Education

Obama Makes Picks for National Council on Disability

January 06, 2010 6 min read
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President Obama has recently sent over to the Senate for approval his nominations for members of the National Council on Disability.

The NCD is an independent federal agency that makes recommendations to the President and Congress on issues affecting 54 million Americans with disabilities.

Here are Obama’s nominations with bios provided by the White House:


  • Jonathan M. Young is senior counsel at FoxKiser LLP, 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.
  • Carol Jean Reynolds is the executive director of the Disability Center for Independent Living (DCIL) in Denver, Colo. DCIL is a grassroots service and advocacy organization that assists more than 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 named 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.
  • Fernando Torres-Gil 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, Mr. Torres-Gil was the first assistant secretary for aging in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and served as the staff director of the House of Representatives Select Committee on Aging. Mr. Torres-Gil also served as president of the American Society on Aging from 1989 to 1992. He is a member of San Francisco Bay Area Polio Survivors, the National Academy of Social Insurance, and on 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.
  • Chester Alonzo Finn is a special assistant with the New York State Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities, providing services, supports, and advocacy to individuals with development disabilities and their families. In October, he was appointed to the office’s leadership team. He is also president of the national board of Self-Advocates Becoming Empowered, board adviser to the Self Advocacy Association of New York State, 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 is developmentally disabled.
  • Gary Blumenthal is the executive director of the Association of Developmental Disabilities Providers, 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, Kan., for 12 years. Mr. Blumenthal a graduate of the University of Kansas, Lawrence and the University of Missouri, Kansas City.
  • Sara Gelser serves as a state representative for 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 nonprofit organization serving families and medical professionals dealing with FG Syndrome, a rare developmental disability. Ms. Gelser’s teenaged son, Sam, has FG Syndrome.
  • Ari Ne’eman 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 also serves as vice chair of the New Jersey Adults with Autism Task Force, where he represents 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 youth advisory council to the National Council on Disability. He is a board member of TASH and the Autism National Committee. In 2008, he received the HSC Foundation “Advocates in Disability” Award. Mr. Ne’eman is an undergraduate at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, where he studies political science and expects to graduate in May. In 2000, Mr. Ne’eman was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, an autism-spectrum disorder.
  • Joe Pak is vice president and loan officer of the Farmers & Merchants Bank of Long Beach, Calif. Previously, Mr. Pak 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 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 age 3, Mr. Pak’s left arm was paralyzed by polio.

A version of this news article first appeared in the On Special Education blog.

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