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National Council on Disability Introduces Eight New Board Members, New Chairman

Thursday, June 24, 2010

June 24, 2010

WASHINGTON—The National Council on Disability (NCD) is proud to introduce eight new Board Members who were nominated by President Barack Obama on December 17, 2009, confirmed by the U.S. Senate, and duly appointed as Members. President Obama has further designated Jonathan Young as Chairman. The new Members are: Jonathan Young (Chairman), Gary Blumenthal, Chester Finn, Sara Gelser, Ari Ne’eman, Dongwoo Joseph “Joe” Pak, Carol Jean Reynolds, and Fernando M. Torres-Gil. Individual biographies for each new Council Member are located at the end of this release.

“I am honored to serve as Chairman of the National Council on Disability and pleased to be joined by an outstanding group of Council Members,” stated NCD’s new Chairman Jonathan Young. “I also want to thank former Chairperson Linda Wetters and NCD Executive Director Joan Durocher for working tirelessly to ensure a smooth transition.”

NCD is an independent federal agency charged with advising the President, Congress, and other federal officials and entities on all policies, programs, practices and procedures affecting people with disabilities. NCD’s mission is to further the goals enshrined in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990: equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living and economic self-sufficiency for all people with disabilities.

“July 26 marks the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. It is an occasion not only to celebrate our achievements, but also to redouble our efforts to realize the policy goals of the ADA. Meaningful progress won’t come easily, but that is a challenge I embrace as Chairman,” said Chairman Young.

NCD will commemorate the ADA anniversary with a Disability Policy Summit, taking place July 25-28 in Washington, D.C. The theme for the Summit is Living, Learning, & Earning. “This cross-cutting theme is designed to focus on real-life objectives shared by all Americans, including Americans with disabilities, and to concentrate our efforts on working across rather than within entrenched policy silos,” said Chairman Young.

The newest Members of the Council join five other Members previously appointed by former President George W. Bush: Victoria Ray Carlson, Marylyn Howe, Heather McCallum, Lonnie Moore, and Linda Wetters. There are currently two vacancies on the Council.

NCD also extends its gratitude to several outgoing Board Members for their public service: Robert Davila, Graham Hill, Kathy Martinez, Lisa Mattheiss, Katherine McCary, Pat Pound, Anne Rader, and Tony Williams.

“NCD has a proud legacy, which includes calling for the enactment of the ADA and later offering the first draft in 1988,” said Chairman Young. “NCD Members and staff, past and present, have been tireless public servants, working to enact and improve public policies that give people with disabilities a chance to risk, succeed, and fail like everyone else. I am grateful for the Council’s past work, and look forward to working closely with my fellow Council Members, staff, and NCD’s many stakeholders to further our collective mission in the years ahead.”

The full Board now consists of: Jonathan Young, Ph.D., Gary Blumenthal, Victoria Ray Carlson, Chester Finn, Sara Gelser, Marylyn Howe, Heather McCallum, Lonnie Moore, Ari Ne’eman, Joe Pak, Carol Reynolds, Dr. Fernando Torres-Gill, Linda Wetters, and there are two vacancies.

Biographies of new Council Members:

Jonathan Young of Bethesda, Maryland, is Senior Counsel at FoxKiser—a firm specializing in strategic collaboration and counseling  in law, science, and medicine—and co-founder and Vice Chair of the Committee on Disability Power & Pride. Before law school he served in the Executive Office of the President (1998-2001), where he led several disability policy initiatives, provided counsel on disability policy, delivered numerous keynote addresses on behalf of the White House, and founded Disability Mentoring Day. At the NRH Center for Health and Disability Research (1996-1998), he authored Equality of Opportunity, a 1997 NCD publication that became the foundation for his 2002 dissertation on the disability rights movement. Awards include the 1987 NRH Victory Award® and the 2000 USJC Ten Outstanding Young Americans Award. He received a J.D. from Yale Law School, a Ph.D. and M.A. in History from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and a B.A. from Messiah College. Mr. Young is partially paralyzed from a spinal cord injury. He and his wife Nellie Wild have three daughters, Bella, Katie, and Julia.

Gary Blumenthal of Sudbury, Massachusetts, is the President and CEO for the Association of Developmental Disabilities Providers (ADDP), which aims to promote and ensure the health of the community-based organizations that provide supports and services for individuals with developmental disabilities. He also served as the Executive Director for the Alta California Regional Center, which oversees service delivery for children and adults with developmental disabilities in the Sacramento region. Previously, Mr. Blumenthal was the Wichita Regional Director for the Kansas State Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services, CEO for the Florida State Protection and Advocacy Programs for People with Developmental Disabilities, and Director of the President’s Committee on Mental Retardation during the Clinton administration. Mr. Blumenthal was also a member of the Kansas State House of Representatives for 11 years. He was an American Government teacher in the Shawnee Mission Public Schools in Overland Park, Kansas for 12 years. Mr. Blumenthal a graduate of the University of Kansas, Lawrence and the University of Missouri, Kansas City.

Chester Finn of Albany, New York, is a Special Assistant with the New York State Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities (OMRDD), providing services, supports, and advocacy to individuals with development disabilities and their families; in October 2009 he was appointed to the OMRDD’s Leadership Team. He is also President of the national board of Self-Advocates Becoming Empowered, Board Advisor to the Self Advocacy Association of New York State (SANYS), and a member of the Justice for All Action Networking Streaming Committee. Mr. Finn is also an active member of the Board of Directors for the ARC of the United States, the world’s largest community based organization of and for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Mr. Finn is blind and a person with a developmental disability and is committed to fighting for the civil rights of all people with disabilities.

Sara Gelser of Corvalis, Oregon, currently serves as State Representative for the citizens of Corvallis and Philomath in the Oregon State House of Representatives. The youngest woman in the Oregon State Legislature, she also serves as Assistant Majority Leader and chairs the House Education Committee. Previously Ms. Gelser served as the Children with Disabilities and Family Support Coordinator for the Oregon State Department of Human Services. Additionally, she served as a regional coordinator for the Oregon Parent Training and Information Center, where she provided training to parents, educators and administrators about the implementation of special education law. Ms. Gelser is the founder of the FG Syndrome Family Alliance, a non-profit organization serving families and medical professionals dealing with FG Syndrome, a rare developmental disability. Ms. Gelser and her husband Peter have three daughters, Ellie, Nicole, and Maia, and they have a teenaged son, Sam, who has FG Syndrome.

Ari Ne’eman of Catonsville, Maryland, is the Founding President of the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network, where he initiates and directs efforts to increase the representation of autistic individuals in public policy discussions. He is a leading advocate in the neurodiversity movement, frequently briefing policymakers and speaking publicly on disability and autism policy issues. Mr. Ne’eman served as Vice Chair of the New Jersey Adults with Autism Task Force, where he represented autistic adults in reviewing the state’s autism services. He also previously served on the New Jersey’s Special Education Review Commission, where he authored a minority report on the topic of aversives, restraint and seclusion. Mr. Ne’eman previously served as the Policy Workgroup Leader for the NCD Youth Advisory Council. He is a board member of TASH and a public member of the Inter-Agency Autism Coordinating Committee. In 2010, he was named one of New York Jewish Week’s 36 under 36 and in 2009 received the Expanding Horizons Award from United Cerebral Palsy. Mr. Ne’eman graduated from the University of Maryland-Baltimore County in 2010 with a B.A. in Political Science. In 2000, Mr. Ne’eman was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder.

Joe Pak of Garden Grove, California, is Vice President and Loan Officer of the Farmers & Merchants Bank of Long Beach, CA. Mr. Pak also worked as the Director of External Affairs for SBC/Pacific Bell, representing the company to city officials and state legislators as well as to community and business leaders. He is currently a board member of Acacia Adult Day Health Care Services. Mr. Pak has served on the Special Needs Advisory Board for the Orange County Transit Authority and on the California State Rehabilitation Council, where he focused on increasing the low rate of employment among people with disabilities. He is also a former Board Member and Program Chair for the Korean Health Education, Information, and Research Center. Mr. Pak earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Southern California and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Phoenix. At three years of age, Mr. Pak’s left arm was paralyzed by polio.

Carol Jean Reynolds of Evergreen, Colorado, is the Executive Director of the Disability Center for Independent Living (DCIL) in Denver, Colorado. DCIL is a grassroots service and advocacy organization that assists over 700 consumers each year, providing four core services to individuals with both physical and mental disabilities: peer counseling, independent living skills training, advocacy, and referrals. Ms. Reynolds is a Member of the governing board of the National Council on Independent Living and serves as Co-Chairperson of its Mental Health Task Force. She was awarded Board Member and Consumer of the Year by the National Association of the Mentally Ill – Colorado. She is also a member of the Colorado State Rehabilitation Employment Council. Ms. Reynolds speaks publicly on mental health issues, including providing testimony to the Colorado State legislature in connection with legislation providing funding to uninsured individuals with mental health issues. Ms. Reynolds has struggled with and overcome several mental health and substance abuse issues and has been in recovery for 26 years.

Dr. Fernando M. Torres-Gil of Los Angeles, California, is Associate Dean of Academic Affairs at the UCLA School of Public Affairs. Previously he served as a Professor of Gerontology and Public Administration at the University of Southern California, where he is still an Adjunct Professor of Gerontology. Before serving in academia, Dr. Torres-Gil was the first Assistant Secretary for Aging in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and as the Staff Director of the U.S. House of Representatives Select Committee on Aging. Dr. Torres-Gil also served as President of the American Society on Aging from 1989 to 1992. He is currently a member of the San Francisco Bay Area Polio Survivors, the National Academy of Social Insurance and of the board of directors of Elderhostel, the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, the AARP Foundation, the Los Angeles Airport Commission, and The California Endowment. Professor Torres-Gil is a polio survivor.

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