Local disability activists lead Abilities Expo’s community outreach efforts through ambassador program
Abilities Expo has appointed Ambassadors—members of the local community of people with disabilities and their families—to spearhead community outreach initiatives. These individuals will meet face-to-face with rehab institutions, independent living centers, local manufacturers, service providers and local associations to generate excitement and increase attendance at each event.
Meet the impressive individuals who have chosen to represent Abilities Expo to the Community.
Autumn Grant was born and raised and continues to live in Massachusetts. Autumn received a BA in Humanities with a concentration in Classics from Providence College, graduating summa cum laude and with the Directors Award for Excellence in the Humanities in 1996. She also received a MA in Higher Education Administration from Phoenix College in 2000.
Autumn was diagnosed at the age of 10 with Limb Girdle Muscular Dystrophy; this came as quite a shock since she had been very physically active, especially in dance. In 1996, shortly after graduating from college, she started using a wheelchair. Grant soon learned that her wheelchair was actually her key to a more independent life
Autumn currently serves as the Senior Academic Advisor in the Academic Achievement Center at Bridgewater State University. As such, she coordinates all academic advising for first year and transfer students. In addition, she mentors students in academic difficulty and serves as an advisor for students studying Elementary Education.
As Ms. Wheelchair Massachusetts 2006 and Ms. Wheelchair America 2007, Autumn promoted her platform “Independence through Education.” Autumn feels that education is the first step towards obtaining independence and spent her year working to eliminate barriers keeping people with disabilities from becoming involved in post secondary education. She hopes she has demonstrated that “Independence through Education” is possible by sharing her own personal story with those she has met. Autumn is the current State Coordinator of the Ms. Wheelchair Massachusetts Foundation and served two terms on the Board of Directors of Ms. Wheelchair America Inc.
Autumn’s hobbies include reading, traveling and spending time with her fiancé Kenny and their “babies,” two dog and three cats. Her love for travel prompted her to create her own travel agency VacationAbility, to help people with disabilities make their travel dreams come true. Autumn is an active volunteer with the Muscular Dystrophy Association and received an MDA State Personal Achievement Award in 2002. In addition, Autumn is involved in many professional organizations and enjoys presenting at regional and national conferences. She was recently selected as an Emerging Leader by the National Academic Advising Association.
Susan was born and raised in Massachusetts and currently resides in Wrentham, MA with her husband Joe. She graduated from Massachusetts Hospital School in Canton and went on to study Social Services at Massasoit Community College.
Susan was born with Spina Bifida, a birth defect resulting in paraplegia. When she was born the doctors told her parents "she would never walk, never sit up and would probably have intellectual disabilities" they were advised to put her in an institution and go on with their lives. One nurse advised them to "take her home and treat her like the rest of your kids." She is forever thankful this is the advice they took. As a child, she used long leg braces and crutches for her mobility, but these days she uses a manual wheelchair for the increased mobility and independence it provides her.
Due to the dedication of a favorite high school, teacher Susan became actively involved in advocacy at an early age, often attending protests and legislative hearings in Phoenix pre-ADA. As a high school senior she was elected to attend the 26th Annual Student Government Day at the State House in Phoenix; where she spent the day performing as a State Senator. After graduation Susan had the honor of attending the President's Committee on Employment of the Handicapped in Washington, DC.
Susan has worked since she was 15 when she spent summers teaching arts and crafts to children with disabilities as part of her town's summer kids program. After college, Susan was employed in the Durable Medical / Custom Rehab Equipment industry. Susan is currently the Branch Operations Supervisor for Hudson Seating and Mobility in their Franklin, MA branch. As an industry professional Susan had previously served several terms as a board member for HOMES (Home Medical Equipment & Services Association of New England).
Susan continues her advocacy work by serving on several boards and commissions, including current President of the Ms. Wheelchair Massachusetts Foundation, Chairperson of the Wrentham Commission on Disability and President of the Massachusetts Hospital School Alumni Association. For the last several years, Susan has attended the National CRT Leadership and Advocacy Conference in Washington, DC to lobby for Custom Rehab Equipment to become a right rather than a privilege for people with disabilities.
National Disability Law Ambassador
Stephanie Woodward is a passionate Disability Rights activist and proud disabled person. She is the Director of Advocacy at the Center for Disability Rights, Inc. (CDR) a disability led, not-for-profit Corporation that works for national, state, and local systemic change to advance the rights of people with disabilities. Stephanie is also a member of ADAPT, a national grass-roots community that organizes disability rights activists to engage in nonviolent direct action, including civil disobedience, to assure the civil and human rights of people with disabilities to live in freedom. Stephanie has been arrested multiple times while advocating for Disability Rights.
Prior to joining CDR Stephanie worked as a litigator in Miami, Florida focusing on Disability Rights. Stephanie attended Syracuse University College of Law where she earned her J.D. with a certificate in Disability Law and Policy and her M.S.Ed. in Disability Studies. Stephanie previously worked for Senator Tom Harkin (IA) and assisted his Disability Counsel on the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions by researching, drafting legislation, and making recommendations for legislative action in regards to disability rights issues. Most recently, Stephanie, along with fellow members of ADAPT, assisted in drafting the Disability Integration Act (DIA) – a piece of legislation that, if passed, would affirm the rights of people with disabilities to receive long-term services in their homes, rather than nursing facilities and other institutions.
While Stephanie’s work spans across all areas of Disability Rights, she is particularly interested in deinstitutionalization, community living, ending violence against people with disabilities, and improving access in the community. She loves talking about legislation that will impact the Disability Community and helping others to become activists for Disability Rights. When Stephanie is not doing Disability Rights work, she can be found playing with her adorable nieces, taking care of her four cats, and eating copious amounts of cheeseburgers and onion rings.Pre-Register for Abilities Expo Today...It's Free! Pre-Register for Abilities Expo Today...It's Free!