Foundation, a non-profit 501 (c) (3) organization in Illinois. He was injured in a high school football game while playing for Simeon in Chicago in 1988. As a result, the injury rendered him as a quadriplegic and paralyzed from the neck down. Despite the impact that a football game had on his life, he lives by the motto “I Am Blessed To Be Able”. Kenneth Jennings is a very active citizen to say the least. He has successfully help worked to get the Rocky Clark Law passed in the state of Illinois. His tenacity will not allow him to stop with the victory in Illinois, he wants mandatory catastrophic injury insurance for all high school athletes across our great country. He won the 2015 Governor’s Volunteer Service Award, he Coach high school football, a Peer Mentor at the Lifecenter at The Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, a Motivational Speaker, he’s is a Co-host of a sports talk show titled Coach’s Corner, and host his own show A Man’s View. Kenneth is soon to be an Author of his book titled Kenneth Jennings How 8 Seconds Change My Life, and also working on his second book The Life Of A Old (Quad) Quadriplegic. Kenneth has been coaching high school football for the past 20 years, he has chosen to Semi-retire to pursue other interests. He still has an undying love for the game of football and is dedicated to the safety of our young athletes. He is a Motivational Speaker who speak to patients, students, business men and women, and people in the medical field. As a Peer Mentor at Lifecenter at The Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, he mentors those who have been catastrophically injured, and other disabilities, as well as support with transition for their families. In the past, he sat on the local school council board at Gwendolyn Brooks High School, The Board of Directors for Increase The Peace Foundation, Daryl Stingley Youth Foundation, and No Dope Express Foundation.

Nonprofit
Civil Rights, Disability Rights, Public Relations
Kenneth wears a peaceful expression in a candid shot with a blurry background.

Christina McGleam

Deputy Commissioner
City Of Chicago's Mayor's Office For People With Disabilities
(
She/her/hers
)
Government
2018
Fellow

Christina McGleam was appointed Deputy Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities (MOPD) in April 2021 by Commissioner Rachel Arfa. In her role as Deputy Commissioner, McGleam oversees MOPD’s Employment, Training and Youth initiatives aimed at elevating employment opportunities, reducing barriers to employment for people with disabilities and increasing awareness on how to best interact with people with disabilities. McGleam also collaborates with Chicago Public Schools’ Office of Diverse Learners and Support Services as well as the City Colleges of Chicago to support professional development activities and works with both teams to fill the gaps between high school and college for students with disabilities. As MOPD’s Access Officer, another leadership role within the City of Chicago, McGleam serves as the main contact for City departments and sister agencies on questions related to communication access. McGleam represents MOPD as a member of the Regional Transit Authority Eligibility Review Board, the Accessible Airport Advisory Committee and was recently selected to serve as a member of the Chicago Cultural Access Sub-Committee. McGleam is a member of MOPD’s internal Office of Racial Equity and Justice cohort, working to ensure equity is at the forefront of all the services MOPD provides. McGleam is a graduate of John Carroll University (B.S. Business Administration) and Roosevelt University (M.S. Human Resource Management) and earned a certification from the International Association of Accessibility Professionals as a Certified Professional in Accessibility Core competencies.

Public

Kira Meskin

Occupational Therapist, Community Reintegration Advocate
Progress Center For Independent Living
(
She/her/hers
)
Community and Social Services
Member

Kira has worked with children and adults with disabilities for over 17 years in a variety of non-profit, community-based, and educational settings. Professionally, she is an Occupational Therapist and presently serves as a Community Reintegration Advocate at Progress Center for Independent Living. Much of her work has involved supporting individuals who utilize assistive technology and adaptive equipment as a means for communication, completing activities of daily living, supporting mobility, and accessing their environments. Pursuing her Clinical Doctorate was an extension of her strong belief in the importance and need for service delivery to promote consumers’ and families’ self-determination and to further utilize consumer-directed approaches and empowerment strategies that enhance their choice and control. More specifically, her doctoral project was a continuing education course for educational professionals that support transition-aged youth who have communication barriers. Kira also serves as a special ed advocate for her little cousin, and recently became an Educational Surrogate Parent. In light of the pandemic and the health disparities our community is facing, Kira also serves as the primary co-leader of the PPE for People With Disabilities Coalition. Her work involves accessing and distributing PPE to folks with disabilities and Personal Assistants living Cook County, as well as engaging in public policy work that addresses the dire need for people with disabilities to be prioritized in Illinois’ emergency response. Kira is presently developing a business doing home and building modifications, named Empowering Design, LLC.

Nonprofit

Alexandra Perez-Garcia

Associate Director of Development and Communications
Disability Lead
(
She/her/hers
)
Communications
2020
Fellow

Alex Perez-Garcia is a social impact leader who believes in the power of personal narrative and working together to build capacity and infuse equity in our systems. As Associate Director of Development and Communications at Disability Lead,, Alex is growing this nonprofit startup organization through high-quality strategic fundraising, community outreach, and internal and external content management. Previously, Alex was a Program Associate at The Chicago Community Trust. There she managed several projects related to the Trust’s commitment to racial equity, disability inclusion, and strategic growth for diverse populations and disinvested neighborhoods. In her tenure at the Trust, she was integral to the incubation and launch of Disability Lead, the only leadership program in the nation that connects leaders with disabilities with civic engagement opportunities. Alex started at the Trust through the Kimpton Fellows program, formerly the University of Chicago Public Interest Program (UCPIP), a competitive one-year fellowship opportunity for graduates interested in launching their career in the public sector at high-impact organizations. As an inaugural member of The Obama Foundation Community Leadership Corps, Alex founded an online community focused on mental health fueled by young voices of color. In the first month launched, the blog, which featured lived experiences of mental illness, including her own, was read by thousands across the country. Because of her work, she was selected as a featured speaker during the 2018 Obama Foundation Summit. She has served as an Ambassador for the Obama Foundation and Chicago200. She is Co-Chair of the Chicago Foundation for Women’s Young Women’s Giving Council. She also serves on the 2020 Census Disability Complete Count Committee for the City of Chicago. In 2019, she was awarded the Young Alumna Award by her high school alma mater. She is a 2020 Disability Lead Fellow. Alex graduated with honors from UChicago with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Public Policy.

Nonprofit

Risa Rifkind

Director, Civic Engagement and Marketing
Disability Lead
(
She/her/hers
)
Communications
2017
Fellow

Risa Jaz Rifkind is a justice advocate who seeks to make change by shifting access to power and influence. As the Director of Civic Engagement and Marketing for Disability Lead, she propels the organization to realize its vision to have people with disabilities lead with power and influence. By identifying and developing strategic partnerships, Risa positions Members to take on leadership roles that advance their careers, civic engagement, and equity for people with disabilities. By integrating this vision into all internal and external communications, she leads Disability Lead’s brand awareness, public and private Member programming, and community engagement and outreach. She is also a Disability Lead Member. In 2020, she also participated on the Disability Inclusion Fund’s grantmaking committee. Previously, Risa was Program Manager at The Chicago Community Trust where she developed their disability inclusion priorities and practices and managed several disability inclusion initiatives including the Disabilities Fund, ADA 25 Advancing Leadership, and ADA 25 Chicago. With the Disabilities Fund, Risa supported a rebrand and strategic plan redesign that resulted in a 500% increase in annual grantmaking for which she acted as the program officer. During 2015, ADA 25 Chicago leveraged the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act to move the spirit of the law forward. This included engaging and supporting over 200 partner organizations’ commitments and events. She has consulted for organizations to increase their disability inclusion including the University of Indiana Kelley School of Business, Institute for Nonprofit Professionals, and has spoken at conferences including the Leadership Exchange in Arts and Disability, Unity Summit, and Upswell Conference. Risa is passionate about the arts and serves on the Board of Directors for the Chicago Cultural Accessibility Consortium as Treasurer. Risa received a B.A. from Johns Hopkins University.

Nonprofit

Brian Rohde

Disability Awareness Player
JJ's List
(
He/him/his
)
Science and Technology
2020
Fellow

Brian Rohde is currently a ComEd Energy Force Ambassador where he conducts trainings on the benefits of energy conservation and provides energy saving tips. With a strong passion for environmental sustainability, this position allows Brian to share ComEd’s mission of Energy Efficiency with the public to achieve the goal of creating a greener, more sustainable future. The ComEd Energy Force Program is the only program taught solely by individuals with disabilities and helps build communication, organizational and working skills within the community. Not only has Brian developed each of these key skills substantially, but as an Energy Force Ambassador, Brian is a voice for the disability community to inspire change for the future. Formerly, Brian interned at Argonne National Laboratory where he helped assess the impacts of drought on hydroelectric power generation in the Western parts of the United States at the HUC8 subbasin level. Through data collection, research analysis, and ArcGIS 10, Brian created a map of HUC8 subbasins within the California river basin and a DEM map to analyze the impact of droughts on stream flow. Currently through JJsList, an online platform that connects businesses and people with disabilities, Brian is a Disability Performance Player, performing disability awareness trainings to the public at several venues throughout the Chicagoland area. This position has allowed Brian to better understand how to approach and communicate with others who have varying disabilities. Brian fully believes that spreading the message of disability awareness can lead to change in the current trends of people with disabilities being underrepresented in the workforce. With this experience through JJsList, Brian is able to help educate others outside of the community on how to effectively communicate with people with disabilities. Brian received his Bachelor of Arts in Geography from Valparaiso University in 2014. With an immense passion for environmental science, Brian has obtained a Trained Severe Weather Spotter license through the National Weather Service. Brian is a proud, lifelong resident of the Southwest suburbs and in his spare time, he enjoys traveling with his family, watching sports, and playing with his two dogs.

Independent

Art Sims

Radio Show Host
WVON 1690AM - Midway Broadcasting Company
(
He/him/his
)
Arts Culture and Entertainment
2019
Fellow

Legendary Broadcaster, Social Media Influencer, and Voiceover Artist. Art Sims, affectionately known as “Chat Daddy,” has established a well-respected, 26-year career and has entertained audiences via the radio, television, print, on stage, and online. His undeniable charm and quick wit led to appearances on Windy City Live, ABC TV Chicago, You & Me This Morning, WCIU TV Chicago, in addition to a columnist role with the historic Chicago Defender. Sims is currently the creator, executive producer, and host of The Real Chat Daddy Show. The Real Chat Daddy Show is a Live nightly digital media show that offers current news, health awareness, pop trends, and lifestyle stories, streamed via various social media platforms. In 2014, Sims joined WVON 1690am as an on-air talent. He served as the Executive Producer of Real Talk, Real People with Chat Daddy, a nightly broadcast that was heard globally via iHeart Radio Network that highlights local and national lifestyle stories, relationship advice, and celebrity news connecting with change-agents who offer their expertise to listeners. Sims is a familiar and welcomed voice in many diverse communities in Chicago and worldwide, providing inspirational, educational, and vital information on the development and maintenance of positive, sustainable relationships while connecting various communities through philanthropic efforts. Sims civic engagement and social involvement includes a two year Board Member position for Healthy Living with A Vision Foundation. Sims is also a Disability Lead 2019 Fellow & Ambassador. Sims recently joined the Health Equity Advisory Committee for the American Heart Association of Metro Chicago. Sims is the recipient of numerous awards and honors for his commitment to more positive and sustainable relationships.

Independent

Karen Tamley

President and CEO
Access Living
(
She/her/hers
)
Business Management and Administration
Member

Karen Tamley was named the new president and CEO of Access Living in January 2020. Before that, she served as Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities in Chicago for 14 years, where she tackled disability policy and accessibility initiatives under three Chicago mayors. Karen led disability-related work in the areas of transportation, city infrastructure, technology, emergency planning, education, and employment. She also oversaw the delivery of direct services including in-home supports, home accessibility modifications, and employment services to thousands of youth and adults with disabilities. Karen was appointed by President Obama in 2016 to serve on the United States Access Board, which develops national accessibility guidelines and standards. In March of 2019, she was elected Chair of the Access Board. In becoming CEO of Access Living, Karen is returning to her roots. She worked at Access Living from 1996 to 2005, under founding CEO Marca Bristo, first for three years as the Housing Policy Coordinator and then for six years as the Director of Programs. Prior to that, she was the Housing Director at Atlantis Community, Inc. a Center for service and advocacy for people with disabilities in Denver, Colorado. Tamley has a depth of experience serving on a wide variety of community and nonprofit boards that focus on cultural experiences and diversity and inclusion. In 2015, Karen received the Motorola Solutions Excellence in Public Service Award from the Civic Federation, which recognizes a non-elected government official for having an extraordinary impact on the quality of state and local government services in Illinois, and she received the Distinguished Fellow award from Leadership Greater Chicago. Karen is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley. She lives in Chicago with her husband, Kevin Irvine, and their adopted teenage daughter, Dominika. All three have disabilities themselves and are actively involved in grassroots disability advocacy locally and nationally.

Nonprofit