“Nothing about us without us,” says Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, President of RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for people with disabilities. “The people most impacted with a set of challenges need to be at the table to help resolve those issues,” she continues. “If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu!”
As its President, Mizrahi regularly works with disability organizations, national, state and local policy leaders, workforce development professionals, media, employers, philanthropists, celebrities and faith-based organizations in order to expand opportunities for people with disabilities. She has submitted testimony on employment for people with disabilities in all fifty states and at the Federal level.
She has also published dozens of opeds and publications on disability issues, including in USA Today, The Hill and other publications, and as a columnist for The Huffington Post, Times of Israel and The Mighty. Mizrahi is a also co-author of Disability & Criminal Justice Reform: Keys to Success, which brought critical attention to the school-to-prison pipeline for people with disabilities and was featured on the PBS NewsHour. She is was involved in the Emmy-winning TV show, Born This Way, and in advancing diversity in Hollywood. Dyslexic herself, she also knows what it means to parent a child with multiple disabilities. “Women with disabilities have to have the agency and power to impact their own lives and those around them to have a better life,” Mizrahi adds. “The disability community needs to come out of the closet.”
And Mizrahi has been helping the community do just that by meeting one-on-one with 43 of America’s governors on disability issues. She also has undertaken projects with the White House and with more than 60 US Senators, as well as helped elect Prime Ministers and Presidents around the world.
RespectAbility, which was founded in 2013, represents Mizrahi’s mission. As a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that understands people create a stronger community when they live up to their values –- when they are welcoming, diverse, moral and respect one another — RespectAbility fights stigmas and advances opportunities so that people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of community. “We don’t use pity,” Mizrahi asserts. “Instead, we show the capacity of people with disabilities. We don’t think there needs to a lot more public money spent in this area, but we do believe that most of the money is badly spent on programs destined to fail.”
Led by people with disabilities and those who love them, RespectAbility works with entertainment, policy makers, educators, self-advocates, nonprofits, employers, faith-based organizations, philanthropists, journalists and online media. Understanding that people with disabilities and their families have the same hopes and dreams as everyone else, even if they face different challenges, Mizrahi says that “it is very important for people to have a reason to get up in the morning. People with disabilities can do everything from cleaning an office to running an office. They can contribute to making the world a better place!”
The free educational platforms, training and resources RespectAbility provides therefore enables and empowers women and girls to be strong self advocates for themselves, the disabilities community and those around them.
To learn more about upcoming training, education and volunteer opportunities RespectAbility provides, click here.
This is the final in a number articles in our series, IN FOCUS: Eye on Changemakers, a collaboration between Women’s eNews and The New York Women’s Foundation (NYWF) to shed light on some of New York City’s most inspiring women-led non-profit organizations dedicated to empowering women and girls of diverse racial, cultural and socio-economic backgrounds.