Project Intersect Advisory Council

The Advisory Council is made up of adults with disabilities and family members of adults with disabilities who are members of underserved racial and ethnic groups. The Advisory Council plays an important role in all phases of the project. Some things the Advisory Council has helped us with so far, or will work on in the future, include:

  • Narrowing down what we should look for when reviewing current programs and published studies
  • Writing focus group questions
  • Understanding project findings
  • Developing recommendations based on our findings
  • Planning the national conference

Project Intersect Advisory Council Members

Elver Ariza - Advisory Council Member

Elver Ariza-Silva -- Washington, D.C.

Mr. Elver Ariza-Silva is very active in advocacy efforts for all people with disabilities, and predominately who are Latino in the District of Columbia. Originally from Republic of Colombia, Elver is a polio survivor who works as a Social and Human Services Liaison (Individual and Family Advocate) for Quality Trust for Individuals with Disabilities, a nonprofit that helps people who have developmental disabilities and their families to explore opportunities that make the most of their abilities! Elver's base of operations with Quality Trust is the Northwest region in DC and the surrounding suburban communities representing over 10,000 people with developmental disabilities and their families and friends. In his role as an Advocate, Elver provides support to siblings and parents in addition to providing services to people with disabilities. In the past 4 years, Elver has led a Quality Trust outreach program directed specifically to Latino families. Through his professional efforts and volunteer activities, Elver provides education and advocacy services to Latino families who are completely alienated from any support or services because of their legal/immigration status in this country. In other capacities, Elver has served as a research assistant for a Johns Hopkins University study that focused on preventing child trafficking from Latin America, and has held leadership roles in the food industry [MS Food Engineering] in both Colombia and the US (Texas A & M University and The Institute of Food Technologist IFT). Also, he has overseen the translation of a website that provides nutrition and food safety information to consumers. Currently, Elver is a member of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) Accessibility Advisory Committee, which advises Metro on ways to improve Metrobus, Metrorail and MetroAccess services. With his participation in the development of the 2013 IFT's Annual Meeting Scientific Program, Elver as a Subpanel Member (Food, Health & Nutrition Division), will contribute not only to shape the focus and topical priorities, but help developing scientific policy. Most recently, Elver has been appointed by Mayor Vincent C. Gray in Washington DC to serve on the Statewide Independent Living Council committed to enhancing the image, status, inclusion, and quality of life for all District of Columbia residents, visitors, and employees with disabilities. After having earned several post-BA certificates from continuing education programs at DC-area universities, Elver is a graduate student Master's Degree in Spanish and Latin American Studies at American University. Elver is very interested in the international leadership role empowering people who are advocating with and for "undeserved community groups", but mostly people with disabilities (all abilities) in other parts of the United States and in the world.

Ramon Canellada
Ramon C. Canellada -- Illinois

Mr. Canellada is currently Accessibility Program Coordinator at Schwab Rehabilitation Hospital department of extended services, a position developed to ensure and guarantee a barrier free environment to access services provided at Schwab Rehabilitation Hospital in the Sinai Health System.  He has worked in healthcare settings for the past ten years.  Mr. Canellada is very involved in the disability culture and Hispanic community.  He is currently serving as president of the board of directors for Progress Center for Independent Living.  He also serves as a member of the Committee for the Integration of Latinos with Disabilities (CLID).  He is a founding member of LULAC's first council on disability issues and he serves as the United Way of Metropolitan Chicago Latino Community Outreach committee and technical assistance volunteer.  Mr. Canellada founded the first support group for Hispanic/Latinos with disabilities in a rehabilitation hospital in Chicago.  As an advocate for the rights to healthcare and employment of undocumented immigrants with disabilities, Mr. Canellada serves as a member of the Hispanic/Latino Advisory Council on Rehabilitation Services, Illinois Department of Human Services, Division of Rehabilitation and a grassroots community group, Cambiando Vidas.  Mr. Canellada offers information on available disability resources at the "ventanilla de salud" program, a program that offers presentations and educational workshops to Mexican nationals at the General Consulate of Mexico in Chicago.  He collects and refurbishes used wheelchairs and computers, which are offered to people with disabilities in the community at no cost.  As a person with a disability and immigrant Mr. Canellada knows firsthand the problems that this group of people faces every day of their lives. "Education and independence is a priority for people with disabilities, regardless of race, age and gender".  

Lee Lin (Tina) Chen – California

Mrs. Chen has been an RN for 17 years. She currently works for Kaiser Permanente in the Head and Neck Surgery clinic in LA. Her daughter, Charlene Jan, is a teenager and has Down Syndrome. In addition, Charlene was born with a small bowel obstruction, which was corrected by surgery when she was 4 days old. When she was a baby she was in and out of the hospital with upper respiratory infections; she was hospitalized for pneumonia when she was 15 months old. During the treatment for her pneumonia, she was diagnosed with a heart defect: an Atrial Septal Defect (ASD). At the age of 2, she was hospitalized for open heart surgery, where the ASD was corrected. After the surgery, Charlene became stronger and her frequent colds, flus, and upper respiratory infections decreased significantly. Other healthcare needs include Charlene's very dry skin, which is common for individuals with Down Syndrome. Because of her gait, Charlene has some calluses on her feet, which causes some pain when she walks and exercises. She then began to gain weight, due to lack of exercise. In addition, her parents are vigilant about Charlene's balance. Due to her low muscle tone, and flexible joints, she is prone to falls and injury. She fractured her ankle twice and dislocated her knee a few times. Mrs. Chen reports that her experience with accessing healthcare for Charlene has not been difficult because Mrs. Chen is a Kaiser employee and Charlene has Kaiser health insurance. However, Mrs. Chen still wishes her healthcare providers understood the needs of people with disabilities. Charlene is their only child. She and her husband hope that one day Charlene will be independent, and stay in the community where she feels the most comfortable. 

 Robert E. (Bobby) Coward, Jr. - Advisory Council Memeber
Robert E. (Bobby) Coward, Jr. – Washington, D.C.

Mr. Coward is Co-Founder/Director, DIRECT Action (Disabled Individuals for Real Empowerment and Community Training) and Chair/Spokesperson, Capital Area ADAPT (American Disabled for Attendant Programs Today). DIRECT Action is an advocacy group that leads, organizes, and implements campaigns for disability rights in the District of Columbia as well as worldwide. ADAPT & DIRECT Action advocate for the civil rights, full inclusion, empowerment, and integration of individuals with disabilities into mainstream society.  As a forceful spokesperson, advocate and activist, and example for persons living with disabilities, Mr. Coward is leading the local fight for independence.  Mr. Coward is a native of the District of Columbia.  He attended The University of the District of Columbia and majored in Aviation Maintenance Technology.  Upon completion of his licenses and certification as an aircraft mechanic, he enlisted in the United States Air Force.  After an honorable discharge in 1991, he endured a spinal cord injury in an auto accident in 1992 and was diagnosed as a quadriplegic.  As an African American with a disability Mr. Coward has overcome a lot of barriers.  As the result of the barriers he encountered, he began acquiring in-depth knowledge and training for disability rights negotiations for legislation, legal and policy reform.  To bring about changes that are needed on the large scale, Mr. Coward communicates these needs to representatives of Federal and State Government, Legislators, Lawmakers and Organizations.  He was requested by President Obama's domestic policy representative to join the transition team to provide input on behalf of person with disabilities.  He was invited to observe the Health Care Summit held at the White House March 5, 2009.  Mr. Coward has met with numerous other government officials to provide input on various policies to improve the lives of people with disabilities.  He has worked with the Transit Authority to expedite modifications to subway cars to make Metro more wheelchair accessible, as well as improvement to the paratransit system.  His identification and organization of people with disabilities to serve as plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the DC Housing Authority seeking compliance with federal accessibility laws resulted in an order requiring the renovation and construction of over 500 fully wheelchair accessible public housing units.  

Andraea LaVant Advisory Council Member

Andraéa Lan>Vant – Washington, D.C.

Andraéa Lan>Vant serves as the Youth Development Specialist for the National Consortium on Leadership and Disability for Youth, housed at the Institute for Educational Leadership in Washington-DC.  NCLD-Youth is one of 15 Youth Led Resource, Information, and Training Centers funded by the Administration on Developmental Disabilities.  Ms. LaVant coordinates and oversees the daily operations of the center. Her commitment to the disability movement stems from both professional and personal experiences living with a physical disability.  As a wheelchair user for much of her life, she has devoted her career and volunteer experiences to striving to improve policy and practice as it relates to disability.  In particular, she has a keen interest in addressing minority and youth-related issues within the disability community.  With a passion for service and volunteerism, Ms. LaVant's prior work experience includes working for Youth Service America, a national non-profit that works to improve communities by increasing the number and diversity of young people serving in substantive roles.  In her role as Manager of Global Youth Service Day, her responsibilities included mobilizing organizations at the local and state level to prepare for the world's largest day of service, and serving as advisor to the National Youth Council, a group of high-profile young people who advise and represent the organization at various national events.  Her position also included organizing the Youth Service Institute's national conference, and conducting a variety of seminars and workshops.  Her own dedication to the national service movement stems from her year of service as an AmeriCorps*VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) at Volunteer Tennessee, Tennessee's state service commission.  Ms. LaVant holds a B.S. in Public Relations from Middle Tennessee State University.  She also holds certifications from the Grant Institute in Professional Grant Writing and from the Lions Clubs International Foundations' Lions Quest program in Service-Learning Curriculum for grades K-12.  


Constatina Mizis - Advisory Council Member

Constantina Mizis – Illinois

Mrs. Mizis is the Executive Director of The Latino Alzheimer's and Memory Disorders Alliance. Mrs. Mizis was born in Mexico from a Greek father and a Mexican mother and specialized in Linguistic and Education Studies from the School of Philosophy and Letters (UANL). In 1994, she moved to the United States where she has worked in the field of Education and Healthcare ever since. Mrs. Mizis has been a Culture Consultant, developing curriculum and Spanish-language materials for Catholic and Montessori schools and Greek-American academies. Since 1998, she worked in the family ministry program for the Archdiocese of Chicago focusing on health, immigration and domestic violence programs in Latino communities through St. Viator's Parish. She also was a member and volunteer of the Social and Justice Department of the Archdiocese. In 2006, Mrs. Mizis succeeded as Multicultural Outreach Director, in the Alzheimer's Association Chapter Illinois. Her experience on the adaptation of Latino families within other nations has transformed Mrs. Mizis into the well-recognized conference speaker she is today. She not only initiated the Latino Alzheimer's and Memory Disorders Alliance but also is working tirelessly towards helping the Latino community through her Alliance. She is also Multicultural Outreach and Community Affairs Manager at Sinai Community Institute. Mrs. Mizis is an active board member of Chicago's top health committees, such as SOL (Study of Latinos), The Chicago School of Professional Psychology (Latino Mental Health Center), Hispanic Health Coalition, and many more.

Curtina Moreland-Young - Advisory Council Member
Curtina Moreland-Young – Mississippi

Dr. Moreland-Young is the retired Founding Chair of the Department of Public Policy and Administration at Jackson State University, and she currently serves as a principal in two consulting firms.  Her work experiences includes leadership experiences in academia, the non-profit, governmental, and for profit sectors in over thirty countries on five continents in the areas of leadership development, community and economic development, cultural competency, and environmental sustainability.  The author of several articles, monographs and one book, she has also received numerous fellowships and awards including the Kellogg National Leadership and Salzburg fellowships.  She is a graduate of Fisk University and the University of Illinois and has completed post doctoral work at Harvard and the University of Michigan.  


Jacqueline Washington – Mississippi

Ms. Washington is the parent of three children, including a daughter diagnosed with Retts Syndrome.  She serves as a parent coordinator for Mississippi Family 2 Family Health and Information Center.  The center opened its doors July 2007 and is a family centered and family focused resource center that empowers families. The center is managed by a parent of a child with special health care needs.  Ms. Washington coordinates the resource center and is a parent consultant for Children Medical Program, Title V Program for Mississippi.  She also serves on the Mississippi Disability ADA Advisory Council, the Special Education Advisory Council, and the Statewide Parent Advisory Council.  

Connie Yamada AdvisoryCouncil Member
Connie Yamada – California

Mrs. Yamada is a licensed acupuncturist in California.  She was born and raised in Japan and became a US Citizen in 2000.  She is bilingual (Japanese/English).  Mrs. Yamada's son, Michael, has spastic cerebral palsy, quadriplegia, and seizure disorders secondary to anoxia resulting from a near-drowning accident in 1991 when he was three years old.  Michael has a tracheostomy and requires suctioning every 15-30 minutes.  He also has a gastrostomy, through which he receives all of his nutrition.  Michael has over 30 seizures a day and is on two kinds of seizure medications.  Michael's basic pediatric care was provided by a pediatrician.  He also saw multiple specialists on a regular basis, including a neurologist 3-4 times per year for seizure management, an orthopedist annually, an ENT for tracheostomy management 1-2 times per year, and a pulmonologist twice a year for his respiratory management.  A number of these specialists were seen through Children's Hospital Los Angeles.  Mrs. Yamada reports that since Michael turned 21, Children's doctors will no longer provide medical services to him.  She is engaged in the challenging task of finding a medical team who will see adult patients.