Keynote, Moderator and Panelist Bios

Maria Town  

In her role as President and CEO of the American Association of People with Disabilities, Maria Town is focused on increasing the political and economic power of people with disabilities. From issues of voting rights and health care access to poverty, housing, and food, Town is a leading advocate for policies and systems to meet the needs of the diverse community of people with disabilities.  As Director of the City of Houston Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities and Senior Associate Director in the Obama White House Office of Public Engagement, Town worked to increase access to education, employment, housing, transportation, and health care for people with disabilities. Maria has worked extensively on youth development and leadership issues, promoting college and career readiness. In her spare time, Town manages the popular CP Shoes blog where she writes about fashion, design, and disability.

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Dr. Lisa I. Iezzoni, MD, MSc 

Dr. Lisa I. Iezzoni, MD, MSc is Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, and based at the Health Policy Research Center, Mongan Institute, Massachusetts General Hospital. Dr. Iezzoni has conducted numerous studies examining the health care experiences of persons with disabilities, focusing on primary, reproductive health, and cancer care. She has also explored home-based supportive services; her book Making Their Days Happen: Paid Personal Assistance Services Supporting People with Disability Living in Their Homes and Communities was published in 2022. During the 2022-2023 academic year, she was the Sally Starling Seaver Fellow at the Harvard Radcliffe Institute. Dr. Iezzoni is a member of the National Academy of Medicine in the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. She has served on the Boston Center for Independent Living Board of Directors since 2005.

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Karen Tamley 

Karen Tamley is President and CEO of Access Living, a Chicago-based center for independent living for people with disabilities. Before serving three consecutive Chicago mayors as Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, Karen worked at Access Living from 1996 to 2005. Karen’s leadership in areas of accessibility and disability inclusion in areas of transportation, city infrastructure, technology, emergency planning, education and employment has earned her top honors and admiration. Her appointments have included United States Access Board in 2016 by President Obama, the Obama Foundation Inclusion Council in 2020, the Biden-Harris Presidential transition team in 2020, and the Illinois Commission on Hate Crimes and Discrimination by Governor Pritzker in 2021, and numerous local, state and international board positions.

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Alex Green  

Alex Green is a widely recognized advocate, writer, and scholar on the history of disability institutions in America. He authored the landmark legislation creating a first-of-its-kind disability-led human rights commission to investigate the history of state institutions for disabled people in Massachusetts. Green is a Visiting Fellow at the Harvard Law School Project on Disability, a Senior Fellow at the Harvard Law School Program on Negotiation, an Adjunct Lecturer in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, and a visiting scholar at the Lurie Institute for Disability Policy at Brandeis University. His recent op-ed in the Boston Globe addressed the critical role of personal care attendants for people with disabilities to live independently.

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Dr. Anjali Forber-Pratt   

Dr. Anjali Forber-Pratt joined the federal government’s Administration for Community Living in 2021 as the director of the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR). Bringing her research and academic credentials as an assistant professor at Vanderbilt University as well as her experience as an elite wheelchair racer and medalist for Team USA and a Paralympic ambassador, Dr. Forber-Pratt is building an intentionally inclusive approach to the research done through NIDILRR and its grantees. She is a renowned scholar and activist for her work on disability identity development and is involved globally with disability advocacy efforts related to access to employment, education and sports. She was honored with the inaugural American Psychological Association Citizen Psychologist Award for Advancing Disability as a Human Rights and Social Justice Issue Award in 2020 and was recognized by Diverse: Issues in Higher Education as a 2018 Emerging Scholar. In 2013 the White House named her a Champion of Change.

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https://www.anjfp.us/

 

Dianna Hu  

Born with Spinal Muscular Atrophy, Dianna Hu is the chairperson of the Boston Center for Independent Living Board of Directors and a consumer employer on the Massachusetts Personal Care Attendant Workforce Council. She graduated with a degree in computer science and now works full-time as a software engineer with an independent life, exemplifying and advancing the principles of the independent living movement. As part of her disability rights advocacy, she has served on the Riders’ Transportation Access Group executive board, testified at legislative hearings on the need for remote participation access to public meetings, and pushed back at the State House against proposed cuts to the PCA program. In her free time, Dianna enjoys reading, green tea, and racing her wheelchair through the streets at questionable speeds.

 

Felix Jordan  

Felix Jordan joined the team at BCIL in 2022 as a community organizer on issues of housing, racial equity, and equitable climate adaptation for disabled folks in the Greater Boston area. Their work as an organizer has taken many forms, including organizing community forums and legislative visits, building relationships with legislators and community members, lobbying for the Alternative Housing Voucher Program and Affordable Accessible Housing Grants in the Massachusetts state legislature, participating in actions in opposition to proposed PCA program cuts, facilitating anti-racist education trainings, and working on targeted research initiatives to impact regulation and guidance regarding equitable implementation of housing regulations.  Prior to BCIL, Felix was a full-time daycare teacher and interned with LiveWalk, Inc. and the Mid-Cumberland Human Resource Agency in Nashville, Tennessee.

 

Giovanni Velasquez  

 Giovani Velasquez is BCIL’s Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS) Coordinator, working with youth with significant disabilities. He joined BCIL in 2022 where he oversees the Pre-ETS program and develops individualized plans to help youth develop toward expected social, developmental, and educational goals, implementing steps with students to reach these goals in both individual and group settings in school. Prior to coming to BCIL he did an internship at La Colaborativa on photography and graphic design program, capturing life in Chelsea, a city north of Boston home to thousands of immigrants, and promoting La Colaborativa youth program.