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A Call to Action: Eliminating Compounded Disparities for People with Disabilities in a Year of COVID-19

Our 2021 Symposium, A Call to Action: Eliminating Compounded Disparities for People with Disabilities in a Year of COVID-19 was held virtually on Friday, May 14, 2021, from 8:30 am to 1:30 pm EST. Thank you to all who were able to join us. We are so grateful to our partners and sponsors for helping to make the day so successful. We were honored to have such distinguished guests, speakers, and panelists at this event.  

This past year was like no other in memory. COVID-19 has laid bare the gross inequities that are deeply-seated in society. Focusing on lived experience, this symposium explored the intersectionality of disability, race, ethnicity, culture, gender identities, and the political determinants of health. The virtual event with 1,100 registered participants was an effort to provoke a deeper discussion about our shared responsibilities and to help us develop a better path forward for future action in partnership with people with disabilities. 

Thank you for joining partners AHRC New York CityPace University, and Georgetown University’s National Center for Cultural Competence, with participation from the New York City Mayor’s Office for People with DisabilitiesNew York City Department of Social Services, and Trinity Church Wall Street for a day of thought-provoking panel discussions led by regional and national leaders.  

In case you missed it, watch each panel by clicking the images below or click here to watch the entire symposium on YouTube. 

2021 Symposium: Opening Remarks

Keynote Speech and Response to Keynote

Panel One

Panel Two

Panel Three

Speakers and Panelists

Daniel E. Dawes, JD
Daniel E. Dawes, JDExecutive Director of the Satcher Health Leadership Institute at Morehouse School of Medicine

Attorney Daniel E. Dawes is a nationally recognized leader in the health equity movement and has led numerous efforts to address health policy issues impacting vulnerable, underserved, and marginalized populations. He is a health care attorney and administrator, and serves as the executive director of government affairs and health policy at Morehouse School of Medicine. He is also a lecturer of health law and policy at the Satcher Health Leadership Institute.

Dawes was instrumental in shaping the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) and founded and chaired the largest advocacy group, the National Working Group on Health Disparities and Health Reform, focused on developing comprehensive, inclusive and meaningful legislation to reform the health care system and address the disparities in health care and health status among racial and ethnic minorities, people with disabilities, women, children, LGBT individuals, and other vulnerable groups in the United States. He is the co-founder of the Health Equity Leadership and Exchange Network (HELEN), which is a national network of health equity champions in virtually every state and territory.

Dawes often lectures and presents on health law and policy while serving simultaneously on several boards, commissions, and councils focused on health equity and health reform. He is an advisor to international, national, regional, state and municipal policymakers, as well as think tanks, associations, foundations, corporations, and nonprofit organizations. 

Senator Charles E. Schumer, JD
Senator Charles E. Schumer, JDUS Senate Majority Leader
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, JD
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, JDUnited States Senator for New York
Judy Heumann, MPH
Judy Heumann, MPHInternational Disability Advocate and Founder of Disabled in Action

Judith (Judy) Heumann is a lifelong advocate for the rights of disabled people. She contracted polio in 1949 in Brooklyn, New York and began to use a wheelchair for her mobility. She was denied the right to attend school because she was considered a “fire hazard” at the age of five. Her parents played a strong role in fighting for her rights as a child, but Judy soon determined that she, working in collaboration with other disabled people, had to play an advocacy role due to continuous discrimination.

She is now an internationally recognized leader in the Disability Rights Community. Her memoir, authored with Kristen Joiner, of “Being Heumann: An Unrepentant Memoir Of A Disability Rights Activist,” published by Beacon Press and audio recorded by Ali Stroker who is the first wheelchair actor to perform on Broadway. Judy was featured on the Trevor Noah Show. Judy is featured in Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution, a 2020 American award winning documentary film, directed by James LeBrecht and Nicole Newnham, produced by the Obama Higher Ground Production and is available on Netflix.

She has been featured in numerous documentaries including On The History Of The Disability Rights Movement, including Lives Worth Living and the Power Of 504 and delivered a TED Talk in the fall of 2016, “Our Fight For Disability Rights – and Why We’re Not Done Yet”. Her story was also told on Comedy Central’s Drunk History in early 2018, in which she was portrayed by Ali Stroker.

As Senior Fellow at the Ford Foundation (2017-2019), she wrote “Road Map For Inclusion: Changing The Face Of Disability In Media”. She also currently serves on a number of non-profit boards including the American Association of People with Disabilities, the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund,  Humanity and Inclusion, as well as the Human Rights Watch Board.

Judy was a founding member of the Berkeley Center for Independent Living which was the first grassroots center in the United States and helped to launch the independent living movement both nationally and globally.

In 1983, Judy co-founded the World Institute On Disability (WID) with Ed Roberts and Joan Leon, as one of the first global disability rights organizations founded and continually led by people with disabilities that works to fully integrate people with disabilities into the communities around them via research, policy, and consulting efforts.

From 1993 to 2001, Judy served in the Clinton Administration as the Assistant Secretary for the Office Of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services In the Department of Education.

Judy then served as the world bank’s first adviser on disability and development from 2002 to 2006. In this position, she led the World Bank’s disability work to expand its knowledge and capability to work with governments and civil society on including disability in the global conversation.

During his presidency, President Obama appointed Judy as the first Special Advisor for International Disability Rights at the U.S. Department of State, where she served from 2010-2017. Mayor Fenty of D.C. appointed her as the first Director for the Department on Disability Services, where she was responsible for the Developmental Disability Administration and the Rehabilitation Services Administration.

Throughout her life, Judy has traveled on her motorized wheelchair to countries on every continent, in urban and rural communities alike. She has played a role in the development and implementation of major legislation including the IDEA, Section 504, the Americans with Disability Act and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Judy graduated from Long Island University in Brooklyn, NY in 1969 and received her Master’s in Public Health from the University Of California at Berkeley In 1975. She has received numerous awards including being the first recipient of the Henry B. Betts Award along with the Max Starkloff Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Council on Independent Living. She has been awarded numerous honorary doctorates.

Lydia X. Z. Brown, JD
Lydia X. Z. Brown, JDDisability Justice Advocate, Organizer, Educator, Attorney, Strategist, and Writer

Lydia X. Z. Brown is an advocate, organizer, educator, attorney, strategist, and writer. Their work focuses on addressing state and interpersonal violence targeting disabled people living at the intersections of race, class, gender, sexuality, faith, language, and nation. They are Policy Counsel for Disability Rights and Algorithmic Fairness for the Privacy and Data Project at the Center for Democracy and Technology, and Director of Policy, Advocacy, and External Affairs for the Autistic Women and Nonbinary Network.

Lydia currently serves as a member of the American Bar Association’s Commission on Disability Rights, chairperson of the ABA Civil Rights and Social Justice Section’s Disability Rights Committee, and representative of the Disability Justice Committee to the National Lawyers Guild’s National Executive Committee. They also serve on the board of directors of the Alliance for Citizen Directed Supports, and on advisory boards for organizations including the Transgender Law Center, The Kelsey, Borealis Philanthropy, the Lurie Institute for Disability Policy, the Nonbinary and Intersex Recognition Project, and the Vera Institute for Justice. They regularly provide consulting, training, and workshops to nonprofit organizations, services agencies, colleges and universities, and other programs and companies interested in radical access and inclusion. 

Lydia founded the Fund for Community Reparations for Autistic People of Color’s Interdependence, Survival, and Empowerment. They are currently creating their own tarot deck, Disability Justice Wisdom Tarot. Lydia is Adjunct Lecturer in Disability Studies at Georgetown University and Adjunct Professorial Lecturer in American Studies at American University’s Department of Critical Race, Gender, and Culture Studies. Previously, they taught at Tufts University as a Visiting Lecturer for the Experimental College. Often, their most important work has no title, job description, or funding, and probably never will. 

Britney Wilson, Esq.
Britney Wilson, Esq.Associate Professor of Law and Director of the Civil Rights and Disability Justice Clinic, New York Law School

Britney Wilson is a civil rights lawyer, writer, and advocate from Brooklyn, N.Y. She recently joined the faculty of New York Law School (NYLS) as an Associate Professor of Law and the Director of the new Civil Rights and Disability Justice Clinic, which will launch in Fall 2021. Prior to NYLS, Britney was a staff attorney at the National Center for Law and Economic Justice (NCLEJ) where she litigated disability rights, excessive fines and fees, and discriminatory policing cases. Before NCLEJ, Britney litigated discriminatory policing, abusive immigration detention practices, and economic justice cases as a Bertha Justice Fellow at the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR). Prior to CCR, Britney was a Marvin M. Karpatkin Fellow in the Racial Justice Program at the American Civil Liberties Union where she litigated a range of racial justice issues from the school-to-prison pipeline and the criminalization of poverty to fair housing and inclusion in higher education. Born with Cerebral Palsy, Britney has written and spoken extensively about disability, and the intersection of race and disability, for various media outlets, including The Nation Magazine, Longreads, and This American Life.

Marco Damiani, MA
Marco Damiani, MAChief Executive Officer of AHRC New York City

Marco Damiani has served as the Chief Executive Officer of AHRC New York City since 2017, working with its 5,000 mission-driven staff members to build upon the extraordinary 70-plus year legacy of AHRC NYC’s commitment to social justice for children and adults with disabilities. Marco joined AHRC New York City with a varied and progressive career in the field of intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), behavioral health and general healthcare, as a clinician, consultant, and agency executive. His career began at FEGS as a direct support professional and clinician, shortly after the implementation of the landmark Willowbrook Consent Decree and progressed through the years with positions in New York State government to his position as Executive Vice-President at YAI Network where he led a broad and expansive portfolio of health, dental and behavioral healthcare, and large community-based family support, information and referral programs and research/program evaluation, to Executive Vice President at Cerebral Palsy Associations of NYS, to his most previous position as CEO of Metro Community Health Centers, a network of 6 Federally-Qualified Health Centers in NYC devoted to supporting patients of all abilities. 

In addition to positions in executive leadership, Marco has served as Chair of the Manhattan Developmental Disabilities Council, Chairman of the Alliance for Integrated Care of New York, the first Medicare Accountable Care Organization in the nation focused on individuals with I/DD, a Board member of both the Inter-Agency Council of I/DD Agencies, New York Disability Advocates, and Care Design NY, an I/DD Health Home. He is a Mayoral Appointee of the NYC Community Services Board I/DD subcommittee and an Appointee to the New York University College of Dentistry Dean’s Strategic Advisory Council. In addition and in recognition of Marco’s contributions, leadership and advocacy, he was awarded the Kriser Medal, the highest honor from NYU College of Dentistry, the Arc of the US National Conference of Executives Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award and the Certificate of Special US Congressional Recognition for outstanding and invaluable service to the community. 

Marco earned a B.S. in Psychology from Manhattan College, a Master’s Degree in Developmental Psychology from Columbia University, and pursued doctoral studies in Educational Psychology at New York University. He attributes his success to the extraordinary collective work and shared vision of his many colleagues over the years, their enduring commitment to promoting social justice for people with disabilities and his never-ending quest to being more than just a so-so guitar player.

Marvin Krislov, JD
Marvin Krislov, JDPresident of Pace University

Marvin Krislov became the eighth President of Pace University on August 1, 2017. He is deeply committed to Pace’s mission of Opportunitas—providing all students, regardless of economic background, access to the transformative power of education. He is guiding Pace through its New York City Master Plan to overhaul our downtown campus, and he’s working to bolster Pace’s status as the nation’s leading four-year private college for driving economic mobility. Prior to Krislov’s appointment at Pace, he served for 10 years as the president of Oberlin College, where he led collaborative, consensus-driven efforts to make the college more rigorous, diverse, inclusive, and accessible to students from every socioeconomic background. Prior to Oberlin, he was vice president and general counsel at the University of Michigan, where he led the legal defense of the University’s admission policies that resulted in the 2003 Supreme Court decision recognizing the import