What advancements can we celebrate 25 years after passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act?

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What advancements can we celebrate 25 years after passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act?

Donna Meltzer
CEO, NACDD

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Donna Meltzer
CEO, NACDD

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Donna Meltzer is CEO of the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities (NACDD), a national non-profit organization that supports the nation’s 56 governor-appointed Developmental Disabilities Councils that work within state government to promote independence, productivity, and integration of people with disabilities through systems change activities. In this capacity Ms. Meltzer oversees the organization’s public policy and advocacy agenda as well as technical assistance to the members.

Ms. Meltzer joined the NACDD in October 2012. Previously she was the Senior Director of Government Relations for the Epilepsy Foundation. She rejoined the Epilepsy Foundation in July 2005 after having previously worked for the Foundation from 1987 – 1993. She also served as Director of Legislative Affairs for the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) from 1995-2005. Ms. Meltzer began her career on Capitol Hill working for the Honorable Tony Coelho (D-CA), a former Congressman and House Whip from California who is the father of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and a person with epilepsy. Ms. Meltzer also spent two years as the Government Affairs Director for the National Health Council where she directed the advocacy agenda for the Council’s Voluntary Health Agency (VHA) members. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland’s School of Journalism.

Ms. Meltzer also participates in several key coalitions including serving on the Board of Directors of the Coalition for Health Funding. She most recently stepped down from a three-year term as Chair of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) where she is now serves as Immediate Past Chair as well as a co-chair of the CCD’s Fiscal Policy Task Force. She is also a past chair of the National Health Council’s Government Relations Affinity Group.

 

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What advancements can we celebrate 25 years after passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act?

Sara Weir
President, NDSS

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Sara Weir
President, NDSS

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Sara Hart Weir, MS, was appointed as the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) President in December 2014, after previously serving as the Vice President of Advocacy & Affiliate Relations for NDSS since 2012. Weir is responsible for overseeing the mission and administration of the organization, which is the largest nonprofit in the United States dedicated to advocating for people with Down syndrome and their families.

Under Weir’s leadership, NDSS was at the forefront of the passage of the landmark and historical Stephen Beck Jr. Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act, which will create tax free savings accounts for people with Down syndrome and other disabilities. This significant law is hailed as the most significant legislation for the disability community since the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), over twenty-five years ago. For Weir, the advocacy surrounding the ABLE Act was a civil rights issue, as for the first-time ever, it puts a stake in the ground that individuals with disabilities can save money for the future, work, all while remaining on the necessary benefits that the Down syndrome community relies on.

In 2013, Weir was appointed to a three-year term to the Maryland Commission for Effective Community Inclusion of Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities by Governor Martin O’Malley. Weir currently serves on the Board of Trustees for Westminster College, President of the Westminster College Alumni Council, and on the National Task Group on Intellectual Disabilities and Dementia. In August, Weir gave the 2014 Convocation Address at her alma mater, Westminster College, discussing her passion for NDSS and advocating for people with Down syndrome and their families.

Prior to joining NDSS, Weir was a Vice President at Faegre BD Consulting and worked for an international pharmaceutical company in Washington, DC. Prior to coming to Washington, Weir worked for a Congressman from Kansas. Ms. Weir has a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Political Leadership from Westminster College (Fulton, Missouri) and a Master of Science in Public Policy and Management from Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College. Weir has earned many honors including; the Westminster College Senior of the Year, the Winston Churchill Award for Leadership and Service, and Coca-Cola Community All-American. Most recently, Weir was the recipient of the 2014 Westminster College Young Alumni Achievement Award.

Weir's passion of advocating for all people with Down syndrome and their families stems from her friendship with a young woman from Kansas, Kasey, who happens to have Down syndrome. Sara first served as a mentor to Kasey over a decade ago.

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What advancements can we celebrate 25 years after passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act?

Heather Ansley
Associate General Counsel for Corporate and Government Relations, PVA

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Heather Ansley
Associate General Counsel for Corporate and Government Relations, PVA

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Heather L. Ansley is the Associate General Counsel for Corporate and Government Relations at Paralyzed Veterans of America.

Ms. Ansley began her tenure with the organization in January 2015. Her responsibilities include corporate legal matters, government relations, and disability advocacy. She also works to promote collaboration between disability organizations and veterans service organizations by serving as a co-chair of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) Veterans and Military Families Task Force. Additionally, she serves as a member of CCD’s Board of Directors.

Prior to her arrival at Paralyzed Veterans of America, she served as Vice President of VetsFirst, a program of United Spinal Association. She has also served as the Director of Policy and Advocacy for the Lutheran Services in America Disability Network.

Before arriving in Washington, D.C., she served as a Research Attorney for The Honorable Steve Leben with the Kansas Court of Appeals. Prior to attending law school, she worked in the office of former U.S. Representative Kenny Hulshof (R-MO) where she assisted constituents with problems involving federal agencies. She also served as the congressional and intergovernmental affairs specialist at the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Region VII office in Kansas City, Missouri.

Ms. Ansley is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. Ms. Ansley also holds a Master of Social Work from the University of Missouri-Columbia and a Juris Doctorate from the Washburn University School of Law in Kansas.

She is licensed to practice law in the State of Kansas and before the United States District Court of Kansas. 

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What advancements can we celebrate 25 years after passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act?

Helena Berger
Acting President & CEO, AAPD

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Helena Berger
Acting President & CEO, AAPD

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Helena Berger has been a disability-rights advocate for over 25 years.  She is currently the Acting President & CEO of the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD).  Ms. Berger has been associated with AAPD for 18 years; serving in the following leadership positions over the past 15 years: Executive Director, Chief Operating Officer, and Executive Vice President.  She is a mission-focused, seasoned, strategic, and process minded leader with experience scaling an organization, leading an executive team, and developing a performance culture among a diverse group of individuals.

Prior to joining AAPD, Ms. Berger was the Advocacy Director for the Eastern Paralyzed Veterans Association (EPVA), renamed in 2005 United Spinal Association.  Under her direction, EPVA’s advocacy program significantly expanded its public education and community outreach activities, specifically aimed at raising awareness of the Americans with Disabilities Act.  As a result, Ms. Berger has extensive experience in designing and implementing grassroots programs and working effectively with non-governmental organizations, community and business leaders, and public officials to increase the freedom, independence, and rights and opportunities of all people with disabilities.

Ms. Berger’s international disability rights work includes working with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Information Programs as a feature speaker on disability rights, policy, and growing grassroots movements. She has spoken with diverse disability audiences in Mongolia, Nepal, and Cyprus, and traveled to Jordan and the West Bank in Israel.

Ms. Berger currently serves as co-chair of the Disability Equality Index (DEI) Advisory Committee and recently completed a four-year term on the Comcast and NBCUniversal Joint Diversity Council.

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