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.
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.
Ed assists the board and staff in implementing programs, including the Parent-to-Parent Supported Decision-Making Message and Training Development Project, as well as directs all social media and websites for DVU. She also 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’s lived experience as a Hard of Hearing butch lesbian managing multiple invisible/less-visible disabilities and medical conditions informs 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 shared Halloween-themed tchotchke collections.
Co-Director, Supported Decision-Making, California Advocacy Projectarrow_forward_ios
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).
Suzanne Bennett Francisco
Co-Director, Supported Decision-Making, California Advocacy Projectarrow_forward_ios
Suzanne Bennett Francisco’s work is informed by her three joyful young adult children with Congenital Muscular Dystrophy and Autism Spectrum Disorder, and by her sister, a former strong self-advocate with significant exceptional abilities. Suzanne is also an author and speaker, as well as the President and CEO of Exceptional Rights Advocacy. After years as a special education advocate, Suzanne has partnered with many statewide and national advocacy groups as a subject matter expert in supported Decision-Making (SDM) , an alternative to conservatorship. She provides SDM education and training to self-advocates, supporters, and professionals throughout California. Suzanne authored Supported Decision-Making Teams: Setting the Wheels in Motion (SDM SWIM) which has become a best practice in many states across the country.
Suzanne serves on the TASH Human Rights Committee, the San Andreas Regional Center Self-Determination Advisory Committee, and other committees related to California’s Self Determination Program. She works closely with PRAGNYA, a social immersion, autism acculturation program, to bring acceptance and community integration to deserving neurodiverse children and adults. Her mission is to advance the lives of people with differences so that they are self-expressed and direct their own lives to the maximum of their unique abilities.
Suzanne is a Doctorate of Jurisprudence candidate at Golden Gate University School of Law and has an undergraduate degree in business.
Mackenzie Bath graduated from Lewis & Clark College in 2019 with a degree in English Literature. She has worked with advocacy groups such as Best Buddies International, Kids Included Together, and Miracle League San Diego her entire life, starting as early as ten years old. She currently works with DVU on assorted administrative tasks and projects. She spends the rest of her time as a Social Integrator for a young man with autism.
Isita Tripathi is a recent graduate from the University of California, Los Angeles with a Bachelor’s degree in Neuroscience and minor in Disability Studies. She currently volunteers at the UCLA PEERS Clinic as social coach and career mentor for preschoolers, adolescents, and young adults with autism spectrum disorder. In addition to clinical groups, she is also examining long-term outcomes of the program on child functioning, parent-child relationships, and perspectives on neurodiversity.
During her time at UCLA, Isita was passionate about bridging the gap between medical and social discourses on disability. She served as a representative on the UCLA Committee on Disability, where she informed campus initiatives to increase inclusivity for students with disabilities. Within the larger community, she established a student-run organization, Speak Out for Surgery, that works in collaboration with local nonprofits to bring surgical, legal, and psychological resources to underinsured families while sharing empowering narratives around disability and equitable rights.
Working closely with youth and their families, Isita has noted many barriers to care and access issues for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, which inspired her to pursue greater advocacy efforts with DVU. As a Program Fellow, she is excited to enhance accommodation and acceptance in medical spaces, in addition to learning from self-advocates and family members. In the future, Isita hopes to pursue graduate education in medicine and public health, building upon her current interests to improve clinical care for children with developmental disabilities from underserved communities.