Dr. Mark Friedman has been the state advisor to Speaking for Ourselves, Vice Chairperson of the Pennsylvania DD Council, and been a technology researcher at Temple University.
Since the start of the COVID pandemic Mark and his team have trained 5,000 people across multiple states to help bridge the digital divide for people with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. They are now working to build off that success with a grant through the Pennsylvania DD Council.

Dr. Mark Friedman teaches Disability Studies as an Adjunct Associate Professor at the City University of New York. His primary work has been helping people with disabilities gain a voice in their lives through self-advocacy and policy making and helping people move from large state institutions, Pennhurst, into community programs.

Dr. Friedman is the creator of Disability Zoom, an online support network of 1,500 professionals, staff and caregivers of people with developmental disabilities. Dr. Friedman has provided training to Service Coordinators in three states and worked with ten state Self-Advocacy organizations.

He is currently working on projects with the Pennsylvania, Michigan and Georgia Developmental Disability Councils, the Georgia Advocacy Office, the Administration on Community Living, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid and the National Museum on Disability Rights. Dr. Friedman received his doctoral degree in Organizational Leadership from the Union Institute and University. He has presented to audiences in 22 states, provided advocacy training in Ecuador and Kosovo, and authored thirteen publications. His work was recently highlighted in this New York Times article.

A photo of Dr. Mark Friedman
Dr. Mark Friedman
A photo of Dr. Ruthie-Marie Beckwith
Dr. Ruthie-Marie Beckwith

Dr. Ruthie-Marie Beckwith joined the CUNY faculty in the summer of 2014 as an Adjunct Professor of Disability. Dr. Beckwith is the past the Executive Director of TASH, Inc., a national disability rights organization based in Washington, D.C. She began her career as a special education teacher in a rural Kentucky county the first year all children with disabilities were able to attend school for the first time due to the passage of P.L. 94-142 (now referred to as I.D.E.A.). During her four years of classroom teaching, she worked with children who had learning disabilities, behavior challenges, and autism. In 1980, she moved to Nashville to complete her graduate studies at George Peabody College for Teachers. She began working with adults with intellectual disabilities as a house manager for a Nashville based residential agency and assisted those residents with forming People First of Tennessee, a state-wide self-advocacy organization in 1982. In 1988, she began serving as their staff advisor and helped organize over 40 local chapters statewide. She also served as their litigation coordinator when People First filed two class action lawsuits against Tennessee’s four state-run institutions for individuals with intellectual disabilities—resulting in the closure of all four institutions and the liberation of over 2,00 individuals.

Following her work for People First, she founded and directed the Tennessee Association for Microboards and Cooperatives, a statewide association of small non-profit organizations run by individuals and their families. She continues to focus her work on deinstitutionalization, employment supports, person centered planning and supports, community organizing and advocacy. She is the author of Disability Servitude, a non-fiction book that focuses on the practice and implications of involuntary servitude by individuals with disabilities in institutions and Seven Days at Oak Valley, a novel based in a state-run institution. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Special Education from SUNY Geneseo, and a M.S. and Ph.D. from George Peabody College of Vanderbilt University. She enjoys weaving, camping, kayaking, and spending time with her family.

In 1998, she was interviewed about the lawsuits that People First of Tennessee filed against the state-run institutions in Tennessee while she was their Staff Advisor. You can watch it here:

History of the Disability Movement in TN Part 2.

In 2016, she presented at the School of Professional Studies at CUNY on Disability Servitude. You can watch it here.

David Taylor will serve as a co-trainer in the project. He serves on the national Board of Directors of TASH. He is a former member of the Michigan Developmental Disability Council and the former Vice-Chair on the Board of Directors of Community Living Services.

David is a Motivational Speaker from Phoenix, Arizonia. His focus is on empowering others with disabilities to make their own decisions, advocate for themselves, and learn the power of Self-Determination. He has served on numerous committees to advocate for the rights and needs of people with developmental disabilities and has presented at national conferences.

David is a certified Peer Support Mentor and a trainer/consultant providing training, curriculum development, presentations, facilitation and consultation.

David is a published author on “Beyond Tokenism: People with Complex Needs in Leadership Roles.”

A photo of David Taylor
David Taylor
A photo of Sarah Carmany
Sarah Carmany
Sarah will serve as a Co-Trainer in the project. Sarah is from Kalamazoo and currently sits on the Board for Integrated Services of Kalamazoo and is a member of the Women’s League of Voters Kalamazoo area. She is an alternate on the SABE Board nationally and was the 2021 recipient of the The Betty Williams, Champion of Equal Opportunity Award from the NACDD. Sarah is a trainer for the Center for Youth Voice Youth Choice (CYVYC) project. Sarah is employed by the ARC of Kalamazoo.
A photo of Pisanach Chinratanalab
Pisanach Chinratanalab

I call myself Peach. I am a 26 year old Asian American. I am fluent in Thai, English, and have learned a lot of Spanish. A native of Nashville Tennessee, I love the music in Nashville. I love all different kinds of food. I am an accidental country girl. I love being from Nashville.

I graduated from the Vanderbilt Next Steps program in 2020. I enjoyed the friendships and all the programs that were available. During my time at Next Steps, I became a panelist, a mentor for new students in the Best Buddies Chapter at Vanderbilt, and participated in the Disability Day on the Hill.

Being a dual citizen, I have a great deal of respect for different cultures.

I became a Self-Advocate the minute I joined People First, about 2016. It was my sister who got me involved. Now I am the People First President of Davidson County and have been Co-Chair of the People First Transportation Committee. I hope that transportation can become accessible.

I graduated from the Partners in Policy Making under the Council of Developmental Disabilities Tennessee.

At the local Farmers Market, I am a Customer Service Associate, greeting customers, marketing, media, spreading the word. I get to sample everything, including the new flavors in the seasonal drinks.

I am a volunteer with the Tennessee General Assembly. I provide information to the White’s Creek High School on disability

I work at Bubble Love Nashville. I was the first to be hired and have been there the longest. My favorite part is traveling and sampling new drinks for the company. I love strawberry matcha (it’s a tea).

A photo of Sarah Phillips

Sarah Phillips serves as a Treasurer for the Dickson Chapter People First.

She is on the Disability Services Division Council (DSDC) and Technology Board.

She contributes to accessibility and technology initiatives as both a Tech Team Member and Board Member.

She uses digital platforms like Siri and the Zoom Echo Dot.

Sarah is deeply committed to fostering positive change and creating a more inclusive society for individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD).

A photo of David Wetherow
David Wetherow

David Wetherow is the former Executive Director of the Association for Community Living in Winnipeg. He created the Star Raft circle-building method and now serves a US-based nonprofit whose mission to give people with disabilities and families the tools and supports they need to build their own circles ‘for free, forever’.
David and his wife Faye created the Microboard model – small, incorporated circles that facilitate direct funding that are now working for nearly 1,500 people worldwide. They developed the first inclusive housing cooperative and the first person- and family-directed service cooperative in North America. They are seasoned trainers in qualitative program evaluation and person-centered planning. They shared their lives with a beloved adopted daughter who lived with significant health, mobility and communication challenges until her passing in 2004. David joins us from Vancouver Island, British Columbia.

Dr. James Conroy has served as a consultant to 18 federal agencies, and to more than 150 state and local agencies. Dr. Conroy has been Principal Investigator for more than 100 funded grants and contracts. He is an expert in evaluating programs. He is the author of more than 400 formal reports in the fields of disabilities, aging, child welfare and other human service fields, including 3 edited books, 45 articles in professional journals, 12 book chapters and 350 formal research reports to government agencies. He has served as expert witness in 20 court cases concerning the rights of citizens with disabilities. Dr. Conroy’s work has been publicized on CBS 60 Minutes, ABC Nightline, the History channel, the Travel Channel, public television, public radio, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, and the New York Times. He has appeared in seven documentary films and spoken on disability rights at the United Nations three times.
He is the winner of the TASH Lifetime Achievement Award.

A photo of Dr. James Conroy
Dr. James Conroy

Mary Angus’ passion for civil and human rights for people with disabilities has driven her since the late 1990s. Her experience as a person with a disability has had a profound effect on her advocacy. She is proud to have served as part of Disability Rights Nebraska in their advisory council and board for over 20 years. Mary has been able to provide the first-hand perspective by volunteering for many organizations and agencies. After a start focusing on mental illness, she branched out to work in the areas of developmental disabilities, voting rights, and independent living.
Mary earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology and master’s in educational psychology. She found working with children came naturally to her. She became a therapist for abused children, worked to prevent substance use among students in east-central Nebraska, and provided social services. The prevention program she developed received a national award as a youth health program.
Mary has developed and supported disability rights, leadership training, and voting rights activities. She currently is the Self Advocate faculty for the Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities at Munroe-Meyer Institute. With the restrictions of the pandemic, Mary changed to working virtually and has developed skills using zoom and logistics.
Mary lives in Omaha, Nebraska and was born in South Bend, Indiana. Most importantly, she is the mother of two daughters, grandmother of six, and has one great-grandchild. These are the lights in her life.

Mary Angus receives Courage Award from the University of Nebraska Medical Center

A photo of Mary Angus
Mary Angus
A photo of Ann Formeller
Ann Formeller

Ann Formeller is a resident of Ecuador, where she currently teaches English as a second language. She has dual citizenship with the USA and Ecuador. She has worked in Sustainable and Community Tourism in the Galapagos Islands and with indigenous tribes of the Huaorani people in the Amazon rain forest. Ann has had the honor to help grow community tourism in Mindo cloud forest, just two hours outside of Quito. Ann serves as a Co-Host, moderating the Zoom Chat Box to ensure people’s voices are heard during the training sessions.

A photo of Jean Maghinay

Jean Maghinay, Social Media

Jean does TikTok and Social Media. Jean lives in the Philippines.

A photo of Jessica Stover

Jessica Stover, Social Media

Jessica does the Social Media, Facebook, Instagram, graphics, and flyers.

A photo of Hamza Tarig

Hamza Tarig, video editor

Hamza does the video editing for the Zoom recordings. Hamza lives in Pakistan.

A photo of Sanchita

Sanchita, Graphics Designer

Sanchita does design and layout of the training Powerpoints and flyers. Sanchita lives in Bangladesh.

A photo of Sheila Harrison

Sheila Harrison, Finance Manager

Sheila manages accounting, bookkeeping, billings, payroll and governmental contracts.

A photo of Leonid

Leonid, Web Designer

Leonid creates the design for the websites.

A photo of Alex

Alex, Web Team PM

Alex supervises the project and makes sure everyone is on the same page.

A photo of Nataly

Nataly, Web Developer

Natalia creates and updates the websites.

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