About Us
A smiling woman with medium length curly brown hair, medium-dark toned skin, and a red sweater engages in a pleasant conversation.
Disability Lead is a network of people with disabilities who use our power to create an equitable and inclusive society.

We accomplish this by Uplifting Disability Power, Influencing and Activating Change, and Making Our Vision Real.

LEARN MORE ABOUT OUR NETWORK

Our Values

Our Vision

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.

Our Mission

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.

Our Approach

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.

Our Beliefs

  • We believe our disabilities are an asset.
  • We believe our perspective is valuable and our stories are universal.
  • We believe in the power of nurturing a strong disability community.
  • We believe we are most powerful when we are represented and championed by an intersectional disability voice.
  • We believe that our leaders can and will create solutions for our most intractable social problems because they are inherently disability issues.
  • We believe our that our leaders will deliver disability justice.
  • We believe our leaders will change the world.

Our History

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.

Our Logo

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.

Our Programs

Our People

Board of Directors

Mary Anderson+ (Interim President), AARP

Kenton Klaus+ (Vice President), Deloitte and DePaul University

John Tuhey*+ (Secretary), The Tuhey Law Firm LLC

Chad Turner*+ (Treasurer), Bank of America

Adam Burke, Microsoft

Andrés Gallegos*, Robbins, Salomon & Patt, Ltd.

Anna Lee, The Chicago Community Trust

Lora Laverty, CDW Corporation

Ann Manikas*, American Medical Association

Karen Tamley*, Access Living

* Denotes Disability Lead Member

+ Denotes Officer

Program Committee

Ann Manikas*+, American Medical Association Chicago

Azeema Akram*+, Illinois Commerce Commission

C.Richard Costes*, Communication Service for the Deaf, Inc.

Daisy Feidt*, Access Living

Joanie Friedman, University of Chicago - Office of Civic Engagement

Brian Heyburn*, Ph.D. Student in Disability Studies

Whitney Hill*, SPORK!

Joyce Otuwa*, State of Illinois Office of the Attorney General

Melissa Reishus, Seaglass Group

* Denotes Disability Lead member

+ Denotes Co-Chair