Clifton (Cliff) Perez of Troy, New York has been working in the field of advocacy to enhance and defend the rights of people with disabilities since 1985. He holds a Master’s Degree in social work from the University of Stony Brook NY, and currently serves as the Systems Advocate for the Independent Living Center of the Hudson Valley, has been elected by his peers to serve as National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) Region II Representative, Chair, NCIL’s Sub-Committee on Transportation and has recently been appointed to represent NCIL on the Railroad & Vehicle Accessibility Advisory Committee. Cliff’s passions in advocacy are wide reaching — from the Help America Vote Act to transportation, employment to housing. Cliff was involved with the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, attended the White House ADA signing ceremony on July 26, 1990 and continues to press for policy and legislative reform at the grassroots, state and national levels. In May 2012, Cliff was honored at the NYS Assembly’s Legislative Disability Awareness Day as the recipient of the eighth annual Legislative Disabilities Awareness Day “Dr. Henry Viscardi, Jr.” Advocacy Award.
Sarah Podber is the Protection and Advocacy for Voting Access (PAVA) Advocate at Disability Rights New York (DRNY). DRNY is the Protection & Advocacy System and Client Assistance Program (P&A/CAP) for persons with disabilities in New York, advocating for the civil and legal rights for New Yorkers with disabilities. As the PAVA Advocate, Ms. Podber works to ensure full participation in, and access to, the electoral process for individuals with disabilities. Before joining DRNY, Ms. Podber was the Program and Policy Director for The League of Women Voters of New York State and was a social work intern at Independent Living Center of the Hudson Valley.
Keith Gurgui works as the Systems Advocate at the Resource Center for Accessible Living (RCAL) in Kingston New York where he focuses on disability rights issues relating to areas such as Olmstead implementation, equal education, fair and accessible housing, expanding integrated employment opportunities, and enforcing election reform. Mr. Gurgui currently attends Ulster County Community College in pursuit of an Associate’s in Individual Studies after which time he hopes to attend SUNY New Paltz to study Political Science and Law. He also sits on the board of the New York State Spinal Cord Injury Research Program administered through the Department of Health whose responsibility it is to solicit research proposals for grant opportunities for spinal cord injury cure research. Since its inception in 1999, the program has approved over $70 million in research grants to New York State scientists.
In his free time, Mr. Gurgui enjoys film and literature, art, traveling, spending time outdoors, and keeping up on current events related to regenerative medicine and science. He also enjoys any opportunity to engage in public speaking and peer support on behalf of individuals with paralysis.
Lindsay Miller, MPH is Executive Director of the New York Association on Independent Living (NYAIL). NYAIL is a statewide membership organization of Independent Living Centers (ILCs), consumer-controlled, community-based not-for-profit providers of advocacy, services and supports for New Yorkers with disabilities of all ages. Ms. Miller coordinates NYAIL’s disability advocacy and policy efforts in the areas of health, long term care, housing, employment, education, and civil rights, has extensive experience developing local and statewide partnerships and coalitions, and she is a skilled community organizer. She also serves as an expert in disability policy development on a number of statewide coalitions.
Susan Ruff is the Advocacy Director at Southern Tier Independence Center (STIC). Ms. Ruff has worked at STIC since 1995, directing the Supported Employment program for ten years and the Early Childhood Direction Center for three years, before moving into the Systems Advocacy position. She was a photographer/videographer for a very long time and in the past was also a teacher and was self-employed.
Ms. Ruff participates on several local, state and national rights/advocacy organizations and committees. She is the daughter, sister, and parent of people with disabilities.
Since 2004, MaryBeth R. Schneider has served in various capacities at NYSARC. Currently as the Assistant Executive Director for Training and Self-Advocacy, MaryBeth prioritizes the issues of people who use NYSARC supports and services and the staff who directly provide those services. She is actively involved with self-advocacy, self-determination and person-centered planning as well as advising the Direct Support Professionals Alliance for New York State board of directors. Before joining the NYSARC, Inc. State Office staff, MaryBeth held various positions over a 16-year career with Rensselaer County Chapter NYSARC.