Get ready for Access The Vote Florida’s 2023 Elections Summit, an online gathering to discuss and empower the disability vote.
About This Event
Join us for the Access The Vote Florida 2023 Elections Summit! This event is your chance to learn about accessible voting options, holding office as an individual with a disability, the power of the disability vote, and much more. The event will have multiple panels featuring disabled government officials, youth, and scholars who will discuss barriers and opportunities for voters with disabilities.
We will have American Sign Language interpreters, English and translated captioning, and there will be English and Spanish chat moderators.
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9:15-10:00 AM: Panel 1- Disabled in Politics, Elections & Leadership
This thought-provoking discussion will explore the challenges and opportunities faced by individuals with disabilities leading the way in politics. You’ll hear about the importance of representation, accessibility, the experiences of those in leadership positions, the current state of disability rights, solidarity, and more.
- Sarah Blahovec: Co-Founder, Co-Director, & President at Disability Victory
- Jess Moore Matthews: Founder & Chief Good Troublemaker at Backbone Digital Leaders
- Dom Kelly: Founder, President & CEO at New Disabled South
- Dessa Cosma: Executive Director at Detroit Disability Power
- Stephanie Deible: Disability Advocate & School Board Member
- Jalyn Radziminski: Director of Engagement at the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law
Sarah Blahovec: I am a disability community organizer, speaker, and political consultant who is passionate about bringing underrepresented groups to the table and giving them the tools to engage in our democracy.
My work spans the civic engagement spectrum, but I am particularly passionate about protecting access to voting rights, ensuring that voter education is accessible, and encouraging disabled leaders to run for elected office.
Among my work, I was the Civic Engagement and Voting Rights Director at the National Council on Independent Living from 2016 to 2022, where I developed and co-created Elevate: Campaign Training for People with Disabilities, the first campaign training that empowered disabled people to run for elected office through an accessible, online training program. I am a subject matter expert on the barriers that disabled candidates face in running for office, and this work has been covered in outlets including TIME Magazine and Teen Vogue. In addition, I created the first guide on disability inclusion on political campaigns: Including People with Disabilities in Your Political Campaign: A Guide for Campaign Staff.
As a policy and advocacy expert on voting rights and accessibility, I have worked with organizations in the disability rights, civil rights, and progressive spaces to fight for privacy and independence in the voting process, accessible voter information, and voter engagement. I was a recipient of the American Association of People with Disabilities Paul G. Hearne Emerging Leader Award in 2019 for my work on disability civic engagement. In addition, I authored “Achieving Election Accessibility for Election Websites and Sample Ballots,” which was awarded a 2019 Clearinghouse Award by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission for Improving Accessibility for Voters with Disabilities.
I hold a B.A. in International Studies from American University, and live in Northern Virginia with two geriatric schnauzers. More information about my work, as well as my contact information, are available on this website.
Jess Moore Matthews: As the founder and Chief Good Troublemaker at Backbone Digital Leaders, Jess’ expertise in digital marketing and organizing comes from her leadership on several presidential and down-ballot campaigns, as well as in industries from tech to state and local government. A digital coach with the National Democratic Training Committee and a mentor to many, her activism has always empowered underestimated leaders to claim their seat at the table.
Dom Kelly: Dom Kelly is the Co-Founder, President & CEO of New Disabled South, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, and New Disabled South Rising, its 501(c)(4) arm. Until November 2022, he served as both the Georgia Fundraising Director and the Senior Advisor for Disability for Stacey Abrams’ campaign for governor of Georgia. Previously, he was Senior Fundraising Manager and a Strategic Advisor for Disability at Fair Fight Action, the voting rights organization founded by Stacey Abrams, where he also created and led the organization’s Disability Council composed of prominent disability advocates and policy experts from across the country.
Dom is one of a set of triplets born with Cerebral Palsy and has been a disability advocate since he was four years old. Starting when he was a young teenager, Dom and his brothers played around the world with their rock band, touring and collaborating with artists like Indigo Girls, Joan Baez, Toad the Wet Sprocket, The Bangles and more and releasing 6 records over 15+ years. He is retired from music, but with a decade of additional experience in digital and editorial strategy, nonprofit development, and community building, he has devoted his life to disability justice advocacy, progressive policy, and nonprofit leadership.
He received a Master of Science in Nonprofit Leadership degree from the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy and Practice where he also received the Excellence in Social Impact award. Additionally, he holds a bachelor’s degree in music production, a master’s degree in journalism, an executive certificate in social impact strategy, and a graduate certificate in interdisciplinary disability studies. He was a 2021 New Leaders Council fellow, serves as a board member for The Kelsey, Society for Disability Studies, Neighborhood Access, Disability Victory, and University of Pennsylvania’s Nonprofit Leadership Alumni Association, and is a member of the NationSwell Council. Dom currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia with his wife Catie, their daughter Mahalia, and their dog Vivi.
Dessa Cosma: Dessa Cosma is the founding director of Detroit Disability Power. She is a long-time social justice organizer, fortunate to spend her career working for reproductive, racial, economic and disability justice. She is committed to bridging the gap between disability inclusion work and other social justice efforts in order to build big, powerful movements that dismantle interlocking systems of oppression. In addition to organizing, Dessa also enjoys facilitating workshops, gardening, traveling and reading. She lives in Detroit with her partner, their cat, and copious plants.
Stephanie Deible: Stephanie Deible has over a decade of experience in the nonprofit sector as well as in disability services. Her work is deeply rooted in creating and elevating pathways to equity, inclusion, belonging, and accessibility.
Stephanie is currently serving as a school board member in the state of Michigan. Her previous work includes serving as the Community Inclusion Specialist for Disability Network West Michigan where she led initiatives to eliminate barriers and expand access for individuals with disabilities. Additionally, as the former Executive Director of Ms. Wheelchair America, Inc., she spearheaded efforts to empower individuals with disabilities, enhancing their leadership and advocacy skills.
A proud alumnus of Grand Valley State University, Stephanie holds dual degrees – a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism, and a Master’s in Education focusing on Student Affairs and Leadership. Outside her professional sphere, Stephanie is an avid adventurer and sports enthusiast. She finds joy in traveling, swimming, skiing, and spending quality time with her loved ones. Her creative interests extend to writing and enjoying music. Furthermore, Stephanie loves uplifting others, consistently seeking ways to encourage those in her orbit.
Jalyn Radziminski: Jalyn Radziminski is a Black and Japanese activist from Fort Wayne, Indiana who advocates for disability and racial justice, especially in the intersection of mental health. Jalyn is dedicated to breaking down barriers for BIPOC disability communities, including voting and civic engagement, and to lifting up community-based and anti-carceral solutions. Jalyn’s work is informed by their lived experience as a student and young professional with mental and physical disabilities, navigating voter suppression, and over eight years of experience doing advocacy at the intersection of race, mental health, and mass incarceration.
Jalyn is the Founder of Count US IN, the first Indiana based non-partisan nonprofit led by BIPOC and disability community members that not only increases but intentionally diversifies voter turnout and broader civic engagement through education and empowerment of community members. Radziminski is also an elected Commissioner and Vice Chair for Indiana Disability Rights’ Protection and Advocacy Services.
At the national level, Jalyn has served as the Director of Engagement at the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, through which they help lead community coalitions, call-to-action campaigns, and grassroots organizing. Internationally, Jalyn has studied and worked in Japan, Germany, and the Netherlands to advocate for and learn about human rights. Jalyn graduated from Emory University and is pursuing their J.D. as an evening student at Fordham University School of Law.
Most recently, Jalyn was named the 2023 public interest student of the year and Crowley Scholar in International Human Rights at Fordham Law. Jalyn has also spoken at the White House several times regarding issues surrounding disability, voting, racial Justice, and mass incarceration.
10:00 AM-11:00 Keynote Speakers
Andrew Pulrang and Gregg Beratan are prominent figures in the world of disability advocacy and social change. Their unwavering commitment to promoting inclusivity and giving voice to disabled individuals has made a significant impact on the disability rights movement. Their pioneering initiative, #CripTheVote, has been transformative, raising awareness about the political power of disabled citizens and sparking important conversations about disability, politics, and activism. Through their collaborative efforts, Pulrang and Beratan have not only used social media to great effect, but have also fostered a community that strives for a more equitable and accessible future for everyone. Let’s take a closer look at the incredible work of Andrew Pulrang and Gregg Beratan, whose contributions continue to shape the discourse on disability rights and political engagement.
Keynote Speaker bios:
Andrew Pulrang: Andrew Pulrang, (He/Him), is a disabled, disability-focused freelance writer, online activist, and former Center for Independent Living Director living in Northeastern New York. He is a contributing writer on disability topics for Forbes.com, and a co-partner, with Gregg Beratan and Alice Wong, of #CripTheVote, a nonpartisan online movement encouraging the political participation of people with disabilities. He is a graduate of Dartmouth College, and has a Master’s in Rhetoric and Communication Studies from the University of Virginia.
Gregg Beratan: Gregg Beratan along with Alice Wong and Andrew Pulrang is one of the co-founders of #CripTheVote. Gregg is a disabled activist who has lived and worked in the US, England, Poland and India in both Academia and Disability Rights and Justice organizations. Outside of #CripTheVote his work focuses on ensuring disabled people’s access to home and community-based services. Gregg completed his PhD at University College London’s Institute of Education with a thesis exploring the institutional ableism and racism embedded within US education policy. He lives in Rochester, New York with his wife Jenn and their four kids.
11-11:15 AM: Break & Accessible Voting Videos
11:15- 12:00 Panel 2: 2024 Election & Voting Landscape
During this panel discussion, experts and thought leaders will share valuable insights on the evolving voting landscape and its impact on the democratic process in the upcoming 2024 Election. The discussion will discuss voting laws, your rights, efforts to make voting easier and harder, and the political landscape broadly. With the election year fast approaching, the panel will explore the political dynamics and changes influencing the democratic process.
- Arizona Jenkins: Florida Poll Worker & Self Advocate
- Alexia Kemerling: REV UP Coalition Coordinator at AAPD
- Amy Keith: Program Director at Common Cause Florida
- Abdelilah Skhir: Voting Rights Policy Strategist at ACLU Florida
- Michelle Bishop: Voter Access & Engagement Manager at the National Disability Rights Network
Arizona Jenkins: Arizona Jenkins III is the is President and Treasurer of New Horizons Support Group, which is a part of the Florida Self-Advocates Network’D. Arizona is an inspirational friend to many. He was born in 1975 with cerebral palsy. Doctors told his mother not to bother taking him home as he did not have much longer to live. After multiple surgeries and much loving care Arizona grew up to become an inspirational leader. The left half of Arizona’s body is paralyzed. And despite the limited use of his right hand because of deformity, he manages to operate a motorized wheel-chair and stay connected on-the-go with a cell phone and Bluetooth receiver in his right ear. He has difficulty with speech but does not mind repeating and enunciating until understood. Aside from requiring assistance from a nurse in the morning and at night, he leads an independent life, where he is a tireless advocate for people with disabilities at the local, state and national level. He is available for his group 24/7 and always helpful with his infectious smile.
Alexia Kemerling: Alexia Kemerling (she/her) is the REV UP Coalitions Coordinator at the American Association of People with Disabilities. REV UP is a program that is working to build the power of the disability vote. REV UP stands for “Register! Educate! Vote! Use your Power!” Alexia’s background is in disability grassroots organizing. She also worked for Disability Rights Ohio and has spent time in many different congregate settings educating and registering voters.
Amy Keith: Amy Keith joined Common Cause in 2022 as the Program Director for Florida. She leads Common Cause Florida’s work to create open, accountable government that serves the public interest and empower all people to make their voices heard in the political process.
Amy comes to Common Cause with over 20 years of nonprofit management and coalition-building experience. She spent 18 years working in international humanitarian response for nongovernmental organizations including the International Rescue Committee and the Danish Refugee Council, among others. Working primarily in South Asia and the Middle East, she managed disaster preparedness and recovery programs, built interagency coalitions, and advocated for the rights of refugees and people affected by crisis. Since returning to the U.S., she has been actively engaged in the democracy space in Florida, leading election protection, voting rights outreach and civic education initiatives with the League of Women Voters.
She holds a Master of Public Administration from Columbia University and a BA in Philosophy from Bates College.
Abdelilah Skhir: Abdelilah Skhir joined the ACLU of Florida as the Voting Rights Policy Strategist in January 2021. In this role, he is responsible for analyzing and developing state and local policies and supporting an impactful policy advocacy program. As the son of immigrants, he brings first-hand knowledge of the direct impacts our voting laws and policies have on immigrant families and communities.
Before joining the ACLU, he worked in the labor movement organizing adjunct professors throughout Florida as part of the Service Employees International Union’s Faculty Forward campaign. Prior to that, he worked in several roles at the League of Women Voters of Florida during critical moments for voting rights, including the 2015 Florida Supreme Court redistricting ruling, and the passage of Amendment 4 in 2018.
12:00 – 12:45 Panel 3: Supervised Voting and Rights Restoration
No matter where you live, you deserve access and a choice to vote. Our panelists will shed light on the complexities surrounding the intersection of voting with criminal justice, disability rights, institutional living, accessibility, and guardianship. Tune in and expand your understanding of voting access.
- Ron Turner: President of the FL Supervisors of Elections Association
- Mike Lincoln: Florida Supported Decision-Making Advocate
- Elissa Gershon: Voting Rights & Guardianship Attorney at NDRN
- Derrick Flemming: Election Crisis Coordinator at State Voices
Ron Turner: Ron Turner was elected Supervisor of Elections in Sarasota County in 2016 and re-elected in 2020. Supervisor Turner began his career with the Sarasota County elections office as chief of staff, serving from 2011 until his election. He currently serves as president of the Florida Supervisors of Elections statewide association (FSE).
In addition to his work as an elections administrator, Turner has extensive governmental and nonprofit leadership experience. Turner began his public service career at the age of 23 as a city council member and deputy mayor for the City of Arcadia and later served as supervisor of elections for DeSoto County, Florida.
A native Floridian, Turner earned a Bachelor of Arts in American Studies from Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida, and a Master of Public Affairs from the University of Missouri’s Truman School of Government and Public Affairs. He is an alumnus of Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, where he completed its Program for Senior Executives in State and Local Government, and is a nationally Certified Elections/Registration Administrator (CERA) through the Elections Center.
Turner is a proud veteran of the United States Army and a member of the Disabled American Veterans.
Mike Lincoln: Michael Lincoln is a licensed security guard in the state of Florida, participates in Special Olympics, and is a member of the FL SAND grassroots group, Stand Up for Independence (SUFI) in Martin and St. Lucie counties– all the result of choices he made for himself.
In 2016 with the help of Disability Rights Florida, Lincoln petitioned the court and became the first person with a disability in the state of Florida to be granted the right to make decisions about his life with the help of others — a process known as supported decision-making — instead of having a legal guardian make those decisions.
Today, Michael continues to work with Disability Rights Florida on a supported decision-making coalition to protect and restore the civil rights of people with disabilities by avoiding and ending unnecessary guardianships. A coalition goal is to advance legislation that that would require the consideration of supported decision making as an option to the loss of rights via guardianship.
Elissa Gershon: Elissa Gershon (she/her) has been a contract attorney for NDRN since February 2021. She works on materials and training involving voting rights of people with disabilities subject to guardianship or conservatorship, voting and competency, and voting rights of people in institutional settings. She follows and provides technical assistance on current voting litigation and policy proposals. Elissa worked for more than 22 years as Litigation Counsel at Disability Rights California (DRC), the California P&A. She led DRC’s healthcare litigation and policy efforts, focusing on Olmstead implementation and access to Medicaid home and community-based services. After leaving DRC in 2019, Elissa worked on several voting rights and voter engagement initiatives to help increase the participation of underrepresented voters in the electoral process. Elissa earned a B.A. from Tufts University in Boston, MA and a J.D. from the University of California Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco, CA.
Derrick Flemming: Derrick C. Flemming joined State Voices Florida in its newly established position of Election Crisis Coordinator in 2023. He received his B.S. in Criminology/Criminal Justice with a minor in Legal Studies from Indiana State University. Derrick is a 2021 graduate of Thurgood Marshall School of Law and is an attorney by trade with experience in various areas of law including criminal, tax, and litigation. During law school Derrick interned at the Florida Department of Health in the Prosecution Services Unit. He also has experience performing legislative and policy analysis work on behalf of organizations such as NAACP Houston Branch and the Texas Coalition of Black Democrats.