Leadership

Nai Damato
Board Chair

Young white person with a white cane smiling outdoors in front of brick walls and a glass partition with large tortoises at the zoo.

Nai loves linguistics, interpreting, languages, social justice, music, animals, and nature. Nai works toward building truly inclusive and welcoming communities for multiply-marginalized people in an anti-oppression framework. They are a student at Gallaudet University, where they are studying ASL interpretation. Nai truly believes in “being the change.”

Nai is responsible for various aspects of planning our community forums as well as generating awesome ideas about radical access and participation.

LaVonnya Gardner
Trustee

Black woman wearing a red shirt smiling at the camera.

LaVonnya Gardner is 36 years old. She writes for the Autism Society of America‘s newsletter. LaVonnya was one of the winners in the 2014 writing contest. She won in the Person on the Spectrum category. LaVonnya has given speeches on autism at colleges and conferences. She is also on the National Federation of the Blind’s Deaf-Blind Division. She has a YouTube channel where I put up videos about autism. LaVonnya has a performance degree. She went to Peabody Conservatory where she took dance, voice, and theater. She’s currently studying 16 languages. LaVonnya loves bright colors, drawing, music, and passion. She has her own style. LaVonnya raises her autistic daughter, who is higher functioning than her, in a narrow diverse household. She is a graduate of Essex Community College, now the Community College of Baltimore County’s Essex Campus.

Deepa Goraya
Board Vice Chair

Deepa Goraya, a young South Asian woman with dark brown hair wearing a patterned sundress, sitting inside a room with two windows and an armchair.

Deepa Goraya is a staff attorney at the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs for the Disability Rights Project. A 2012 graduate of the University of Michigan Law School, Goraya’s work focuses primarily on website accessibility to blind persons who use screen readers, employment discrimination based on disability, equal access to public accommodations, and a variety of other disability rights issues. Her other legal interests are in education, particularly special education, and international disability rights. She has experience at the federal and state level with extensive internships for former Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT); the former Special Assistant to the President for Disability Policy at the White House; the U.S. Department of Justice Disability Rights Section; the Burton Blatt Institute in Washington, DC; the ACLU of Southern California; and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

In her final year of law school, while attending UCLA Law as a visiting student, Deepa also participated in a Public Policy Advocacy clinic, where she worked on education reform research and recommendations for juvenile hall in Los Angeles, and a project on general relief for the homeless. Deepa has served as Membership Coordinator and then Co-Vice President of the National Association of Law Students with Disabilities from 2010-2012 and has been actively involved in the National Federation of the Blind (a civil rights advocacy group) as a leader and member for the past few years. She was also a Young Lawyers Division scholar for the 2013-2014 bar year, and is now Vice-Chair for the YLD’s Minorities in the Profession Committee.

For WMDSC, Deepa is responsible for coordinating our social and community outreach events.

Natalia M. Rivera Morales
Secretary

Natalia

Natalia is the Leadership Programs Coordinator for the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN). In this capacity, Natalia organizes leadership and advocacy training programs for Autistic college students and self-advocates with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities (I/DD). She was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico and presently resides in an unspecified location in the DC metro area. Her interests comprise feminist philosophy, Latin American cultural history and literature, critical disability and critical race theories, and cultural anthropology.  She holds a bachelor’s degree in Global Studies and Spanish with an inadvertent minor in History from Loyola University Maryland and a master’s degree in Latin American Studies from Georgetown University.

Natalia is responsible for coordinating various aspects of WMDSC’s community forums and communicating with other groups that partner with us on various advocacy-related activities.

Vlad Drăculea
Fundraising & Outreach Assistant

Photo of Vlad, a white person with short hair, in front of shelves filled with crafting awesomeness.

Vlad has been doing disability rights activism for two years, and was previously involved with the Autistic Self Advocacy Network’s Washington State chapter. Ze studied physics, math, and music at the University of Washington.  Vlad is a practicing Zen Buddhist, and is interested in knitting, crafting, and writing. Ze blogs at Autistic Ace Dragon.  Vlad assists WMDSC with community fundraising as we are working toward obtaining full 501(c)(3) status.

Additional Volunteers

We’re also thrilled to work alongside Conchita Hernandez LegorretaTerry Falk, and Shain M. Neumeier, in furthering our mission in various ways.

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Lydia X. Z. Brown
Co-Founder, Former President

Headshot of young east asian person, Lydia Brown, in professional clothes and Allah pendant.

Lydia X. Z. Brown (they pronouns) is a queer, genderqueer, and east asian autistic activist, writer, and speaker whose work has largely focused on violence against multiply-marginalized disabled. At present, Lydia is co-president of TASH New England, chairperson of the Massachusetts Developmental Disabilities Council, and a board member of the Autism Women’s Network. In collaboration with E. Ashkenazy and Morénike Giwa-Onaiwu, Lydia is the lead editor and visionary behind All the Weight of Our Dreams, the first anthology of writings and artwork by autistic people of color. Previously, Lydia worked for the Autistic Self Advocacy Network’s national public policy team. Lydia has been honored by the White House, the Washington Peace Center, the National Council on Independent Living, the Disability Policy Consortium, Pacific Standard, and Mic. Lydia’s work has been featured in various anthologies, including Feminist Perspectives on Orange is the New Black, Criptiques, Torture in Healthcare Settings, and QDA: A Queer Disability Anthology, and periodicals including Tikkun, Disability Intersections, Black Girl Dangerous, hardboiled magazine, POOR Magazine, and the Washington Post.

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