The Center will provide evidence-based training and technical assistance (TA) to the Administration on Disabilities (AoD) grantees aimed at improving competitive, integrated employment (CIE) and economic outcomes for individuals with disabilities across the nation. AoD grantees include:
Demonstrable improvements in CIE and economic outcomes for individuals with an array of abilities directly in connection with efforts by the AoD grantees.
About the Administration for Community Living (ACL)
The Administration for Community Living (ACL) is an operating division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). It is headed by the Administrator, who reports directly to the Secretary of HHS. ACL’s Principal Deputy Administrator serves as Senior Advisor to the HHS Secretary for Disability Policy. ACL is structured to provide general policy coordination while retaining unique programmatic operations specific to the needs of each population it serves.
Mission: Maximize the independence, well-being, and health of older adults, people with disabilities across the lifespan, and their families and caregivers.
Vision: For all people, regardless of age and disability, to live with dignity, make their own choices, and participate fully in society.
About the Administration on Disabilities (AoD)
The Administration on Disabilities works with states, communities, and partners in the disability networks to increase the independence, productivity, and community integration of individuals with disabilities. Under authorities provided by the:
- The Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act of 2000
- Rehabilitation Act of 1973,
- Help America Vote Act (HAVA),
- Assistive Technology Act of 1998,
- Section 398 of the Public Health Service Act, the AoD works to improve opportunities for people with disabilities to access quality services and supports, achieve economic self-sufficiency, and experience equality and inclusion in all facets of community life.
AoD Disability Employment TA Center Project Team: Lewin Group
Lewin Evaluation Analyst
AoD Disability Employment TA Center Project Team: TASH
TASH's Executive Director
TASH Project Coordinator
AoD TA Work Group Members
Centers for Independent Living
Executive Director – New Vistas, New Mexico
Sarah Michaud is the Executive Director for New Vistas, a Center for Independent Living serving northern New Mexico. She graduated with a Masters of Education in Rehabilitation Counseling from the University of Missouri and has worked in the disability field for 17 years. Her work experience includes an emphasis on multicultural service provision, program management and educational and employment support services.
Before coming to New Vistas, Ms. Michaud worked for the Pueblo of Jemez Vocational Rehabilitation Program as the VR Program Manager. In this role, she was responsible for vocational rehabilitation service delivery to tribal members with disabilities, overall program and grant management, programmatic outreach and community education, federal reporting on program performance and the development and maintenance of two intertribal agreements for the provision of VR services to previously unserved tribal communities. In additional to her VR work, Ms. Michaud assisted with disability advocacy efforts in New Mexico – serving on the NM DVR State Rehabilitation Council, the NM Statewide Independent Living Council, and the Board of Directors for New Mexico Allies for Advocacy.
Ms. Michaud joined the team at New Vistas in 2015 as the Deputy Director and then took over as the Executive Director in 2017. Ms. Michaud currently oversees the agency’s three main programs that include Early Intervention services providing services to children birth to three who have or are at risk for developmental delays, Disability Support and Advocacy services providing independent living supports, and the Microbusiness that fills production contracts as part of the agency’s resource development effort. Working together with her team, Ms. Michaud directs agency and program systems, maintains and monitors agency financials, provides systems and individual advocacy, directs outreach and curriculum development, and ensures that services for people with disabilities across the lifespan are provided across New Vistas nine county service area.
Cyndy Milstead Anzek
Director – Walton Options for Independent Living Inc., South Carolina
Cyndy Milstead-Anzek is a graduate of Michigan State University with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology with an additional specialization in anthropology (socio-cultural) and then a master’s degree from UALR in Rehabilitation Counseling. Cyndy has extensive experience within the disability field of practice starting as far back as the mid 1980’s. She was able to garner additional insight through her work/study in neuroscience and endocrinology while at Michigan State University. Moving forward, she has experience as a case manager for the SC Department of Disabilities and Special Needs (SC DDSN) as a Head and Spinal Cord Injury Service Coordinator where she managed the largest caseload in the state at that time. She also began and implemented a personal attendant care program while there as well as a still functioning support and advocacy group called the CSRA Dream Catchers.
After leaving SC DDSN Cyndy became the program manager for the benefits planning assistance and outreach program for a center for independent living (CIL) called Walton Options. Cyndy remains employed for this CIL and currently operates as the Director for Walton Options South Carolina. Among the programs offered through the CIL are Pre-Employment Training Skills through a contract with the SC Vocational Rehabilitation Department and the SC Commission for the Blind, an Employment First Initiative collaboration with other partners, and the SSA Work Incentives Planning and Assistance Program. Cyndy has managed the then BPAO and now WIPA program for going on 20 years. She is also a certified work incentives coordinator (CWIC). The WIPA program she oversees serves the entire state of South Carolina. She has served on the boards of the SC brain injury association and the statewide independent living council as well as numerous committees and coalitions. She has certifications as a rehabilitation counselor, a brain injury specialist, a life care planner and a work incentives coordinator. She has also been a volunteer guardian ad litem for nearly two decades and enjoys volunteering as an assistant volleyball and track and field coach for her local high school.
Houston Center for Independent Living, Texas
Chamane Barrow is the Executive Director of the Houston Center for Independent Living (HCIL). She is a long-time disability rights advocate and has worked with the HCIL organization since 1998, starting at and managing HCIL’s Brazoria County CIL satellite office in Angleton, Texas. Chamane is a past Partners in Policymaking graduate and has also participated in systems advocacy efforts in numerous cooperative projects with several organizations at local, regional, and federal levels that are relevant to improving the full inclusion, equal opportunity, and participations of persons with disabilities in every aspect of community life, including employment.
Chamane is a sitting member on the Houston-Galveston Area Council Regional Transit Coordination Subcommittee and was one of twenty Mobility Management Independent Living (MMIL) Coaches chosen nationwide to work to educate state mobility managers about transportation issues from an independent living and disability perspective through the MMIL demonstration program.
In addition, Chamane also partnered with the University of Montana Rural Institute for their implementation and evaluation of the Safety Project, a safety education program for men and women with intellectual disabilities. Prior to working at the CIL, Chamane was employed as a community health nurse.
Executive Director – Linking Employment Abilities and Potential, Ohio
Melanie is the Executive Director of Linking Employment, Abilities and Potential (LEAP), a Center for Independent Living, in Cleveland, Ohio. Melanie has been with the organization, which serves individuals with disabilities in six Ohio counties, for 25 years. Previous positions with LEAP include the agency’s Interim Director, Associate Director and Education Coordinator. She has been actively involved in the human service field her entire career, working with individuals with disabilities in a number of capacities, including residential services, vocational rehabilitation and independent living services. Melanie has served on numerous boards and councils on the local, state and national level. She holds a Master’s Degree in Education from Cleveland State University and a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology, with minors in Sociology and Theology, from Wheeling University.
Assistant Director - Mental Health Peer Connection/West New York Independent Living, New York
My name is Kevin Smith and I hold a Bachelor of Science from Buffalo State College. I am a New York Certified Peer Support Specialist, Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) Facilitator, Certified Recovery Peer Advocate- Provisional and Opioid Overdose Prevention Trainer. I am currently the Assistant Director of Mental Health Peer Connection (MHPC), part of Western New York Independent Living’s Family of Agencies.
Our vision statement at MHPC is “Peers Empowering Peers Together,” and I am a strong believer of wellness through employment.
Executive Director – League of Human Dignity, Nebraska
I have my Bachelor of Arts in Communication, Business, and Spanish and my Master of Arts in Speech Communication.
I experience multiple disabilities, some from birth, and I also have a son on the Autism Spectrum. From an early age, I was involved in teaching students with disabilities. I have been involved in Independent Living for over 30 plus years!
I am currently the CEO of the League of Human Dignity, Inc., an organization that supports independent Living for people with disabilities. We operate four Centers for Independent Living, three in Nebraska and one in Iowa. We also have six Medicaid Waiver offices where we administer the Nebraska Home and Community Based Services Waiver. This enables people who meet nursing facility level of care to remain in their own homes and communities. The LHD, Inc., also has 66 Housing and Urban Development units to help create affordable and accessible housing in Nebraska.
I am on the State Independent Living Council for Nebraska. I am also on the Equity Subcommittee for Lancaster County as well as the Transportation Focus Group for Lancaster County.
My goal is that individual with disabilities will be regarded in the same way as we look at hair or eye color. It is simply one element of a person and does not define them.
Director of Programs & Assessment – Accessibility Center for Independent Living, Indiana
Jessica Minor recently moved back to Indianapolis after living in the DC-area for the past eight years. Currently at accessABILITY, Jessica is the Director of Programs and Assessment where works to develop program implementation plans, outreach strategy and outcomes assessment. She is excited to be back in her hometown, working with a community that she loves. Prior to joining accessABILITY she worked with a health systems organization focusing on process improvement, community engagement and outreach and data analysis. Jessica has also worked with several disability organizations focusing on the intersection of public health, health policy and people with disabilities. She has extensive experience with program management and implementation, strategic planning and nonprofit management. Jessica holds a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Xavier University and a Master of Public Policy from University of Maryland.
Councils on Developmental Disabilities
Executive Director – Maryland Council on Developmental Disabilities
Rachel London is the Executive Director of the Maryland Developmental Disabilities Council, a statewide public policy and advocacy organization promoting the inclusion of people with developmental disabilities in all facets of community life. Rachel has been with the Council for 12 years, serving as the Director of Children & Family Policy and Deputy Director prior to becoming Executive Director.
Rachel earned her Bachelor’s Degree and Law Degree from the University of Maryland. After law school, she was a staff attorney at Disability Rights Maryland where she was active in many important civil rights issues for adults with developmental disabilities, including the closure of the Rosewood Center.
Nevada Council on Developmental Disabilities
Santa Perez is from Southern California where she was very active in the self-advocacy field. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Cal State Northridge.
When Santa moved to Las Vegas in the mid 90`s she discovered that there were no advocacy groups for people with disabilities. This was unacceptable for Santa and she started her quest to bring a self-advocacy group to Nevada. Santa co-founded People First of Nevada and her dream is now a reality with 7 chapters all around the state. Santa is a very proud and active former Statewide President of the People First of Nevada. She has testified before the state legislation and was instrumental in getting the Signature Stamp Law and the People First Respectful Language Law passed. Santa has sat on many disability committees, both state and federal. Santa was appointed by Secretary Tom Perez, Department of Labor, to be on the Advisory Committee on Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment for Individuals with Disabilities (ACICIEID). Santa is also a proud Council member serving on the Nevada Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities. Santa is a well-known writer and blogger, and she is the author of Sitting At Eye Level: My Life as an Advocate, a Professional, a Woman, a Mom and a Person with a Significant Disability. She is also hoping to start her own consulting firm in the future.
In her personal life Santa has accomplished many things. She has her own home and is a part of her community, but in her eyes, her greatest accomplishment is her son Noah.
Executive Director – Nebraska Council on Developmental Disabilities
Kristen Larsen currently serves as the Executive Director of the Nebraska Council on Developmental Disabilities. Kristen’s passion for disability advocacy is a result of years of personal lived experience with her 27 year-old son, Carl, who has autism and an intellectual disability. Serving as Carl’s advocate within the education and the HCBS waiver system led to her pursuit of a career focused on helping individuals and families who face the obstacles, challenges, and rewards that having a disability may pose.
Prior to her appointment to the Nebraska DD Council as the Executive Director in 2014, she served seven years at The Arc of Buffalo County in Kearney, Nebraska as the Executive Director/Youth Director. She had the experience of interacting with many individuals with developmental disabilities and their family members and learned firsthand about their challenges and barriers to finding and keeping competitive employment.
Within her role as the Executive Director for the Nebraska Council, Kristen has collaborated extensively with all of the Nebraska AoD grantee partners. Recent Council projects including the Juvenile Justice Cross-Disability Task Force, the Munroe-Meyer Institute Statewide Disability Leadership Training, and the current Person-Centered Planning Initiative are a few if the AoD grantee partners’ collaborative efforts. Additionally, the Nebraska Council is addressing employment in their current and new State Plans, and Kristen welcomes this opportunity to gain and share valuable knowledge to bring employment improvements to Nebraska and across the nation.
University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities Education, Research, and Service
University of Illinois, Institute on Disability and Human Development
Robin Jones is the Project Director of the Great Lakes ADA Center and an Instructor in the Department of Disability and Human Development at the University of Illinois at Chicago. The Great Lakes Center was founded in 1991 and is one of 10 Centers established nationally by Administration on Aging (ACL), National Institute on Independent Living, Disability Rehabilitation and Research (NIDLRR) to provide technical assistance regarding the ADA. Robin has served as the Project Director since the Center’s inception. Prior to joining the Center she served as founding director of an independent living center in the Chicago area. Other professional experiences include working as an occupational therapy practitioner at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago and as Assistant to the Head within the School of Occupational Therapy at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Robin Jones has extensive experiences as a consultant and trainer on the ADA for business, government, education and disability organizations within the Great Lakes Region and beyond. Her skills and expertise have been recognized by government leaders including appointments to serve as the Chairperson of the State of Illinois Task Force on Employment and Economic Self-Sufficiency for Persons with Disabilities and the City of Chicago Mayoral Task Force on Employment of Persons with Disabilities.
As an instructor within the Department on Disability and Human Development Robin teaches courses related to disability policy and is a guest lecturer within other Departments including Occupational Therapy, Education, Museum Studies, Business and Urban Planning on issues associated with hiring people with disabilities, reasonable accommodations, accessible technology and the accessible built environment.
In addition to her work on the Great Lakes Center, Robin plays an active role in several other funded research projects including Co-Investigator of the Research and Training Center (RRTC) on Employment of Persons with Physical Disabilities funded by NIDILRR under the direction of Principal Investigator Allen Heinemann, PhD at the Shirley Ryan Ability Lab and Co-Investigator of the ADA Participatory Action Research Consortium (ADA-PARC) funded by NIDILRR under the direction of Co-Project Directors Joy Hammel, PhD, University of Illinois at Chicago and Lex Frieden, University of Texas Health Science Center.
Jill Pleasant (Alternate)
Northern Arizona University/Institute for Human Development
Jill S. Pleasant, MA, OTR/L is the Associate Director for the Institute for Human Development (IHD) at Northern Arizona University – a University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities. Her responsibilities encompass oversight for a wide range of IHD’s Community Service Programs that directly impact persons across disability categories and age ranges including youth transition and employment. She has coordinated numerous statewide disability conferences where employment of persons with disabilities was and continues to be a focus area. She has many years of experience providing leadership for assistive technology services in Arizona, promoting awareness and access to assistive technology for persons with disabilities related to inclusive education, employment, and community living. She has also successfully submitted and executed grant and contract projects funded through government agencies and private foundations, the most recent of which is a current HHS Administration on Disabilities Transition Planning Grant.
Ms. Pleasant has a BS in Occupational Therapy, an MA in Educational Leadership, and a Certificate in Assistive Technology Applications. She is a licensed occupational therapist (OT) with experience providing OT services in healthcare, education, and community environments. Her professional perspective as an OT and personal experiences as a family member of an individual with disabilities, underscores her belief that supporting persons with disabilities to engage in self-determined, meaningful activities is critical for independence and true community inclusion. She is a published author and has presented on disability related topics locally, nationally, and abroad.
State Protection and Advocacy Entities
Disability Rights Indiana
Emily Munson is an Indianapolis attorney with a passion for disability rights and health law. Currently, she serves as Indiana Disability Rights’ Senior Attorney for Health Care and Policy, conducting litigation for individual clients and systemic advocacy projects. Prior to that, she led the agency’s Employment practice group. Earlier still, Munson was an attorney and administrative law judge for Indiana’s Family & Social Services administration.
In 2017, Munson graduated with distinction from Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law with her LL.M. in Health Law, Policy & Bioethics. Her thesis addressed patient autonomy in the context of traumatic, disabling injury. In 2010, Munson earned her J.D. with a health law concentration and M.A. in Philosophy. She graduated with honors from Hanover College in 2006.
In 2019, Munson spoke about disability employment at TEDxIndianapolis. She was recognized by The Indiana Lawyer as an Up & Coming Lawyer in 2015 and was Ms. Wheelchair Indiana 2009. She has published articles in numerous periodicals and is regularly invited to speak on health policy issues and work incentives. In her spare time, Munson enjoys playing power soccer (in a specialized wheelchair) and kicking butt in board games!
Shandra Monterastelli (Alternate)
Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program
Shandra Monterastelli is a staff attorney at the Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program, where she began as a law clerk in 2016 while attending The University of Alabama School of Law. After graduating cum laude in 2018, she became a law fellow, and transitioned to a staff attorney in 2019. Shandra primarily monitors compliance with the consent decree in Hunter v. Boswell, and advocates on behalf of individuals in facilities and individuals who receive Medicaid or Medicaid waiver services. Before moving to Alabama to attend law school, Shandra taught special education at the elementary level through AmeriCorps in Rochester, Washington.
Traumatic Brain Injury
Traumatic Brain Injury Grant Manager – State of Minnesota
My name is Eileen Faith Kelly. This will be my 10th year with the Minnesota Department of Human Services. I’ve worked helping people with disabilities navigate benefits, employment and community resources. I was a certified Social Security Administration Community Work Incentive Coordinator and focused on piloting financial counseling and benefit counseling into vocational rehabilitation services. Through this work I became a licensed financial planner and broker dealer.
My current role is the Administration on Community Living’s State Partnership brain injury grant manager. I coordinate and manage the brain injury partnership grant in collaboration with Minnesota’s TBI Advisory Committee liaison, BI Interagency Leadership Council, tribal liaisons, and the Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance. I have been busy building partnerships to help create strategies to fund, manage, deliver, and evaluate awareness and services for people with brain injury. My goal is to continue to support the person-centered services offered to people with disabilities, with a focus on brain injury infrastructure, training, and education opportunities statewide.
Benefits Planning Capacity Builder - Minnesota Department of Human Services
Abigail Helget has worked for the Minnesota Department of Human Services for over 3 years in the Disability Services Division, doing work to expand Benefits Planning in Minnesota as well as promoting the use of work incentives for people with disabilities. She has been a Community Partner Work Incentives Counselor (CPWIC) for almost six years and has done work around benefits planning for close to seven years.
Currently, Abigail works closely with the Disability Hub MN, Vocational Rehabilitation, Centers for Independent Living and Waiver Service providers to expand benefits planning in the state of Minnesota. Prior to coming to DHS, she worked with the Disability Hub MN for more than 4 years. Most of the time that Abigail worked at the Hub she coordinated services and specialized projects focused on financial and benefits planning for people with disabilities going to work.
Patricia Henke (Alternate)
Director - Colorado Office of Employment
Patricia is the Director of the Colorado Office of Employment First. Previously, Patricia was the supported employment program manager at the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) and has 25 years of direct and program management experience focused on employment of people with disabilities.
Outside of work, Patricia is likely to be found at the baseball fields, hiking, fishing, or skiing with her son. She also enjoys visiting her family in Louisiana.