New board members (from top left): Anita Cameron, Lateed McLeod, Kyla Mundwiller, Priya Penner, and Edward Willard
We are so pleased to welcome a diverse and dynamic slate of new board members! The majority of our five new members are disabled and/or people of color. You can read their bios below.
As we welcome our new leadership, this is also a time to reflect how we got started. In 2015, a group of advocates began to meet in Washington DC to address the increasingly well-organized movement to establish gated communities and disability-only housing. We saw this movement, which was led by parents rather than people with disabilities themselves, as a step backwards and in direct opposition to people’s right to be in charge of their own lives and destiny. We gathered a small group initially focused on ensuring that agencies that offered services to people with disabilities were able to uphold people’s right to full citizenship. We sought an organization that would include all the voices that fought for this right – those of people with disabilities, family members and allies, and people who worked in the disability field.
The Alliance was born – but the founders soon realized that their mission needed to go far beyond a focus on agencies that provide services. We envisioned an organization that was disability-led, diverse, and that could respond to the critical need to assure better lives and supports for people with disabilities. We began our efforts by inviting all stakeholders to communicate about ideas, innovations, best practices, obstacles and opportunities. We invited members to share questions and solutions, learn from one another, and in this way, bring to scale the pockets of excellence in responsive, individualized, person-directed supports that have begun to thrive over the last number of years. We then sought to assure greater diversity on the board so that we’d accomplish the goal of a disability-led organization.
As we welcome our new board members, we want to thank those that have served on the board of the Alliance for Citizen Directed Supports previously. In July, Gail Godwin, a founding board member, completed her term on the board. We thank her for her dedication to self-direction, people with disabilities, and the Alliance.
Now in our third year, we have made major strides toward being the organization we have envisioned. Please join me in welcoming our new board members and join us as we work collaboratively to build a vibrant organization that includes and supports the interests of the many people, families, groups and organizations that promote and enable self-direction in the United States and around the world.
Anita Cameron (she/her/hers) began working as Not Dead Yet’s Director of Minority Outreach in January 2017. She has met with national and state policy makers and written persuasively about opposition to a public policy of assisted suicide from the perspective of communities of color who experience disparities in access to healthcare.
From 2004-2006, she worked at the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) in Washington, DC, as the DC Metro Disability Vote Organizer, working with the Board of Elections and Ethics to increase voting access and get disabled people to serve as poll workers and election judges.
Anita worked as Systems Advocate for the Center for Disability Rights in Rochester, NY, from 2006-2010, addressing a broad range of disability rights and access issues with advocates and lawmakers at the local, state and national levels.
In 2004, while in Washington, DC, Anita trained to become a CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) member. In 2008, she helped to form the first CERT class consisting of people with disabilities in Rochester, New York. After joining Denver CERT in 2011, Anita became the first visually impaired CERT instructor for the State of Colorado, and in 2013, became a CERT Program Manager for the State. She has assisted in numerous exercises and real-world incidents with Denver CERT, including serving as a radio communications operator during the Colorado Flood of 2013 and remotely assisting survivors of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma in disaster relief in 2017. Anita has written extensively, for numerous agencies and publications, on emergency and disaster preparedness for people with disabilities, as well as the role and participation of the disability community in emergency management.
Since 1986, Anita has volunteered with ADAPT, a national, grassroots disability rights organization. In 34 years of involvement, she has risen to a position of national leadership and has been arrested 139 times for nonviolent civil disobedience fighting for the civil rights of all disabled folks. She was invited to the White House on two occasions, has met three sitting U.S. Presidents and two Vice-Presidents, helped to organize a national march, and was published in “Voices of A People’s History of the United States”, by the late, award-winning historian, Howard Zinn.
As a Black Disabled Lesbian, Anita has dealt with racism, sexism, ableism, and homophobia – sometimes combinations of these. She has used her experience of discrimination and her unique intersectional perspective to promote understanding among different groups of disenfranchised people and increase social justice among those fighting for social justice. She worked to get nondiscrimination ordinances for the LGBTQIA2S+ community in Chicago, IL and Denver, CO. She helped organize the first Pride March in Colorado Springs, Colorado and served as the national representative for the disability community at the 1993 March on Washington.
In 2017, the Autistic Self Advocacy Network honored Anita with the 2017 Service to the Self Advocacy Movement award for her national advocacy work, and in 2018, Anita received the Lead On award for her work with ADAPT.
Anita also serves on the National Disability Leadership Alliance’s Steering Committee, as well as it’s Racism Taskforce, and co-Chaired the Intersectional Justice Committee for ADAPT.
She holds a degree in Biology from University of Illinois at Chicago Circle and a degree in Computer Information Systems from Community College of Denver.
Anita lives in Rochester, New York, with her wife, Lisa, and cats, JoJo and Nemo.
Lateef McLeod is building his career as a writer and a scholar. He has earned a BA in English from UC Berkeley and an MFA in Creative Writing from Mills College. He is four years into the Anthropology and Social Change Doctoral program at California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco. He published his first poetry book entitled A Declaration of A Body Of Love in 2010 chronicling his life as a Black man with a disability and tackling various topics on family, dating, religion, spirituality, his national heritage and sexuality.
He currently is writing a novel tentatively entitled The Third Eye Is Crying. He also published another poetry book entitled Whispers of Krip Love, Shouts of Krip Revolution in 2020. He was in the 2007 and 2016 annual theater performances of Sins Invalid and also their artist-in-residence performance in 2011 entitled Residence Alien. In 2019 he started a podcast entitled Black Disabled Men Talk with co-hosts Leroy Moore, Keith Jones, and Ottis Smith. The podcast website is www.Blackdisabledmentalk.com. More of his writings are available on his website LateefhMcLeod.com and his Huffington Post blog. Some of his community service work includes being the co-chair of the Persons with Disabilities Ministry at Allen Temple Baptist Church and being the vice president of the Leadership committee and executive board member of the International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication.
I believe strongly that disabled people need to advocate for themselves for the change they want to see in their community and society. I was able to execute on these values in my position at the International Society for Augmentative Alternative Communication as the vice president of their Leadership committee for people who use AAC. In that position my committee and I were able to devise a year-long mentoring program for a selection of young adults who use AAC who resided in a couple different countries.
I bring that same passion and zeal to the board of The Alliance for Citizen Directed Supports, along with my insights from self-advocacy, and perspective as a person who uses AAC and as a Black man with cerebral palsy. I wish to highlight the experiences of people of color with disabilities in this country.
Kyla Mundwiller (she/her/hers) is the Director of Self-Determination for the Missouri Division of Developmental Disabilities. There she is responsible for the self-directed supports program, self-advocacy, and other self-determination efforts. During her tenure number of individual’s self-directed supports has had a growth rate of 829%. Kyla has worked closely with advocates to create trainings and publications which promote self-determination.
She served on Ohio Self-Determination Association (OSDA) board for 5 years. Since 2011 she has served on the board of the Missouri American Association of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (MOAAIDD); during her tenure she served twice as president.
Kyla has been recognized for her public service on several occasions:
- First recipient of the “Outstanding Leadership of Self Directed Program Design” awarded by Applied Self Direction, the technical assistance, training, and membership arm of the National Resource Center for Participant-Directed Services (NRCPDS).
- Outstanding Public Service award from the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas for her work with juveniles in Ohio.
- Recognized by the Ohio Governor as Direct Support Professional of the Year for her work in self-employment with individuals with disabilities.
Kyla received her master’s degree in special education with an emphasis in adult developmental disability services from Ohio University Athens, and her bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from Ohio Dominican College.
When I first started working in the field of developmental disabilities I worked at a sheltered workshop and repeatedly saw things that made me think ‘this does not make sense.’ Several years later I listen to a professor talk about self-determination. I remember getting an overwhelming feeling that this was the first time that I heard something that made sense. Since that time I have been involved with every effort that I could to promote self-determination and systems change. Many times I have felt alone or that I was going against the grain. During one of the early Applied Self-direction webinars, I got this same overwhelming feeling and thought these are people who make sense and I was not alone.
Priya Penner is a 22 year-old multiply-disabled queer activist of color, with grassroots organizing experience on the local, state, and national levels. Hailing from snowy Upstate NY, Priya joined the Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies in June of 2020 to help ensure those in marginalized communities, especially those who are multiply-marginalized, are heard within the disaster relief field.
Priya learned about disability pride and disability rights at a very young age from her disabled adopted mother. She spent several years using her knowledge of the Independent Living philosophy to organize on the grassroots level with national disability rights organization, ADAPT, as well as on the local collegiate level. She also worked at a local Center for Independent Living (CIL) fight for the freedom of all persons with disabilities.
In her nonexistent free time, Priya loves to go on car trips with her fiancée, play with her two cats, and yell obscenities at her TV when playing video games.
I am excited to serve on the Alliance Board because I want to work with other board members to ensure all disabled folks, including the multiply-marginalized, have the right to live independently.
Edward Willard was the director of Advocacy Supports at the Developmental Disabilities Administration (DDA). He has personal knowledge of the delivery system as a person with significant Cerebral Palsy, having experienced the full range of services available to people with disabilities. Edward has over 30 years of experience in the disability field. The majority of his work has been developing and conducting trainings about a variety of subjects related to people with disabilities. He worked at the Maryland Department of Disabilities as Director of Peer-to-Peer outreach. He started working at DDA coordinating training and advocacy for people receiving services in the New Directions Waiver. Then he became the statewide coordinator for the End the Wait NOW!! campaign for people on the waiting list in need of services. In 2013 he returned to DDA as an independent advocate for self-directed services. In October 2014 Mr. Willard was promoted to Director of Advocacy Supports at DDA. Outside of his responsibilities at DDA he was recently appointed to The Maryland Commission of Disabilities. During Willard’s 30-year career he co-founded 3 organizations in Texas. The most notable is Everychild of Texas, which puts children with disabilities into homes with families instead of institutions. He is committed to supporting people with disabilities to have a life of their choosing. He refers to his seven nieces and nephews as his “children” and takes great pride in them.
With the coronavirus pandemic, now, more than ever, national policy MUST BE to support people in moving out of institutions of any size, and to fund community supports for all. I am proud to be a board member of an organization taking a lead globally in highly possibly closing all types and sizes of facilities.