DPS is owned and operated by Ilene Zeitzer, an internationally recognized expert on comparative disability policy. In 2002, Ms. Zeitzer retired from the U.S. government after 29 years of service. Prior to her retirement, she was the Social Security Administration's Special Assistant to the Deputy Commissioner for Disability & Income Security Programs and the Agency's expert on international disability programs and rehabilitation issues.
Ms. Zeitzer has studied the disability policies of countries around the world, and is the author of numerous articles on comparative disability policies and practices. She is also a frequent speaker in both domestic and international forums concerning U.S. and foreign public policy.
Ms. Zeitzer has worked in 70 countries on various disability-related issues including: eligibility criteria for benefits; problems of pension adequacy, efficacy and program integrity; human rights and social inclusion; poverty reduction strategies; employment promotion and workforce integration; and the specific problems related to women and children with disabilities. She has also consulted on related topics such as sickness benefit and work injury benefit programs. Ms. Zeitzer was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Social Insurance in 2004 and served on the Board of Directors for two leading international non-profit organizations: GLADNET (the Global Applied Disability Research & Information Network on Employment & Training) and GAATES (the Global Alliance on Accessible Technologies & Environments).
Ms. Zeitzer received a Bachelor of Arts degree in French with a Journalism minor from Pennsylvania State University and a Master of Arts in Sociology from the University of Notre Dame of Maryland.
Karen Andrae Specialist in Disability and Gender, Training Expert
Karen Andrae is a German national and UK-based independent consultant with over 20 years of experience in disability and international development. Originally a physiotherapist specialising on neuro-pediatrics, she has completed a MSc in Community Disability studies in at UCL London and worked internationally and in the UK with international and national NGOs including Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs), governments and service providers promoting the rights and opportunities of persons with disabilities underpinned by a human rights approach and social model to disability.
More recently as a consultant, she has focused on the intersectionality of gender and disability. She has developed a Training of Trainer manual and curriculum for gender mainstreaming training with DPOs as the target audience. It is currently being rolled out in seven countries in East Africa, South East Asia, Latin America and Bosnia-Herzegowina. She feels strongly about multiple identities and social norm changes with an especially keen interest in gender-based violence and how different forms of violence against women and girls with and without disabilities cut across education, economic empowerment, health and social and political representation and participation of women, youth and children.
Karen has led peer-led research on gender-based violence against women and girls with disabilities in Tanzania, which has led to the development of further research proposals and programme interventions in Cambodia, and Tanzania in regard to school-related GBV. She has extensive experience in Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (MEL); qualitative research, project and programme design and management, participatory capacity building and organisational development. She is advising mainstream organisations how to better include persons with disabilities through, for example, participatory mapping and barrier analysis, and works with disability-focused organisations on how to better include women and girls with disabilities through intersectionality, gender and power analysis. She favours an equity-focused and gender-responsive approach to programming, and evaluation and learning across thematic areas that enables meaningful participation of women, youth and children in making decisions for their lives.
Fernando Botelho Technology Expert
Fernando Botelho is the president of F123, a Brazilian organization that creates high quality technologies and strategies that are low-cost and scalable for people who are blind or have low vision. The software allows them to use the Internet, e-mail and instant messaging and work with documents and spreadsheets so that they can have access to educational and employment opportunities. The software’s low cost is particularly well-suited to people in developing countries, where such technology is often too expensive for most individuals to afford. The F123 initiative is a service that provides the software, training and technical support to foundations and organizations that help persons who are blind access educational and employment opportunities.
An Ashoka Fellow, Fernando has extensive experience managing projects dealing with poverty reduction, technology and disability. His experience includes managing the Visionaris Award, a partnership between Ashoka and UBS AG, in Argentina, Brazil and Mexico.Before his work for UBS Philanthropy Services in Zurich, Fernando worked for the International Trade Center (ITC) United Nations Conference on Trade and Development/World Trade Organization (UNCTAD/WTO), an agency of the United Nations in Geneva. At ITC, Fernando led the development of the first methodology for the integration of professionals with disabilities in the service export sector.Prior to joining the ITC, Fernando was Director of Technology at a New York NGO where he led the development of eSight Careers Network, a ground-breaking online community for the professional advancement of people with disabilities.
Fernando has an undergraduate degree from Cornell University and a Master of Science in Foreign Service, International Relations from Georgetown University. He also has over two decades of first-hand experience in blindness.
Shirin Kiani Public Health & Inclusive Development Expert
Shirin Kiani is an occupational therapist with public health training who works as an independent consultant. Her 11 years of experience in inclusive development and humanitarian action include a strong track record with Humanity and Inclusion (previously Handicap International). She previously worked for Humanity and Inclusion as their global advisor on social inclusion (i.e., the role of inclusive sports, person-centered approaches to case management, community-based social work, etc.). Shirin works effectively across cultures and can quickly adapt to new settings and teams. She has lived and worked in Cameroon, Haiti, Iraq, Jordan, Laos, Nepal and Sri Lanka. She has also worked briefly in Afghanistan, China, Lebanon, Mozambique, Syria, Tunisia and Vietnam.
Shirin has served as a technical advisor for accessible reconstruction of post-tsunami Sri Lanka; managed a team of technical advisors in a community-based rehabilitation project in rural Nepal; implemented early childhood development for children with disabilities in coordination with the Ministry of Health in Laos; trained mainstream NGOs in inclusive servicing of refugee camps in Iraq; and led the strategy on inclusive livelihoods for a consortium of six humanitarian organizations (Care, DRC, HI, IRC, Mercy Corps and NRC) providing services during the crisis in Syria. Additionally, she has developed a training on age and disability inclusion in humanitarian action for RedR, as well as acted as a trainer for the organization.
Shirin is fluent in French, English and Farsi. She is a strong advocate for the needs of persons with injuries and/or disabilities and older persons, with a focus on girls/women within these populations. In her time conducting research with women with disabilities in Cameroon, she learned how underrepresented they are in mainstream disability and women’s movements and is keen to work to change this. Shirin also enjoys facilitating workshops on age and disability inclusion and bringing individuals together around these topics.
Reem Labib, M.Ed. Education Expert
Reem Labib, M.Ed., an urban educational leader in Washington, D.C., has demonstrated knowledge, commitment and passion in developing quality education programs for students, teachers and families. Reem is an independent consultant focused on school improvement and school reform efforts both in the United States and the Middle East. Her specialties include school transformation, leadership development, charter school and special education.
For the past nine years, Reem has participated as a team member in quality reviews of schools serving students in grades PreK-12. She has served as a head of schools, supervising multiple principals, and as the deputy director of professional development for a school district. She also served as the principal of an inclusive arts-infused elementary school.
Reem's passion for education and experiences extends across cultures. Prior to serving as a school leader, Reem taught and supported educational programs overseas at American/International schools in Cairo, Egypt and Beirut, Lebanon. These experiences broadened her perspective in understanding the value in developing student competencies for living in a multicultural society.
A lifelong learner who is committed to the possibilities that education provides, Reem earned a bachelor's degree in psychology from The George Washington University and a master’s in education specializing in curriculum and instruction with a focus on multicultural education from George Mason University. Read more about Reem on her website www.edspired.wordpress.com.
João Lobato Quantitative & Qualitative Research Expert
João Lobato is a researcher with 12 years of experience and strong quantitative and qualitative skills. A Brazilian national, he has lived and worked in South America, Europe and Asia, leading projects and working as consultant for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS), Marie Stopes International, International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), Greenpeace, and other organisations. João has a Masters of Research (MPhil) in Latin American Studies from the University Cambridge, which awarded him a scholarship, and was a Postgraduate Research Student at Bristol University following his undergraduate degree in Geography at the University of São Paulo, where he was awarded two national research scholarships (CNPq/PIBIC).
João is also a successful writer having published eight books and several articles, including reviews for Foreign Affairs, and academic papers.
Diana Zeitzer Communications Expert
Diana Zeitzer is a disability policy and communications consultant with more than 20 years of experience in public relations and partnership development, with an emphasis on disability and employment issues. Diana is based in the Washington, D.C. area where she works as a Project Director and Social Media Manager for Concepts, Inc., a communications firm specializing in promoting federal government programs designed to increase the inclusion of people with disabilities in the workplace.
At Concepts, she is the project director for Concepts' work on the Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN), in collaboration with Cornell University's Yang-Tan Institute on Employment and Disability. She also acts as the social media manager for the Campaign for Disability Employment (CDE), a public education campaign working to change attitudes about employment of people with disabilities. Both EARN and the CDE are initiatives of the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy that are focused on promoting employment of people with disabilities. Her work includes creating and executing communications campaigns; managing social media platforms and website content; building and maintaining partnerships with federal, state and local government agencies and nonprofit organizations; and creating outreach materials such as brochures and fact sheets. Prior to joining Concepts, Diana acted as a communications consultant for the United States International Council on Disabilities (USICD), a nonprofit disability rights organization based in Washington, D.C. Earlier in her career, Diana spent four years as an account manager at Widmeyer Communications, where she supported nonprofit and government clients, including the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs.
Prior to that, Diana worked as a press assistant for the public affairs department of the Corporation for National and Community Service, the U.S. government agency responsible for overseeing AmeriCorps volunteer programs. Diana began her career as a production assistant for Idea Television, the Washington, D.C., affiliate of the Brazilian news network, O Globo.
Diana graduated from Pennsylvania State University with a Bachelor of Arts in media studies with a concentration in film and television studies.