External Panel of Experts

Fabricio Balcazar
Fabricio Balcazar, Ph.D.,
director of the Center for Capacity Building on Minorities with Disabilities Research, and associate professor in the Departments of Disability and Human Development at the University of Illinois at Chicago has conducted research over the past 20 years on the development of systematic approaches for promoting the empowerment of minorities and under-served population. 

He edited Race, Culture and Disability: Rehabilitation Science and Practice (2010) with Yolanda Suarez-Balcazar, Tina Talyor-Ritzler, and Christopher B. Keys. The book is published by Jones and Bartlett Publishers in Boston.

Gwen Gillenwater

Gwen Gillenwater is executive director of disAbility Resource Center in Charleston, S.C. She has held positions as the senior director of Policy and Outreach for the American Association of People with Disabilities, director of Advocacy and Public Policy for the National Council on Independent Living, director of the Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities in Illinois, and executive director of the Junction Center for Independent Living in Norton, Virginia. She was appointed to the Bipartisan Commission on Medicaid Reform by U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Michael O. Leavitt.

Linda Gonzales

Linda Gonzales, M.A., has been actively involved in the field of disabilities (in particular independent living) for almost 30 years. She recently retired as executive director of the Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living (APRIL).

Throughout her career, she has taken a special interest in building bridges between university research and field applications with consumers. Whether it be transportation, rural independent living, peer mentoring, secondary conditions or community participation, she is dedicated to bringing consumer voices to the table of research and training efforts.

Bob Michaels

Bob Michaels, a disability and independent living consultant, is a former center for independent living director, a frequent trainer with the Independent Living Research Utilization, and is co-chair of the National Council on Independent Living Employment Subcommittee as well as chair of the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) Outcome Measures Task Force.

Michaels received the NICL first-ever Max Starkloff lifetime acheivement award in 2007.

Jean Ann Summers Jean Ann Summers, Ph.D., co-research director of the Family Research Program at the Beach Center on Families and Disabilities, helps coordinate the qualitative and quantitative research studies in family studies at that University of Kansas research organization. Summers was the 1982-1989 director of the Kansas University Affiliated Program (now called UCEDD) and a member of the Juniper Gardens Children’s Project where she was involved in a national longitudinal study of Early Head Start, among other projects. Her work has focused on supports and services development for families, resilience and positive coping, fathers of young children, partnerships between families and professionals, and administrative systems and collaboration needed to achieve school reform and high quality services for children and families.

Betsy Valnes
Betsy Valnes
 currently serves as the Executive Director for the National Youth Leadership Network (NYLN) and the National Youth Information Center (NYIC). NYLN and NYIC represent the first solely youth-led nonprofit organization and federally supported alliance of organizations for young leaders with disabilities in the U.S. She previously worked with the National Council on Disability, providing support for the Youth Advisory Council and the Cultural Diversity Advisory Council.

In addition, she contributed to the national Association of Youth Leadership Forums, the South Dakota Youth Leadership Forum, and the South Dakota State Independent Living Council. On an international level, Betsy serves on the Roundtable Consortium for the National Clearinghouse for Disability and Exchange. She has participated in and presented at international forums in England, Scotland, Norway, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Canada and Barbados.

Former MICL board members

Bonnie O’Day
, Ph.D., a senior research associate at the Cornell University Institute for Policy Research, conducts research and evaluation studies on employment, health care, and independent living using qualitative techniques for Cornell, the Social Security Administration, the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Employment Outcomes, and others.


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