Today’s episode is on disabled people in public service. Maria Town, Director of the Mayor’s Office on People with Disabilities for the City of Houston and Walei Sabry, Housing Coordinator for the New York City Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities and Digital Accessibility Coordinator for the NYC Department of Information Technology and Telecommunication join Alice for a conversation on the importance of public service.
Maria and Walei share how they became involved in public service and what it means to them, what MOPDs do, and the major issues facing disability communities in Houston and NYC.
Buchanan, Taylor Jackson. (August 21, 2017). Texas Faces A Critical Shortage of Personal Care Attendants. Texas Standard.
Colon, David. (April 26, 2017). Disabled NYers File Class Action Lawsuit Against MTA Over Inaccessible Subway Stations. Gothamist.
Walei Sabry. Born in Egypt and raised in New York, Walei has had significant transitions in his life. First from one country to another and then through varying degrees of vision. The journey from being sighted to blind has given Walei many insights into this transition. The most important is that people with disabilities can accomplish many things if given the support, tools and opportunities to do so. Walei believes that the most disabling thing about being blind is the way that others treat him. That’s why Walei is out on a mission to increase access wherever he can. Whether it’s by consulting on web accessibility, providing staff awareness trainings or representing the disability community in his everyday life, wherever he goes, Walei is constantly changing perceptions one situation at a time.
Maria Town is the Director of the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities for the city of Houston, Texas. Town comes to the mayor’s office from the White House Office of Public Engagement where she served as a senior associate director and the disability community liaison.
Town worked in the White House in the last two years of the Obama Administration. She is credited with leading the efforts to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act and using creative methods to enhance the Obama Administration’s engagement with the disability community. Prior to the White House, Town was employed at the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Disability Employment Policy where she was instrumental in advancing national public policy initiatives focused on improving employment outcomes for youth with disabilities. Her other previous experience includes working in the Provost’s Office at Emory University where she earned a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and served as university-wide student body president.
In her personal time, Town is the founder of CP Shoes, a blog dedicated to exploring the intersection of design, fashion, disability and technology. She is also a former fellow and mentoring co-chair of the Washington, D.C., chapter of the New Leaders Council, a former participant in Mobility International USA’s Young Women with Disabilities Leadership Exchange Program, a former co-moderator of a networking group for young professionals with disabilities in Washington, D.C. She has also been involved in the Girl Scouts of the Nation’s Capital.
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Sarika D. Mehta, Audio Producer
Alice Wong, Writer, Producer, Interviewer
Cheryl Green, Text Transcript
Lateef McLeod, Introduction
Mike Mort, Artwork
Theme Music (used with permission of artist)
Song: “Dance Off”
Artist: Wheelchair Sports Camp