Building Disability Leadership into 2022

Emily Blum
December 8, 2021

Pictured: our 2022 Fellows class. Upper row: Claire McNorton, Jamie Kosberg, Bianca Barr, Kenneth Jennings, David Gayes, Carlos Terrazas, Timotheus Gordon Jr. Jessica Olson. Lower row: Jinny Davis, Felicia Campbell, Clare Killy, Noa/h Fields, Matt Perry, Katherine Vakil, Delilah Orizaba, Maureen Burns.

On December 7th, Disability Lead announced its class of 16 Fellows for our 2022 Institute! These accomplished leaders represent a cross-section of professionals from across Illinois's nonprofit, corporate, education, and religious sectors.

Six new individuals were also welcomed to the Network, now comprising nearly 200 diverse leaders with disabilities. We also celebrated the 14 individuals graduating from the 2021 Institute this year.

Every year we hope that our Network strives to reflect the diversity of our region in all ways. The 2022 cohort represents new dimensions of diversity in advocacy and activism in personal and professional spaces, including two Vice Presidents leading with their disability identity joining alongside advocates working to leverage lived experience in changing state policies for access to appropriate resources for independence and full participation. The diversity of professional background, career level, combined with a common theme of illustrated commitment to systemic change, make this incoming group of Fellows ready to come together to build on their collective power. We’re so pleased also to welcome our most significant number of transgender and gender non-binary self-identifying persons.

The class of 2022 comes to Disability Lead from more than 14 neighborhoods and communities to build their leadership acumen, explore and define their disability identity and engage with different perspectives and world views. Throughout the course of the year, these new fellows will participate in an immersive learning experience that prepares them to collaborate and to lead with their disability identity, supported by the power of a large, effective network. Past Fellows have called the program “transformative,” “of the highest value,” and “like a master class in pride.”

“We are thrilled to welcome the 2022 Fellows and new Members to Disability Lead and our network of positive disruptors. Their disruption, which we define as their ability to question how things are done, innovate, lead the charge and create something entirely new, is needed. It’s how our communities will evolve to be more equitable. It’s how businesses will grow and survive,” said Emily Blum, Executive Director, Disability Lead.  

Our 2022 Fellows include:

  • Bianca Barr, Envision Unlimited
  • Maureen Burns, JourneyCare
  • Felicia Campbell, Love, Faith & Hope Church
  • Jinny Davis, Autistic Self-Advocate
  • Noa/h Fields, Poetry Foundation
  • David Gayes, Catholic Theological Union
  • Timotheus Gordon Jr., Institute of Disability and Human Development
  • Kenneth Jennings, Gridiron Alliance
  • Clare Killy, Aspire
  • Jamie Kosberg, KPMG
  • Claire McNorton, Planned Parenthood Illinois Action
  • Jessica Olson, Solidarity Sundays Logan Square
  • Delilah Orizaba, Center On Halsted
  • Matt Perry, Case Western Reserve University School of Law
  • Carlos Terrazas, McDonald's Corporation
  • Katherine Vakil, Erie Family Health Centers

Our new Members include:

  • Tara Ahern, The Illinois Self Advocacy Alliance
  • Joanna Turner Bisgrove, Rush University Medical Center
  • Kennedy Healy, Crip Crap
  • Zhen Heinemann, City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events
  • Jae Jin Pak, UIC Institute on Disability and Human Development
  • Christine Scholma, Trinity Christian College