Our Members and Fellows lead with their disability identity to create better, equitable and more inclusive communities. Learn more about our work and network of positive disruptors in our video.
We accomplish this by Uplifting Disability Power, Influencing and Activating Change, and Making Our Vision Real.LEARN MORE ABOUT OUR NETWORK
People with disabilities will lead with power and influence for full participation and equal opportunity as a vital part of the civic fabric in the Chicago region.
To increase civic engagement and diverse leadership in the Chicago region by developing and building a network of leaders with disabilities — consistent with the spirit of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
We pursue our vision with a voracious belief that creating a more equitable and inclusive society matters and is an obligation of everyone. Disability is a natural part of the human experience. Disability exists in every facet of society including in immigrant communities, in Black and Brown communities, in LGBTQIA+ communities, in Indigenous Communities and every community in between.
While the Americans with Disabilities Act affirmed the rights of people with disabilities, we work with the understanding that we will only be an equitable and inclusive society when we achieve true disability justice. Disability justice is a cross-disability and cross-social justice movement that centers intersectional identities led by those who have been most impacted by systemic oppression. It insists that our worth is inherent and tied to the liberation of all people.
In 2015, over 200 Chicagoland groups convened by The Chicago Community Trust celebrated and leveraged the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. ADA 25 Chicago identified the pressing need to address the lack of disability representation at the region’s tables of power and influence. A Leadership Institute was created to build a deeper bench of leaders with disabilities to serve on task forces, boards, commissions, and other roles. After a successful pilot, the initiative evolved into ADA 25 Advancing Leadership initially incubated at The Chicago Community Trust. In 2019, ADA 25 Advancing Leadership was established as an independent 501c3 and in 2021 rebranded to Disability Lead.
The Disability Lead logo is a one lined typeface made up of text that reads “Disability Lead” and the “t” in Disability is a plus sign made up of three distinct colors (orange, pink, and purple) coming together. The plus sign symbolizes the positive impact that people with disabilities have in leadership roles and the importance of intersectional perspectives coming together as one. In some instances, the logo is accompanied by the tagline, “Power. Influence. Change.”, which we uphold as pillars of our organization.
Emerging leaders with disabilities explore leadership skills, disability identity, and professional and civic leadership goals in our year-long program. Upon successful completion of the Institute, Fellows become lifetime Members of the Network.
Fellows and Members have access to networking events, mentors, exclusive professional development opportunities, and more. Our network of 170 positive disruptors leading with their disability identities participate in our Connections.
Increase the disability perspective by connecting our Network to professional and civic opportunities, ensuring that the tables of power commit to shape a more inclusive, just, and equitable society.
Ann Manikas*+ (Chair), American Medical Association
Kenton Klaus+ (Vice Chair), Deloitte and DePaul University
Chad Turner*+ (Treasurer), Bank of America
Azeema Akram*, Illinois Human Rights Commission
Mary Anderson, AARP
Adam Burke, Microsoft
Natae S. Eaves, JP Morgan Chase
Kim Holmes, Kim B. Holmes Consulting
Lora Laverty, CDW Corporation
Anna Lee, United Way
Karen Tamley*, Access Living
* Denotes Disability Lead Member
+ Denotes Officer
Ann Manikas*+, American Medical Association Chicago
Azeema Akram*+, Illinois Commerce Commission
Akeseiah (Keys) Felton*, CDW
C.Richard Costes*, Communication Service for the Deaf, Inc.
Daisy Feidt*, Access Living
Joanie Friedman, University of Chicago - Office of Civic Engagement
Timotheus Gordon, Jr.*, University Of Illinois Chicago - The Institute On Disability and Human Development
Brian Heyburn*, Ph.D. Student in Disability Studies
Whitney Hill*, SPORK!
Frank Lally*, Access Living
* Denotes Disability Lead member
+ Denotes Co-Chair
Disability Lead pursues an ambitious vision that the Chicago region will lead the nation in inclusion. In this report, we reflect on recent achievements, highlight the important contributions of our partners, and look ahead to our future. Your belief in our positive disruptors — who are leading with their disability identities to help create equitable and inclusive communities — is what drives our organization.