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AUCD - Plenary B: Key Executive Branch Disability Champions Share Their Priorities

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Tuesday, November 7, 2017 8:45 AM - 10:15 AM

Location: Grand Ballroom North/Central Salon

Session Description

We are delighted to host the 27TH United States Secretary of Labor, R. Alexander Acosta. Acosta is the son of Cuban refugees, a native of Miami, and a first-generation college graduate with undergraduate and law degrees from Harvard. He served in three positions in the George W. Bush Administration, including as the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. In that role, he was a strong champion for increasing competitive employment for Americans with disabilities. He looks forward to using his new role as Secretary of Labor to accelerate progress in disability employment and elevate this issue in the national consciousness.

Following Secretary Acosta, Kara Ayers will moderate a panel that includes Mary Lazare, from the Administration on Community Living, Kimberly Richey from the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, and Linda Mastandrea of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Lazare is a sibling of an adult with developmental disabilities and looks forward to being a strong champion for Americans with disabilities across the age span. Richey most recently served as the Managing Director for Federal Advocacy at the National School Boards Association and the General Counsel of the Oklahoma State Department of Education. She is excited to connect and work with the AUCD network to achieve better outcomes for children and adults with disabilities. Mastandrea is an expert on inclusive emergency management practices in addition to being a 15-time Paralympic gold medalist and multiple world record holder.

>AUCD recorded this session! Watch the archive.

Featured Presenter(s)

  • R. Alexander Acosta, Secretary of Labor, US Department of Labor
  • Mary Lazare, MS, Principal Deputy Administrator, Administration on Community Living, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
  • Kimberly Richey, JD, Acting Assistant Secretary, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, U.S. Department of Education
  • Linda Mastandrea, JD, Director, Office of Disability Integration and Coordination, Federal Emergency Management Agency
  • Moderator: Kara Ayers, PhD. Associate Director, University of Cincinnati UCEDD


R. Alexander Acosta

Photo of Secretary AcostaPresident Donald J. Trump nominated R. Alexander Acosta to be the 27th United States Secretary of Labor. He was sworn in on April 28, 2017.

Secretary Acosta is the son of Cuban refugees, a native of Miami, and first-generation college graduate. He earned his undergraduate and law degrees from Harvard University.

Following law school, he worked as a law clerk for Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr., at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. He then worked at the law firm of Kirkland & Ellis and went on to teach at George Mason University's Antonin Scalia School of Law.

Secretary Acosta has served in three presidentially appointed, Senate-confirmed positions. In 2002, he was appointed to serve as a member of the National Labor Relations Board, where he participated in or authored more than 125 opinions. In 2003, he was appointed Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, and from 2005 to 2009 he served as the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida.

Most recently, Secretary Acosta served as the dean of the FIU College of Law.

Secretary Acosta has twice been named one of the nation's 50 most influential Hispanics by Hispanic Business magazine. He was also named to the list of 100 most influential individuals in business ethics in 2008. In 2013, the South Florida Hispanic Chamber of Commerce presented him with the Chairman's Higher Education Award in recognition of his "outstanding achievements, leadership and determination throughout a lifetime of caring and giving back to the community."

Secretary Acosta and his wife enjoy spending time together as a family, raising their two daughters.




Mary Lazare, MS

Photo of Mary LazarePresident Trump appointed Mary Lazare to serve as ACL's Principal Deputy Administrator on June 19, 2017.

Ms. Lazare comes to ACL from St. Louis, Missouri, where she most recently served as Vice President for Home- and Community-Based Services for Lutheran Senior Services. With master's degrees in both management and gerontology and an extensive career in long-term care and community health operations, she combines hands-on program-level knowledge with strategic planning and organizational development expertise, and has led organizations in delivering quality services and advocating for the people they serve while adhering to sound stewardship principles.




Kimberly Richey, JD

Photo of Kimberly RicheyKimberly M. Richey is the deputy assistant secretary and acting assistant secretary in the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services at the United States Department of Education. In this capacity, she serves as advisor to the U.S. secretary of education on matters related to the education of children and youth with disabilities, as well as employment and community living for youth and adults with disabilities. The mission of her office is to improve early childhood, educational, and employment outcomes, and to raise expectations for all people with disabilities, their families, their communities, and the nation.

Prior to joining the Department, Richey served as the managing director of federal advocacy and public policy at the National School Boards Association. Formerly, she served as the general counsel for the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE), where she represented OSDE, the State Board of Education, and the state superintendent of public instruction.

Prior to her work at OSDE, Richey served as the general counsel and associate director of the Oklahoma Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training, a postsecondary education agency focused on peace officer training. From 2004 to 2009, she served at the U.S. Department of Education as the counselor to the assistant secretary in the Office for Civil Rights. During that same time, Richey also served as acting chief of staff in the Office of Legislation and Congressional Affairs.

Richey is a native of Corpus Christi, Texas, and holds a bachelor's degree in education from Southern Nazarene University and a juris doctorate degree from the University of Oklahoma. She is a certified teacher and is licensed to practice law in Oklahoma, Texas, and the District of Columbia.




Linda Mastandrea, JD

Photo of LindaLinda Mastandrea serves as the Director of the Office of Disability Integration and Coordination (ODIC), which leads FEMA's commitment to whole-community emergency management by integrating individuals with disabilities and others with access and functional needs into all aspects of disaster preparedness, response, recovery and mitigation.

Ms. Mastandrea has spent the majority of her career as an attorney concentrating her practice in disability law and civil rights, representing people with disabilities who have experienced discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, and government services and benefits. She has taught disability law, lectured on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other disability laws nationwide, and served as a special education hearing officer. 

Ms. Mastandrea has built a reputation as a subject matter expert on inclusive emergency management practices. She has provided training, consultation and technical assistance to emergency managers around the nation and served as a Disability Integration Adviser Reservist with FEMA. She has presented at the National Homeland Security Conference, the Texas Homeland Security Conference, the Florida Governor's Hurricane Conference, the Illinois Emergency Management Association Conference, and a NEMA webinar.

Ms. Mastandrea represented the United States seven times in wheelchair track in international competition, including two Paralympic Games, winning 15 gold and 5 silver medals.She set national, world and Paralympic records numerous times. Ms. Mastandrea is the first female Paralympian inducted into both the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame and the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame. Ms. Mastandrea currently serves as Chairperson of the International Paralympic Committee Legal and Ethics Committee. Her book, Sports and the Physically Challenged: An Encyclopedia of People, Events and Organizations was published in 2006.

Ms. Mastandrea earned her BA from the University of Illinois and her J.D. from Chicago-Kent College of Law.



Kara Ayers, PhD

Photo of KaraDr. Kara Ayers is an Assistant Professor at and the Associate Director of the University of Cincinnati University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UC UCEDD). She also serves as a parent advisor and co-researcher for the Disabled Parenting Project. She Kara's interests include self-advocacy, parenting with a disability, community inclusion, and the use of film to teach and empower people with disabilities, their families, and professionals. Kara is actively involved in disability policy through listening to stakeholders and educating policy makers. Personally and professionally, Kara also leverages social media in advocacy. Kara is married with three children. She and her family live in Ohio.