J.J. Rico is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at the Arizona Center for Disability Law (ACDL)which is the protection and advocacy agency in Arizona, providing free legal services to people with disabilities. Prior to becoming the CEO, J.J worked as ACDL’s Litigation Director and as a staff attorney. His legal work focused on the employment and access provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act. J.J. has represented individuals with disabilities before both State and Federal Courts and administrative agencies such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Arizona Attorney General’s Civil Rights Division.
ACDL’s Mission: ACDL is a non-profit law firm that assists Arizonans with disabilities to promote and protect their legal rights to independence, justice, and equality.
ACDL’s Vision: A society where people with disabilities enjoy full acceptance without barriers.
Denise D. Resnik
Denise is the founder and president/CEO of First Place® AZ (established in 2012), co-founder of the Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC, established in 1997), and founder and CEO of DRA Collective, a marketing/communications firm (established in 1986) that serves clients in a variety of fields, including real estate, economic development, healthcare, education and hospitality. Her adult son Matt, who has autism, and others with different abilities inspire her work.
A native Phoenician and international leader in autism, Denise has raised community awareness and more than $75 million for autism, primarily from Arizona sources. The supportive community—facilitated by SARRC, First Place and dozens of partnering organizations—inspired PBS NewsHour to produce a two-part, nationally broadcast series citing Phoenix as “the most autism-friendly city in the world.”
Backed by more than 20 years of research, support from the Urban Land Institute and more than 100 collaborators from the public, private, philanthropic and nonprofit sectors, First Place AZ is positioned for transformational impact on how society approaches housing and community development for individuals with autism and other neurodiversities.
Denise’s leadership has also driven the development of two major studies:
- A Place in the World: Fueling Housing and Community Options for Adults with Autism and Other Neurodiversities, offering the universal language for a guiding narrative to research, develop and achieve supportive housing solutions. The groundbreaking 2020 report includes more than 150 terms to help guide people to better understand housing preferences, accessibility needs, supportive amenities, service delivery models and more. It aims to clearly define nomenclature and market segments for the benefit and application of all sectors; establish best practices and guiding principles; and drive crucial partnerships and policy decisions that address pressing needs compounded by the current housing crisis.
- Opening Doors: A Discussion of Residential Options for Adults Living with Autism and Related Disorders, the first-ever study to focus on the housing challenges of adults with autism and other neurodiversities. This 2009 report also cites specific design goals and guidelines and remains the go-to source for architects, planners and developers. Opening Doors resulted in the founding of First Place AZ and the Autism Housing Network, an online platform bringing together the best ideas and resources in housing for adults with autism and other neurodiversities.
First Place–Phoenix, the nonprofit’s first property, opened mid-2018 with the bold vision of ensuring housing and community options for adults with autism and other neurodiversities are as bountiful as they are for everyone else. The 81,000-square-foot, $15.4 million property, set within the heart of the Greater Phoenix community, represents a new residential prototype demonstrating greater opportunities for employment, lifelong education, healthcare and recreational options that create more choices for more independent living.Denise serves as a member of Arizona State University’s Watts College Dean’s Council, the Creighton University Presidential Health Sciences Phoenix Advisory Board, The Precisionists, Inc. Advisory Board and the Autism Society Marketing Task Force. Former leadership positions include the Autism Speaks Housing Committee, Advancing Futures for Adults with Autism Leadership Council, National Association of Residential Providers for Adults with Autism and the National Autism Transition Research Network Advisory Panel. Denise has also served as a federally appointed member of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee of the National Institutes of Health.
Dr. Arielle Silverman is the founder of Disability Wisdom Consulting. She has conducted research on the employment experiences of legally blind Americans and develops training activities for organizations seeking a more inclusive workforce. Arielle also serves as the Deputy Coordinator for a Pre-Employment Transition Services (pre-ETS) program for blind and low-vision youth in Virginia. Arielle received her doctorate in social psychology from the University of Colorado Boulder in 2014. Her professional knowledge and lived experience as a self-advocate blind since birth both fuel her passion to remove barriers and promote equality for all people with disabilities. Contact Dr. Arielle Silverman at email@example.com.
Born and raised in Tucson, Arizona—Noran Muntasser understands the value of fostering relationships. As a Mortgage Loan Originator most of her business derives from nurtured relationships that have been established over the past 8 years she’s worked in finance. With integrity and unmatched customer service, Noran helps first time home-buyers become educated consumers, investors learn how to get a great deal on real estate, and families explore all the great things Tucson has to offer. Her passion to educate and best connect with her clients comes from a collaboration of work experience and education at the University of Arizona, where she completed her undergraduate degree in Psychology. Let her hold your hand all the way home! Contact her at (520)878-7477 or NMuntasser@GuildMortgage.net
Tarik Williams has served in different leadership roles all over the country and served as an international ambassador. Throughout these positions over the last ten years, he has had the opportunity to work with people with many diverse abilities.
He received his B.A. in English at West Chester University where he was also ambassador for the disability resources office. Thereafter he received his masters at Louisiana Tech University in Counseling and Guidance with certifications in Orientation and Mobility and Rehabilitation Teaching for the Blind.
He is the founder, and C.E.O. of We Are Vision of Hope, a mindset and empowerment coaching business where cultivating strengths is a fundamental priority and host of the Speak Your Vision podcast. We are honored to have Mr. Tarik Williams as our master of ceremonies for the Integrated Employment Conference.
SAAVI Services for the Blind
Rachel holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Financial Services from Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. After college she obtained a wide range of employment experiences including Sales, Executive Assistant, and Marketing. While raising a family, Rachel spent many years serving her community by volunteering as a Special Program Co-Chair for a local food pantry. After her blindness began to interfere with her life, she sought and received blindness skills training at a National Federation of the Blind training center in Minneapolis. Through this non-visual training program Rachel gained the confidence and skills needed to pursue employment in Grant Development. Today Rachel is working alongside the employment services team at SAAVI Services for the Blind to empower students to achieve to their fullest potential in their life and career.
Beca Bailey, B.S.W, is the Community Engagement Liaison for the State of Arizona at the Arizona Commission for the Deaf and the Hard of Hearing (ACDHH). Beca has been with ACDHH for 17 years, previously serving as the Deaf Specialist, where she provided information and referrals, resources, empowerment, outreach, education and training to Arizonans. Now, in her current role as Community Engagement Liaison, Serves as liaison to ACDHH for community and stakeholder requests and helps establish and maintain relationships with stakeholders. She also is responsible for increasing community engagement programing and social media engagement and development. Beca graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology with a Bachelor’s of Science in Social Work in 1996 and she holds an Arizona General Deaf Interpreter license. A Deaf person herself, she understands the challenges the Deaf face on an everyday basis and continues to be an advocate for equal access for the Deaf community for over twenty-five years.
Jordan moved to Tucson in 2003 to attend the University of Arizona where he obtained a bachelor’s in psychology. Dealing with chronic eye-issues since birth, he always had a fascination with the idea of perseverance and the splendor of how people overcome trials. This led to Jordan obtaining his master’s in social work and is licensed at the state level to provide counseling. After becoming legally blind in 2016, Jordan went through blind rehabilitation and was able to become a practicing therapist again. He continues to work in social services in the incredible city of Tucson.
He is a big sports fan and always welcomes the discussion of the Arizona Cardinals, Phoenix Suns, and anything UFC. Other hobbies include working on his koi pond with 5 koi fish, 2 goldfish, and a mini type of shark. Also, he loves talking about health and nutrition; and is currently going to school to become a certified health coach.
David Steinmetz, Community and Public Relations Manager
As the manager of Community and Public Relations, David Steinmetz uses his enthusiasm and education to direct AIB’s Community and Public Relations efforts supporting local and national program issues. David also directs several internal programs including AIB’s Quality Work Environment initiative.
Diagnosed with RP, a blinding retinal disease, at the age of 19, David has an enthusiastic dedication for assuring that Arizona Industries for the Blind (AIB) is a model of business excellence that continues to create employment opportunities for people who are blind.
Mr. Steinmetz graduated from Arizona State University in with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management and Economics. Additionally Steinmetz has continued his education by graduating from the Business Management Training (BMT) program provided by Darden Graduate School of Business, University of Virginia. In 2008, David was the national recipient of the National Industries for the Blind Milton J. Samuelson Career Achievement award. This prestigious award recognized Mr. Steinmetz for his career achievements and community service work.
Justin M. H. Salisbury
Justin M. H. Salisbury is a graduate student at the University of Vermont in the College of Education and Social Services, where he is pursuing a PhD in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies. He has worked in the blindness field since 2008, through non-profit advocacy organizations and public and private vocational rehabilitation agencies. He has also worked in the Hawaii State Senate and Hawaii State House of Representatives, which allowed him to participate in the crafting of disability rights laws. He spent five years working at or surrounded by sheltered workshops, and those years have informed his passion for the transition to competitive and integrated employment. He holds the National Orientation and Mobility Certification and National Certification in Rehabilitation Teaching for the Blind from the National Blindness Professional Certification Board, a Master of Arts in Counseling and Guidance from Louisiana Tech University, and Bachelor of Arts degrees in Mathematics and Economics from East Carolina University. He serves as First Vice President of the National Federation of the Blind of Vermont and Second Vice President of the National Association of Blind Students. View Justin’s research through his ResearchGate profile or his broader list of publications through his LinkedIn profile. Email him at President@Alumni.ECU.edu.