Staff

photo taken from above, two staff members smile up from a DVU booth at a conference

Judy Mark

President
Parent

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Judy Mark has a 23-year old son with autism, which led her to become co-founder and President of Disability Voices United.  Judy leads DVU’s advocacy and programmatic efforts. Judy was instrumental in the passage of the Self-Determination Law and has been active in the implementation as a member of the DDS workgroup, Chair of Westside Regional Center’s local advisory committee, and a member of the Statewide Advisory Committee. Judy has written and edited two books on the Self-Determination Program and has spoken extensively throughout California and trained thousands of individuals and families.

Also a faculty member at UCLA, Judy teaches undergraduate courses in the Disability Studies Program. She recently led the Autism Media Lab which produced seven short documentaries on the inclusion of people with non-speaking autism. Her past professional experience includes over 30 years with national policy organizations, most extensively focusing on immigrant and refugee rights.

Judy has a BA from UCLA in Communications Studies and a Masters in Politics and Public Policy from the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University with coursework at the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University. Judy lives in L.A. with her husband, attorney Allen Erenbaum, and son, Joshua, and she visits her daughter, Emma, often at Barnard College at Columbia University in New York.

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Nina Spiegelman

Program Director
Parent

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Nina leads programs for DVU including our Communication Disabilities Access Network.

Nina has a 24 year-old son with autism and is an active participant in parent advocacy efforts on behalf of the East Bay autism and developmental disability communities. She has played a key role in developing the East Bay Parents Housing Network into an effective family support and education group. She is currently working to focus attention of local agencies on the urgent need to improve crisis prevention and intervention services.

Nina retired in 2018 as an Associate Regional Counsel in the Office of Regional Counsel at the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s Pacific Southwest Regional Office based in San Francisco. For over 30 years she supervised attorneys providing legal support for the agency’s implementation and enforcement of federal environmental statutes.

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Rachel Schlesinger

Director of Outreach & Leadership Training
Self-Advocate
Sibling

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Rachel Schlesinger is a disability justice advocate, educator, and certified rehabilitation counselor.  She has been a lifelong member of the disability community by being Hard of Hearing and being the older sibling of her sister, who experiences autism.  

As a transfer student from Los Angeles, she moved to San Diego, earning her bachelor’s degree in Speech-Language and Hearing Sciences and master’s degree in Rehabilitation Counseling from San Diego State University. While she was in school, she became a disability campus advocate, leading the charge in disability awareness events and programming.  In addition, she was the president of the Student Advisory Board for students with disabilities and supported the establishment of the adaptive sports program.

She is a lecturer at San Diego State University, co-instructing the course, Disability & Society. She also co-authored an electronic textbook titled, Disability & Society. 

Her determination for disability justice propelled her toward finding ways to bridge the gaps between people’s needs (and their rights) and societal oppression of people with disabilities. Rachel has worked in various settings, including community colleges, universities, adult day programs, and state-funded programs that serve people with disabilities.  She found her passion through her experience teaching comprehensive social-sexual education to adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She also consults with families and local programs to help develop innovative solutions to improve the quality of life of disabled community members. Rachel firmly believes that disability does not discriminate. Therefore, society should not.

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Darlene Hanson

Co-Director, Supported Decision-Making, California Advocacy Project

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Darlene Hanson has her Masters of Arts in Communication Disorders from Whittier College in California.  She is currently in private practice in Southern California.  Darlene works with individuals, their support teams, and their families to build communication.  Her professional experiences have included work in the public schools, private practice, as a Director of Communication Services for a Non-Profit.

As a speech and language pathologist Darlene conducts assessments in the areas of speech, language, and augmentative communication.  Darlene has included Facilitated Communication Training in her assessments and practice since 1991.  Over the course of the years she has taught at Chapman University, presented at local, state and national conferences, and conducted trainings on Autism, Augmentative Communication strategies, and Facilitated Communication Training through out the United States.

She is also one of a group of Master Trainers for Facilitated Communication Training, and assisted with the writing of the Best Practice Standards for Facilitated Communication Training distributed through the Institute for Communication and Inclusion of Syracuse University.  She is now a Board Member of the Wellspring Guild.  Darlene has co-authored research and articles on communication for those with severe communication impairments, and is a co-author of Investigation of Authorship in Facilitated Communication, (Journal of Mental Retardation, Aug. 1996).

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Ed Hirtzel

Communications & Development Coordinator
Self-Advocate

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Ed assists the board and staff in implementing programs, including the Communication Disabilities Access Network (CDAN) and DVU’s supported decision-making work. She also directs all social media and websites for DVU, provides support to the organization’s development, and coordinates the technical portion of DVU’s public-facing webinars and calls.

Ed Hirtzel holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Millersville University in Pennsylvania and an MFA in Creative Writing from St. Mary’s College of California. Before DVU, she served as the Publishing Manager of River of Words, a nonprofit that uses youth poetry and art to connect students to their watersheds. She also taught rhetoric and composition at St. Mary’s College of California.

Ed is a previously-mainstreamed, Deaf butch lesbian who lives with multiple invisible disabilities in the form of chronic autoimmune diseases and mental health disabilities. These lived experiences inform her work with and outside of DVU. She is particularly passionate about helping build a world where all people have communication access, as well as maximum choice and control over their own lives. Ed lives on Agua Caliente Band (of the Cahuilla Tribe) land, also called Palm Springs, with her fiancée Aleesha and their cat Absinthe.

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Vejas Vasiliauskas

Intern
Self-Advocate

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Vejas Vasiliauskas is about to start his second year of the Masters in Counseling, Option in Rehabilitation Counseling program at California State University, Los Angeles. Previously, he earned a bachelors degree in English from Loyola Marymount University. Vejas, who has been blind since birth, would like to become a rehabilitation counselor and help other blind individuals seek employment and learn what opportunities are available. Vejas has been with DVU for the past year, with a primary focus on the Communication Disability Access Network (CDAN). 

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Kristina Rizo

Program Fellow

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Kristina Rizo is about to start her last year at University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). She will be graduating with a major in Psychobiology and double minoring in Chicana/o/x Studies and Disability Studies. Kristina is currently working on her medical school application in hopes of becoming a doctor with a MedPeds specialty, MedPeds being a combination of Internal Medicine and Pediatrics. With this specialty, she would like to have her own clinic that will cater towards people with low incomes and people with developmental disabilities. Kristina has been with DVU for the past year and is working on a new Outreach and Leadership Project with Rachel and Miguel.

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