WASHINGTON – Today, President Biden announced his intent to appoint the following individuals to serve as members on the National Council on Disability:
- Hoskie Benally, Jr.
- Theo W. Braddy
- Claudia L. Gordon
- Risa Jaz Rifkind
- Emily Voorde
National Council on Disability
National Council on Disability (NCD) is an independent federal agency charged with advising the President, Congress, and other federal agencies regarding policies, programs, practices, and procedures that affect people with disabilities. NCD is comprised of a team of Presidential and Congressional appointees, an Executive Director appointed by the Chair, and a full-time professional staff.
NCD’s mission is to be a trusted advisor, in collaboration with people with disabilities, to: the President; Congress; Federal entities; State, tribal communities, and local governments; and other entities and organizations. NCD fulfills its advisory roles regarding disability policies, programs, procedures, and practices that enhance equal opportunity by: convening stakeholders to acquire timely and relevant input for recommendations and action steps; gathering and analyzing data and other information; engaging and influencing current debates and agendas;
identifying and formulating solutions to emerging and long-standing challenges; and providing tools to facilitate effective implementation.
Hoskie Benally, Jr., Member, National Council on Disability
Hoskie Benally Jr., is a Member of the Navajo Nation and is Legally Blind. He is currently employed with the Native American Disability Law Center as the Community and Government Liaison engaged in Disability Systems Advocacy with the Navajo Nation and other Native American Tribes. Benally is also involved with the National Congress of American Indians, Disability Sub-Committee. Prior to joining the Law Center, Benally was the CEO of a Residential Treatment Center for Native American Youth that successfully integrated Navajo culture into western-based mental health treatment.
Benally is the current President of the Navajo Nation Advisory Council on Disabilities, a former Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor, and a former Member of the New Mexico Developmental Disability Planning Council. Grounded in Navajo tradition and fluent in Navajo, Benally is an experienced cultural instructor. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in Sociology from Brigham Young University,
Theo W. Braddy, Member, National Council on Disability
Theo W. Braddy has advocated on behalf of people with disabilities for over 40 years. At the age of 15, he became a person with a disability due to a high school football accident that left him paralyzed from the neck down. In 1988, Braddy was hired as CEO of the Center for Independent Living of Central Pennsylvania, where he served for over 30 years. As CEO, Braddy created an independent living center that became a strong and growing voice for people with disabilities, and started the Living Well with a Disability Initiative. Additionally, he has taught at Temple University and Millersville University as an Adjunct Professor.
Two different Governors have appointed Braddy as a Commissioner for the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission and to serve on the Pennsylvania Statewide Independent Living Council. In 2021, Governor Wolf appointed him to serve on the State Board of Vocational Rehabilitation. In 2022, Braddy was selected by Senator Robert Casey, Jr., as one of four Black leaders in Pennsylvania who has demonstrated power and persistency in overcoming challenges and creating meaningful change in the State, and his contribution was acknowledged on the Senate Floor at a Congressional Hearing. He graduated from Temple University with his MSW in 1988 after receiving his BSW from Edinboro University. Braddy is married to Rovenia Braddy, who is an author and playwright. He is the father of two children, a daughter, Kimmi Braddy, and a son, Theo Braddy Jr.
Claudia L. Gordon, Member, National Council on Disability
Claudia Gordon is a dedicated advocate for people with disabilities with nearly 30 years of versatile professional expertise, with a personal mission to level the playing field and ensure the same opportunities are provided for all. She currently serves as the Senior Accessibility Strategist with T-Mobile US, Inc. In this role, she drives strategies for a disability inclusive culture and an accessible plus equitable work environment. Gordon has held senior leadership positions with Sprint Corporation, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the National Council on Disability, and the National Association of the Deaf Law and Advocacy Center. During the Obama-Biden Administration, Gordon served as the Chief of Staff for the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs and the Associate Director of Public Engagement for the White House Office of Public Engagement.
Adding to Gordon’s professional expertise is her lived experience as an immigrant at the intersections of race, disability, and gender, which is the foundation for the strong emphasis on disabled individuals with multiple marginalized identities that she brings to her work. For her unrelenting commitment to advocacy, compliance, civic engagement, and mentoring, Gordon has been recognized by the American Association of People with Disabilities, Google, AT&T Humanity of Connection, National Disability Mentoring Coalition, National Association of the Deaf, National Black Deaf Advocates, and The Root 100. Gordon is a native of Jamaica, graduate of Howard University, and graduate of the American University’s Washington College of Law.
Risa Jaz Rifkind, Member, National Council on Disability
Risa Jaz Rifkind is a justice advocate who seeks to make change by shifting access to power and influence. As the Director of Civic Engagement and Marketing for Disability Lead, she propels the organization to realize its vision to have people with disabilities lead with power and influence. By identifying and developing strategic partnerships, Rifkind positions Members to take on leadership roles that advance their careers, civic engagement, and equity for people with disabilities. In 2020, she served on the Disability Inclusion Fund’s grantmaking committee.
Previously, Rifkind was Program Manager at The Chicago Community Trust, where she developed their disability inclusion priorities and practices and managed several disability inclusion initiatives, including the Disabilities Fund, ADA 25 Advancing Leadership, and ADA 25 Chicago. Rifkind is passionate about the arts and serves as Treasurer for the Chicago Cultural Accessibility Consortium. She is also a Member of Disability Lead. Rifkind received a B.A. from Johns Hopkins University.
Emily Voorde, Member, National Council on Disability
Emily Voorde is an Associate Director with NEWCO Strategies, a full-service strategic consulting firm that helps progressive campaigns, organizations, and companies achieve their goals. She most recently served as an Associate Director in the White House Office of Public Engagement as the Biden-Harris Administration’s liaison to Disabled Americans and K-12 educators.
Voorde’s personal passions and professional expertise center on justice for individuals with disabilities and equitable access to education. Her career began as an AmeriCorps member and 2nd grade teacher in Pascagoula, Mississippi. In the summer of 2019, Voorde returned to her hometown of South Bend, Indiana to support Secretary Pete Buttigieg’s run for President, serving as Chasten Buttigieg’s full-time body woman on the campaign trail. During the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, Voorde served as an Associate Director with the University of Notre Dame’s Sara Bea Center for Students with Disabilities. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Notre Dame, a Masters of Education from the University of Notre Dame, and a Masters of Public Policy in Education from Vanderbilt University. Voorde recently returned to her hometown of South Bend, Indiana.