Council Members in Action

Graphic image of a circle with the words Council Member Spotlight in the middle.Being a member of the Ohio Developmental Disabilities Council not only helps Council to achieve its goals, but also helps Council members learn how to be stronger advocates and to stay informed about issues that affect people with developmental disabilities.

Our current and former Ohio Developmental Disabilties Council members are strong advocates in the community; and we always like to share what they are doing in their own community to advocate for people with developmental disabilities. Learn more about Council's members on this page.

Want to become a member? You can make a difference in the lives of Ohioans with disabilities! Learn more about becoming a member of Ohio's DD Council.

Council Members Spotlight Videos

This is a growing collection of interviews with current and previous members of the Ohio Developmental Disabilities Council. Learn more about each member and the reasons why they find value in being a member of the Ohio DD Council. Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube Channel to receive notifications when new videos are available!

Option 1: Choose which video you would like to view from the following list:

Option 2: Click on the video below to start the entire video collection.

Stories about our Members

Rachel Rice appointed to Ohio DD Council

Article from the DD Council Connection Newsletter, March 2019

Photo of new Ohio DD Council Member, Rachel RiceRachel Rice is the newest member appointed to the Ohio DD Council

Rachel Rice was appointed to the Ohio Developmental Disability Council (Ohio DD Council) by former Governor John Kasich to serve a three-year term on the 30-person board that advocates for people with developmental disabilities across Ohio.

An advocacy assistant with the Warren County Board of Developmental Disabilities, Rice defines her advocacy goal as helping those who cannot speak for themselves and helping who can to learn how to advocate.

As an Ohio DD Council member, she plans to focus on transportation issues and insurance and provider care options for those with disabilities.  “These are the areas that I know people with disabilities are having issues with,” Rice said.

A resident of Franklin, OH, Rice is active with the Human Rights Committee for Warren County and the University of Cincinnati University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UC UCEDD).

Outside of work and her advocacy efforts, Rice participates in the Special Olympics of Greater Dayton (Springboro), CHEERS (a social group for adults with special needs) and enjoys computer games and traveling.

New Year, New Council Members!

Article from the DD Council Connection Newsletter, January 2019

Picture of new DD Council member Pamela GreenPamela Green (pictured to the right), CEO of Easterseals serving greater Cincinnati (Easterseals GC), was appointed to the Ohio Developmental Disabilities Council by former Governor John Kasich before his tenure ended earlier this month.

Green joins the Council as an agency leader of a private, non-profit organization that works on behalf of individuals with developmental disabilities. Employment and economic opportunities have always been a passion for Green. She started her career leading temporary employment services, and her employment journey brought her to work for Easterseals GC.

“I came to Easterseals because of its mission of connecting individuals to employment,” said Green, who has been with the organization since 2003. “Through my work, I became an advocate and have been proud to make positive changes for community employment for people with disabilities.” She was appointed CEO in 2011.

In her role, she managed 14 different Project SEARCH sites. Project SEARCH is a nationwide high school transition program that prepares students with disabilities to be gainfully employed after high school through competitive internships.

Her work also sought to transition three sheltered workshops to more community-integrated models. She opened a social enterprise which hired the individuals who previously participated in the sheltered workshop program, as well as participants from other Easterseals programs serving veterans and low income families. The enterprise focuses on assembling specimen collection kits for clinical trials across North America.

Another integrated program is Work and Grow, which allows individuals with disabilities to work for competitive wages, and then move into community employment.

And now, as an Ohio DD Council member, she hopes to bring more attention to employment.

“Easterseals serves people with disabilities and those affected by poverty,” said Green. “And the Council is such a unique and important avenue that I hope to be able to bring attention to the intersection of disability and poverty.”

Green was appointed November 16, 2018 to the Ohio DD Council, and will serve a three-year term.

“We welcome Pamela with her extensive knowledge of the needs and abilities of those with disabilities,” said Ohio DD Council Chairperson Joanna Spargo. “Her professional experience as well as her strong advocacy for people with developmental disabilities is invaluable as the Council continues to foster full community inclusion of those with developmental disabilities in Ohio.”

Other Member Appointments and Reappointments

In addition, on December 18, 2018, Gov. Kasich made the following additional appointments and reappointments:

Rachel A. Rice of Franklin (Warren Co.) was appointed to the Ohio Developmental Disabilities Council for a term beginning January 1, 2019, and ending December 31, 2021. More information about Rachel will be available in the February newsletter.

Blaine P. O’Leary of Sidney (Shelby Co.) and Dara D. Walburn of Athens (Athens Co.) have been reappointed to the Ohio Developmental Disabilities Council for terms beginning January 1, 2019, and ending December 31, 2021.

Mark Seifarth Receives Synergy Award

Article from the DD Council Connection Newsletter, December 2018

Picture of Mark Seifarth receiving the Synergy Award from Dana Charlton.Mark Seifarth, former Ohio DD Council Chairperson, was in for more than he bargained for while presenting as part of a panel of speakers during DD Council’s December meeting. Much to his surprise, Dana Charlton, executive director of the Ohio Self Determination Association (OSDA) showed up at the end of the panel discussion to present Mark with this year’s Synergy Award. Those considered for the award are people or organizations who demonstrate a strong commitment to collaboration across systems and stakeholders.

“[Mark Seifarth] is someone who champions inclusion, and we are honored to present this award to Mark for his work for the disability community,” said Charlton.

Carolyn Knight, Ohio DD Council’s executive director said, “I’ve known Mark for many years and have seen the incredible work he has done advocating for the rights of people with developmental disabilities. Mark served on our Council for two terms and is our immediate-past chairperson. His leadership in that capacity helped to empower our members and further Council’s goals.”

Steve Oster, representing PAR, and Dana Charlton, representing OSDA decide and present the Synergy Award which is named after an annual conference, called the Synergy Conference. This conference is “a single conference recognizing that the power of one is multiplicative when people and organizations partner together to promote a common interest,” said Charlton. For more information about the Synergy Conference, go to

Congratulations, Mark!

Michael Denlinger Goes to Disability Cocoon Tech:Fest

Article from the DD Council Connection Newsletter, October 2018

Ohio DD Council Member Michael Denlinger went to the very first Disability Cocoon Tech:Fest in Cincinnati at the American Sign Museum this month. And his experience couldn’t have been better.

The inaugural one-day technology festival focused on technology for people with disabilities and included several short presentations/demos, disability technology expert sessions, innovation-storming sessions, food trucks, games and much more.

Promoted as a “disability technology catalyst organization,” Disability Cocoon Tech:Festival focused on disability technology solutions and innovation that would support increased independence.

“I met so many people and learned so much about what technology is available to people with disabilities, that goes beyond tools like Alexa,” said Denlinger.

For example, Denlinger learned about the Lean On Me app that allows individuals to be in touch with families and caregivers, while still remaining independent. Additionally, he met with Scioto, a company in Ohio that helps people with disabilities get their own homes.

“Not only is there a lot of tech out there, but the conference allowed me to learn about all that we may not know about and how it could be helpful to the disability community,” he added. Supporting the Council’s mission, Denlinger hopes to introduce these companies to the Council in hopes that it could be beneficial to its members and also the community-at-large.

Founded by Dustin Wright, Disability Cocoon's goal is to be the resource where people come to learn, connect, explore, and collaborate around the national technology movement to support people with disabilities. For more information: Disability Cocoon

Doug Frank Finds His Voice

Article from the DD Council Connection Newsletter, April 2018

The Ohio DD Council empowers and encourages its members to “find their voice.” In other words, to develop the skills they need to increase their ability to be effective self-advocates. This not only helps them to participate fully in DD Council meetings, but also increases their ability to participate in their communities as they advocate for their self and for other Ohioans with disabilities.

However, there are circumstances for some members where other supports are needed to help them find their voice and staff of the DD Council work to make sure that appropriate accommodations are available for Council members. Doug Frank, self-advocate and former DD Council member, is just one story of how the DD Council helped a member find and strengthen their voice.

Doug’s Service & Support Administrator (SSA) contacted DD Council in March of 2015. She was assisting Doug and his mother with scheduling a referral for an evaluation for him to receive an Augmentative & Alternative Communication (AAC) device or computer for communication.

She explained that he had been using a homemade alphabet board for years to spell out his sentences. Although that had worked in the past, she and others who assisted Doug knew that the advancements in technology would help Doug to communicate more quickly, easily and effectively. They received a referral from Doug’s doctor, but the closest place that could provide an assessment to where Doug lives in Cincinnati had a six-month wait. She wondered if there were other places for Doug to get an evaluation, even if it meant traveling to a different city.

At around the same time, the Assistive Technology (AT) Committee (now called the Technology & Communication Committee) was a newly established standing committee within the Ohio DD Council. Council staff researched other options and made calls on Doug’s behalf. This led to a referral to the Assistive Technology Center at The Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center. By the summer of 2015, Doug had attended several appointments at the AT Center located in Columbus.

“Doug uses his head for voluntary movements, so he got fitted for the device and the software was pretty easy to use,” said Wylie Roberts, SSA. “But, through the process, we learned he needed a stronger wheelchair to support the weight of the device, which took quite some time to get.”

This led to a long delay due to the Medicaid approval process. Medicaid would only approve paying for repairs and adaptations on his most current chair, which is not the one he uses when he goes out in the community (the one the device needed to be on). After appealing two denials, Medicaid approved the request through his Medicaid waiver in mid-2016.

The whole process took a year and a half. During that time, Doug and his mother made several trips from Cincinnati to Columbus and back, which involved coordinating the trips with his support staff and Doug’s own schedule. Although there was a lot of time and effort spent by all involved, the end result was worth it. Doug finally received the communication device.

Now, Doug’s voice is being heard. “With this assistive technology device, it gave Doug a voice that has been instrumental for his growth, his job, his involvement in the community and his advocacy,” added Roberts.

Meet Doug and listen to what he has to say!

Watch a video of Doug and his SSA Wiley by clicking on the video below, or go to our YouTube Channel at

Doug’s experience inspires Council grant

During his term on Council, Doug was a member of the AT Committee. His experience inspired the Committee to consider funding a grant that would make it easier for people with disabilities to access assistive technology assessment services. In 2017, the Committee approved funding for a grant, Telehealth Services in Assistive Technology, to the AT Center at The Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center. The project is currently in progress.

The goal of the grant is to evaluate the effectiveness of providing assistive technology assessments utilizing telehealth technologies. This project will document an assistive technology service delivery program for up to 30 adults with developmental disabilities using a hybrid telehealth service delivery program (in-person and communicating remotely via technology, such as web-based meetings). The outcomes of this project will demonstrate and document the feasibility of obtaining Medicaid reimbursement for this service so that more adults with developmental disabilities have access to assistive technology.

Governor Kasich Appoints New Chair, New Members to Ohio DD Council

Article from the DD Council Connection Newsletter, April 2018

Governor John Kasich has appointed Joanna Spargo as the new chairperson of the Ohio DD Council. Spargo, of North Canton, begins her service to promote equal opportunities for the statewide disability community.Picture of DD Council's Chair Joanna Spargo

The Malone University alumna started her work in the disability field right after college. As a social worker, she started helping people with developmental disabilities move into apartments in the local community. She built her career with REM Ohio, and now is the executive director of the statewide provider agency that offers an array of services for people with disabilities, job seekers facing employment challenges, and individuals with other complex needs.

Leading a provider agency, Spargo wants to bring attention to the Direct Support Provider (DSP) crisis in Ohio. Understanding and bringing value to DSPs is one of the many things she would like to achieve while on the Council. In addition, she hopes to continue to enhance collaboration and outreach to areas that are in need of services. She wants to use this platform to make sure underserved and unserved communities are also heard and represented well.

“We want to tap into our Council’s resources and reach across Ohio to those underserved and unserved areas,” said Spargo. “What connections do our members, advocates, or families have and how can we work together to make sure everyone’s voice is heard?”

Adding to her many roles, Spargo is also a mother of two children, one who has disabilities. Becoming a parent opened up a new world for Spargo, which empowers her advocacy even more for parents of children with disabilities.

Additionally, the Governor has appointed seven new members. Please welcome the following individuals to Ohio DD Council:

  • Brenda Brandon of Oak Harbor (Ottawa Co.)
  • Morgan E. Gattermeyer of Hamilton (Butler Co.)
  • Rhonda J. Rich of Troy (Miami Co.)
  • Michael E. Denlinger of Cincinnati (Hamilton Co.)
  • Matt A. Harrison of Greenville (Darke Co.)
  • Michael E. Richards of Greenfield (Highland Co.)
  • Benjamin Pesich (Delaware Co.)

Ohio DD Council Thanks Members for Their Service

The Ohio DD Council prides itself on the work done on behalf of people with developmental disabilities across Ohio. Driving this work, advocacy and energy are its dedicated Council members. The Governor-appointed members serve two three-year terms, where self-advocates have found their voice and been the catalyst for change.

We thank the members who recently completed their service with Ohio DD Council. While their terms are over, we know their passion, determination and dedication will continue to make Ohio a more inclusive and integrated state for people with developmental disabilities.


In the picture shown to the left, Executive Director Carolyn Knight and incoming Chair Joanna Spargo wish the best for the outgoing Council members. Pictured from left to right: Former Chair Mark Seifarth; Carolyn Knight; Linda Kunick, self-advocate; Doug Frank, self-advocate; Wiley Roberts, PCA; Chair Joanna Spargo. Not pictured: AnnMarie Denning, self-advocate; Kimberly Stults, parent/advocate; and Jeffrey Turner, self-advocate.

Part of being a Council member is to mentor and support one another. In the picture to the right, Linda Kunick, self-advocate (left), at her last meeting as a Council member, provides words of guidance to one of the newer members, Dara Walburn, self-advocate (right).

Ohio DD Council Goes to Washington!

Article from the DD Council Connection Newsletter, May 2018

Each year, a small group of Council members are selected to participate in the national Disability Policy Seminar in Washington, DC. This two-day conference provides attendees with the latest information about efforts to change federal disability policy. The seminar ends with a full day on Capitol Hill where participants are given an opportunity to talk with legislators and staff.

This year, the Ohio DD Council sent nine members to attend the conference. Other attendees from Ohio included LEND Trainees from both of Ohio’s University Centers of Excellence on Developmental Disabilities (Nisonger Center, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital), and representatives of the Ohio Provider Resource Association, the Ohio Association of County Boards of Developmental Disabilities, and the Ohio Statewide Independent Living Council, along with a few other non-profit groups.

(Left to Right: Betsy O’Leary, Jean Jakovlic, Jo Spargo,
Mark Davis (back), Dara Walburn, Blaine O’Leary (back),
Lori Kershner, Congressman Jim Jordan)

Picture of Council members posing with Congressman Jim Jordan in his office.

The Disability Policy Seminar included sessions on how to advance a disability agenda, employment policy, community integration, education policy, Medicaid and Social Security, health care policy, and a variety of sessions on effective advocacy. The conference is planned and conducted by The Arc of the United States, the Association of University Centers on Disabilities, the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities, the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, Self Advocates Becoming Empowered, and United Cerebral Palsy.

Council Chairwoman Jo Spargo attended the conference and participated in a handful of meetings on Capitol Hill. Spargo has attended the conference for a few years and emphasizes the importance of meeting with legislators and sharing personal experiences.

“Capitol Hill meetings are the most valuable part of this trip,” Spargo said. “The legislators and staff we have met on Capitol Hill have been very welcoming and truly want to know what is important to people with disabilities and our families.”

Dara Walburn, newly appointed Chair of the Public Policy Committee, agreed. This year’s trip was her first time attending the conference and she was a little nervous about what to expect.

“It was awesome,” said Walburn. “I was a little sneaky and made my way into several of the other meetings. I can’t wait to go back next year.”

(Left to Right: Elly Walburn, Jean Jakovlic, Ellen Cook, Dara Walburn, Congressman Steve Stivers, Christine Brown, Katherine Ratino, Nicholas Kelly, Dana Kamara, and Mark Davis)

Picture of Council members posing with Congressman Steve Stivers.

Walburn was able to personally meet U.S. Senator Rob Portman, and Congressmen Jim Jordan and Steve Stivers during her time on Capitol Hill. She came prepared with a full page story of what life is like for her and for others with Williams Syndrome.

Blaine O’Leary also attended on behalf of Council and was not nervous at all to meet with his Congressman, Jim Jordan, and to tell him why Social Security needs to be increased for people with disabilities. O’Leary said he would definitely go back if given the opportunity.

For Jean Jakovlic, this was her first time attending the conference and she thought more time should be spent doing meetings with policymakers than sitting in conference sessions.

“I loved to see our Council members in action as they advocated for changes in current legislation,” said Jakovlic. “I wish that we would have had an additional day on the Hill to continue advocating.”

In addition to discussing current legislation, the members of Council provided federal policymakers with an update on Council outcomes and activities. The Ohio Developmental Disabilities Council is created by the federal Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act of 2000.

Michael Richards is Appointed to County Board on DD

Article from the DD Council Connection, June 2018

One of our new members, Michael Richards, was named as a board member to the Highland County Board of Developmental Disabilities. Richards becomes another self-advocate to be appointed to a board. What makes this even more special is that this appointment marks the first time someone with a developmental disability has served in this capacity on the Highland County Board.

“We always encourage our members to get involved in their local DD boards because most do not have a person with a disability sitting and representing the interests and advocating for issues that also affect people with disabilities in their county,” said Carolyn Knight, executive director of Ohio DD Council. “We are excited about Michael’s new appointment, and we know that he is a great addition to the county board and will bring a great wealth of knowledge to make Highland County more inclusive.”

Read an article about Michael's appointment from the Times Gazette here: Torch passed on at Highland County Board of DD

Former Council Chair Featured on Podcast on Disability and Employment

Article from DD Council Connection Newsletter, June 2018

Women In Government released a new podcast on disability and employment called  “Employer Perspectives for Improving Employment Outcomes for People with Disabilities”. The third in a series, the episode features Mark Seifarth, past chair of the Ohio Developmental Disabilities Council, Maryland Delegate Sheree Sample-Hughes, Tennessee Senator Becky Duncan Massey and Kathy Burris of CVS Health.

Moderator Sheree Sample-Hughes led the panel in talking about effective employer policies and practices for recruiting, hiring, retaining and advancing qualified individuals with disabilities.

One of the points Seifarth made was about the importance of having people with disabilities at the table when making policy recommendations and decisions on how to improve employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

“In the disability community, it’s nothing about us without us. And, you have all these folks that sit down and decide they’re going to figure out how to hire people with disabilities and nobody with a disability is sitting at the table,” said Seifarth. “There’s a problem with that. That’s like trying to build a building and not hiring and not having anyone at the table that knows how to build a building. So, we really need to look at all those ways you can include people with disabilities in all sections, in all functions as you’re going down the line.”

Listen to the entire podcast here:

Or read a transcript of the podcast here:

The podcasts are part of the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) State Exchange on Employment and Disability (SEED) initiative to help state legislators effectively address policy barriers that may hinder the employment of people with disabilities. Through these collaborations SEED is dedicated to ensuring that state policymakers have the tools and resources they need to develop policies related to disability-inclusive workforce development.

Renee Wood, DD Council Special Advisor – An Advocate in Action!

Article from the DD Council Connection Newsletter, July 2018

Renee Wood is a former chairperson of the Ohio DD Council, and is currently a Special Advisor to the Ohio DD Council's Community Living Committee. Wood, of Lucas County, was recently appointed to the Ohio Statewide Independent Living Council (OSILC). OSILC is committed to promoting a philosophy of consumer control, peer support, self-help, self-determination, equal access, and individual and systems advocacy, in order to maximize leadership, empowerment, independence, productivity and to support full inclusion and integration of individuals with disabilities.

Additionally, Wood was featured in Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities’ Pipeline Weekly as an example of using Amazon’s Echo to navigate her home. In a video, she shares about her experience with this device that helps to promote greater independence for her and others. Watch her video here:

Finally, reminding us that voting is an important form of advocacy, Wood wrote a guest blog for Disability Rights Ohio on National Disability Voter Registration Week, and reminding self-advocates, advocates, families and the general community why it is important to have your voice heard at the polls. Read her thoughts here:

You can also check out Wood’s own personal blog, “Renee’s Ramblings,” here: