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NCD Council Members

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The Council Members of NCD live across the country and each brings a unique perspective informed by varied personal and professional experiences. Council Members are people with disabilities, parents or guardians of people with disabilities, or other people who have substantial knowledge or experience of disability policy or programs. NCD Council Members are appointed to represent people with disabilities, national organizations concerned with disabilities, providers and administrators of services to people with disabilities, people engaged in conducting medical or scientific research related to disabilities, business concerns, and labor organizations. A majority of NCD Council Members are people with disabilities.

Andrés J. Gallegos, Esq. is the Chairman of the National Council on Disability. He is a partner with the law firm of Hughes Socol Piers Resnick & Dym, Ltd., in Chicago, Illinois, where he focuses his practice on disability rights and healthcare law. He directs the law firm’s national disability rights practice, which has as its primary emphasis ensuring accessible healthcare, civic access and accessible housing for all people with disabilities. He is a board member of the American Association on Health & Disability, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring health equity for children and adults with disabilities through policy, research, education and dissemination at the federal, state and community level; a board member of Disability Lead, a Chicago-based non-for profit whose mission is to increase civic engagement and diverse leadership in the Chicago region by developing and building a network of leaders with disabilities. Andrés is a past Chairman of the Board of Directors of Access Living of Metropolitan Chicago, Chicago’s Center for Independent Living, and is a two-term past-member of the Statewide Independent Living Council of Illinois, having been appointed by the governor. He has written numerous articles for national and state professional healthcare and legal organizations on matters relating to the application of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act to healthcare providers, and is a highly-sought out lecturer on accessible healthcare and disability rights. He graduated with Honors from the University of Southern Mississippi, with a B.S. in Business Administration, and he attained a Juris Doctorate from the St. Louis University School of Law. He is a veteran of the United States Air Force, serving honorably for 14 years.

Hoskie Benally Jr., is a Member of the Navajo Nation and is Legally Blind. He is currently employed with the Native American Disability Law Center as the Community and Government Liaison engaged in Disability Systems Advocacy with the Navajo Nation and other Native American Tribes. Benally is also involved with the National Congress of American Indians, Disability Sub-Committee. Prior to joining the Law Center, Benally was the CEO of a Residential Treatment Center for Native American Youth that successfully integrated Navajo culture into western-based mental health treatment. Benally is the current President of the Navajo Nation Advisory Council on Disabilities, a former Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor, and a former Member of the New Mexico Developmental Disability Planning Council. Grounded in Navajo tradition and fluent in Navajo, Benally is an experienced cultural instructor. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in Sociology from Brigham Young University.

Sascha Bittner, who is quadriplegic with a speech disability as a result of cerebral palsy, is a lifelong community activist, with a particular focus on disability and domestic workers’ rights. She lives in San Francisco and has served on numerous disability-related committees and boards. Sascha is currently president of the San Francisco In-Home Supportive Services Public Authority Governing Board and a Mayor Breed appointee to the Disability and Aging Commission. In addition, Sascha serves on the national steering committee and local chapter of Hand-in-Hand, the Domestic Employers Network, working with the National Domestic Workers Alliance, SEIU and UDW to ensure good working conditions that benefit both employers and workers, including those who provide homecare for disabled people. She is also the co-chair of the Golden Gate Regional Center Self-Determination Local Advisory Committee, serves on the Bay Area Regional Advisory Committee on Developmental Disabilities, and is a past chair of the California State Council on Developmental Disabilities. Sascha recently worked with members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors on a successful pilot program to provide affordable, long-term homecare for middle class San Franciscans. She is particularly passionate about long-term support and services and issues related to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. For twenty years, Sascha was the program coordinator for KIDS Project, co-facilitating disability education workshops for thousands of students in Bay Area schools to promote inclusion and combat bullying. Sascha has a B.A. in Social Welfare from UC Berkeley.

Theo W. Braddy has advocated on behalf of people with disabilities for over 40 years. At the age of 15, he became a person with a disability due to a high school football accident that left him paralyzed from the neck down. In 1988, Braddy was hired as CEO of the Center for Independent Living of Central Pennsylvania, where he served for over 30 years. As CEO, Braddy created an independent living center that became a strong and growing voice for people with disabilities, and started the Living Well with a Disability Initiative. Additionally, he has taught at Temple University and Millersville University as an Adjunct Professor. Two different Governors have appointed Braddy as a Commissioner for the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission and to serve on the Pennsylvania Statewide Independent Living Council. In 2021, Governor Wolf appointed him to serve on the State Board of Vocational Rehabilitation. In 2022, Braddy was selected by Senator Robert Casey, Jr., as one of four Black leaders in Pennsylvania who has demonstrated power and persistency in overcoming challenges and creating meaningful change in the State, and his contribution was acknowledged on the Senate Floor at a Congressional Hearing. He graduated from Temple University with his MSW in 1988 after receiving his BSW from Edinboro University. 

Claudia L. Gordon is a dedicated advocate for people with disabilities with nearly 30 years of versatile professional expertise, with a personal mission to level the playing field and ensure the same opportunities are provided for all. She currently serves as the Senior Accessibility Strategist with T-Mobile US, Inc. In this role, she drives strategies for a disability inclusive culture and an accessible plus equitable work environment. Gordon has held senior leadership positions with Sprint Corporation, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the National Council on Disability, and the National Association of the Deaf Law and Advocacy Center. During the Obama-Biden Administration, Gordon served as the Chief of Staff for the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs and the Associate Director of Public Engagement for the White House Office of Public Engagement. Adding to Gordon’s professional expertise is her lived experience as an immigrant at the intersections of race, disability, and gender, which is the foundation for the strong emphasis on disabled individuals with multiple marginalized identities that she brings to her work. For her unrelenting commitment to advocacy, compliance, civic engagement, and mentoring, Gordon has been recognized by the American Association of People with Disabilities, Google, AT&T Humanity of Connection, National Disability Mentoring Coalition, National Association of the Deaf, National Black Deaf Advocates, and The Root 100. Gordon is a native of Jamaica, graduate of Howard University, and graduate of the American University’s Washington College of Law.

Shawn Kennemer has a background in executive leadership and developing services and supports for people with disabilities. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Organizational Leadership from Fresno Pacific University and Graduated Magna Cum Laude. He is currently the President and CEO of Bakersfield ARC that is leading change by becoming the first organization in Kern County, that provides jobs and support to people disabilities, to become fully community based. He has worked and lead a local non-profits collaboration of executive directors (VOICED) to make all bus stops in the City of Bakersfield no parking. Over his 30 years in providing services to people with disabilities, Shawn has held positions at both the executive level as well as providing direct support and created over 15 new programs. Shawn has been an advocate at the local, state, and national level. Shawn currently serves as on the board of directors of the Independent Living Center of Kern County and is a member of the Rotary Club of Bakersfield Downtown.

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, Rifkind positions Members to take on leadership roles that advance their careers, civic engagement, and equity for people with disabilities. In 2020, she served on the Disability Inclusion Fund’s grantmaking committee. Previously, Rifkind 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. Rifkind is passionate about the arts and serves as Treasurer for the Chicago Cultural Accessibility Consortium. She is also a Member of Disability Lead. Rifkind received a B.A. from Johns Hopkins University.

Neil Romano  has dedicated his career to the marketing of ideas and messages to help save lives and promote public policy.  Romano’s extensive professional background includes tenure as director of communications for the White House Office of Drug Abuse Policy. In that role, he worked on notable public awareness campaigns including “Just Say No” and “America Responds to AIDS.” In 2007, Romano was nominated by President George W. Bush to be the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy and was unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate. As head of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), Romano advised the Secretary of Labor and worked with all DOL agencies to lead a comprehensive and coordinated national policy regarding the employment of people with disabilities in the United States. His work as a member of the Committee for Purchase from People Who are Blind or Severely Disabled, helped improve the quality of life for workers with disabilities. In 2010, Romano’s work as a member of that committee was recognized by the full committee with a special leadership award. As a producer/director, Romano’s film, “Youth Homicide: A Public Health Crisis,” earned a Best Director Emmy Nomination.

Emily Voorde is an Associate Director with NEWCO Strategies, a full-service strategic consulting firm that helps progressive campaigns, organizations, and companies achieve their goals. She most recently served as an Associate Director in the White House Office of Public Engagement as the Biden-Harris Administration’s liaison to Disabled Americans and K-12 educators. Voorde’s personal passions and professional expertise center on justice for individuals with disabilities and equitable access to education. Her career began as an AmeriCorps member and 2nd grade teacher in Pascagoula, Mississippi. In the summer of 2019, Voorde returned to her hometown of South Bend, Indiana to support Secretary Pete Buttigieg’s run for President, serving as Chasten Buttigieg’s full-time body woman on the campaign trail. During the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, Voorde served as an Associate Director with the University of Notre Dame’s Sara Bea Center for Students with Disabilities. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Notre Dame, a Masters of Education from the University of Notre Dame, and a Masters of Public Policy in Education from Vanderbilt University.