About the Collab

We believe arts and culture are for everyone.

Three panelists talk into microphones

Who We Are


Our mission is to empower Illinois’ cultural spaces to become more accessible to visitors with disabilities.

What We Do

Cultural Access Collaborative, formerly Chicago Cultural Accessibility Consortium, facilitates a dynamic community of cultural administrators and people with disabilities to remove barriers in Illinois’ cultural organizations. We are primarily run by passionate volunteers.

We represent theaters, museums, orchestras, park centers, zoos, and other cultural organizations across the state of Illinois. Cultural Access Collab shares resources, information and support to ensure more accessible and inclusive experiences for guests, collaborators, and employees with disabilities.

How We Do It

Central to our work, we provide the following free opportunities to cultural organizations and visitors with disabilities:

  1. Professional Development – ongoing professional development workshops open to all cultural administrators.
  2. Equipment Loan – lending the required equipment and technology to Chicagoland cultural organizations to produce accessible events.
  3. Access Calendar – promotes accessible events and allows visitors to identify accessible events.
Collab Impact Video

“Many staff members have attended [Cultural Access Collaborative] programs that provide both philosophical and practical information to help us transform our museum into a place that welcomes all.”

– Museum Administrator


2013: Cultural Access Collaborative begins as a volunteer group known as Chicago Cultural Accessibility Consortium (CCAC).

2015: CCAC partners with the ADA 25 Chicago initiative to launch “ADA 25 for 25: Cultural Access Project” to advance accessibility in at least 25 area cultural organizations.

2017: CCAC incorporates as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

2020: With funding from Illinois Arts Council, CCAC launches Illinois Cultural Access Network (ICAN).

2023: In celebration of our tenth anniversary, we expand our vision and reach to all of Illinois. Our new name reflects this change: Cultural Access Collaborative.


2016: Lifeline Theatre awards CCAC the Raymond R. Snyder Commitment to the Arts Award.

2015: The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts awards CCAC’s Steering Committee Co-Chairs (Christena Gunther, Evan Hatfield and Lynn Walsh) the Leadership Exchange in Arts and Disability Emerging Leader award.

Definition of Terms

Cultural accessibility: ensuring that people with disabilities have full access (including physical and content access) to cultural organizations.

Cultural administrators: the paid staff and volunteers who work in cultural organizations.

Cultural organizations: a broad term for any organization that seeks to preserve and advance culture. Includes museums, theaters, zoos, parks, concert venues, historic sites and more.

Disability: Cultural Access Collaborative follows the Social Model of disability – placing emphasis on the institutions and systems to remove barriers. One is more or less disabled depending on their environment.

Steering Committee Co-Chairs

The Cultural Access Collaborative Steering Committee sets the schedule and coordinates our programs.

Learn more about Steering Committee members and its Co-Chairs:

Clare Killy

Steering Committee Co-Chair


Clare is a white woman with brown hair. She is positioned in front of a brick wall and wearing a blue shirt underneath a gray blazer.

is Vice President of Digital Experiences at Aspire. She leads Aspire’s DEI Consultation services, which include training and support for businesses and organizations specific to inclusive practices. She also leads the production of Aspire’s free resources for the community to raise awareness, share knowledge and invite advocacy around disability inclusion – including the Amplify Inclusion podcast and The Inclusion Exchange webinar series. Clare also oversees the Virtual Life Coaching team, which includes Life Consultants who provide customized life skills coaching for adults with disabilities. Clare has over a decade of professional experience working with individuals of all ages, families and providers across diverse environments.

Clare joined the Steering Committee in 2019, becoming a Co-Chair in 2021.

Memorable Cultural ExperienceMy father is a professional artist and I recall my first time seeing his work in a gallery after having witnessed the lengthy artistic process that led to that point. Seeing the artist in action, and then the final result on such pristine display taught me to consider the process as much as the product – to this day, when I walk through a gallery space, I wonder about the idea that sparked each piece and the dynamic journey that brought it to life.

Hillary Pearson

Steering Committee Co-Chair


Hillary is a white woman with a round face and medium length brown, straight hair. She wears square-framed, purple glasses and a purple sweater and looks directly into the camera with a smile.

is the Program Manager of Accessibility Services in the Office for Diversity, Literacy, and Outreach Services at the American Library Association. Previously, Hillary spent 12 years in patron services and operations at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, working directly with companies to ensure front of house needs were met, connecting renters with resources and options for accessible programming, and communicating daily operations in the facility. Hillary is excited to further the accessibility goals of the ALA, as well as learn from and with other professionals from Chicagoland cultural institutions.

Hillary joined the Steering Committee in 2017, becoming a Co-Chair in 2021.

Memorable Cultural Experience: As a vocal performance major at Northwestern, a small volunteer group of singers had the chance to perform comedic opera scenes in English at the Kohl Children’s Museum up in Glenview a few times a year. It was a lot of fun performing opera for these kids in such a nontraditional setting (sometimes they even laughed with us instead of at us!), and it created a unique outreach opportunity for both the university and the museum.

Steering Committee and Board Members

Ruben Carrazana

Ruben Carrazana ( he/him/his )
Ruben is a Hispanic man in his early 30's, who sits and stares at the camera in front of a black wall with his head resting on his hand. He has black hair, a beard, and wears a dark maroon sweater.

is an actor, director, writer, producer, and teaching artist. He is currently the Community Engagement Manager at Northlight Theatre where he oversees all of their accessibility initiatives.

In Chicago and Dallas, Ruben has worked with Remy Bumppo Theatre, Lifeline Theatre, Broken Nose Theatre, BoHo Theatre, Pegasus Theatre Chicago, Dallas Theater Center, Stage West, Kitchen Dog Theater, Undermain Theatre, Second Thought Theatre, the Danielle Georgiou Dance Group, Prism Movement Theater, Cry Havoc Theater, Cara Mía Theatre, Latino/Oak Cliff Cultural Center, and Jesters. He is represented by Grossman & Jack Talent, and he currently serves as a script reader for the Denver Center for the Performing Arts.

Ruben is a recipient of the Edyth Renshaw Award, an Activating Vacancy grant from bcWORKSHOP and the National Endowment for the Arts, an Individual Artists Program grant from the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs, a TACA Resiliency Initiative Grant, and a three-time recipient of grants from the City of Dallas Office of Arts and Culture. He also co-founded The Tribe, a theater collective dedicated to the development of original work in Dallas, and named a Dallas Mastermind by the Dallas Observer.

Ruben holds a BFA in Theatre from Southern Methodist University.

Ruben joined the Steering Committee in 2023.

Memorable Cultural Experience: My parents are Cuban immigrants, and to this day they don’t speak any English. I remember the first time they took me to a movie theater in Miami. There were no rules or instructions for them on how movie theaters work: how to get your ticket, the etiquette for being inside the auditorium. I remember at 4 years old sensing their anxiety at trying to navigate an environment that was clearly not made with them in mind. That experience has greatly influenced the way I approach creating spaces to welcome new individuals to the arts.

Jenny Casteller

Jenny Casteller ( she/her/hers )
Jenny is a white woman who wears a teal shirt and black jacket, and her brown hair falls behind her shoulders.

is the Vice President, Finance at the Obama Foundation. Before joining the Foundation in 2018, Jenny was the Vice President, Controller at the John G. Shedd Aquarium. Prior to working at the Aquarium, Jenny spent nine years as an auditor in the not-for-profit industry. Jenny is based in Chicago and has a B.A. from Illinois Wesleyan University; she is a CPA and a member of the AICPA and IL CPA Society.

Jenny joined the Board as treasurer in 2022.

Memorable Cultural Experience: Growing up in Central Illinois, I didn’t have access to a lot of museums. I remember many visits to the Saint Louis Zoo. I’ve always loved animals and try to visit zoos and aquariums when I can. Getting to feed an octopus was one of my favorite memories!

Tina Childress

Tina Childress ( she/her/hers )
Tina is a brown-skinned woman with black and white shoulder-length hair, wearing colorful half-rim glasses and a striped black and white sleeveless top, smiling at the camera and against a plain, white background.

Dr. Tina Childress is an audiologist, advocate, late-deafened adult, bilateral cochlear implant user fluent in ASL and self-proclaimed Communication Access Engineer. She is also an award-winning presenter, adjunct lecturer and mentor for children and adults, and is active on various local, state and national Boards and Committees as well as social media. She is renowned for her knowledge on assistive technology and accessibility, and creating shared resources at http://TinaChildressAuD.com.

She noticed many years ago that there were too many instances when patrons didn’t understand their rights or that a certain accessibility option was available. This led her to numerous opportunities over the years to try various forms of accessibility equipment, provide feedback to venues, educate them about accommodations with a focus on assistive technologies and discuss effective ways to get this information to patrons. Dr. Childress has presented extensively on these topics and has also created resources for others to share and use.

In her “spare” time, she enjoys spending time with family and friends, especially if it involves partaking in the cultural arts or spontaneous singing and music enjoyment.

Tina joined the Steering Committee in 2023.

Memorable Cultural Experience: I keep a list of shows that I’ve seen since becoming deaf – to date, there are 89 professional shows on this going back to 2011 with quite a few more local productions in between. I had to learn how to be a deaf patron as do many others in this Deaf/Hard of Hearing world. One of my greatest joys was bringing someone to one of these events to experience accessibility for the first time and help them realize they can still enjoy or re-enjoy the cultural arts with some planning and this new-found knowledge.

Anna Cosner

Anna Cosner ( she/her/hers )
Anna is a white woman with long, curly, brown hair who is smiling and looking at the camera. She is wearing a dark blue top and mustard-yellow cardigan which matches the yellow flowers on the blooming plants behind her.

is the Director of Retail and Events at The Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois where she oversees the Special Events, Facility Rental, Food Service, and Retail departments. She has worked in museums in both Chicago and Washington D.C. since 2006 creating memorable and fun experiences for visitors that connect them to the unique story of the organization.

Anna has been a Steering Committee member since 2015; she served as Co-Chair from 2017-2022. Since 2018 she has served on the Board as Secretary.

Memorable Cultural ExperienceGrowing up in southern California, my mother took my sister and me to the Madonnari festival every year at the Santa Barbara Mission where dozens of artists used nothing but chalk to create truly stunning works of art on the pavement. Their skill fascinated me – especially when I compared their work to my own sidewalk “masterpieces.”

Katherine Czerwinski

Katherine Czerwinski ( she/her/hers )
Katherine is a white female in her early 30s with slightly curly red hair and glasses. She wears a grey shirt with yellow collar and a black and white speckled cardigan. She is standing in front of a brick wall.

is an author, podcaster, proficient procrastinator, and current ASL interpreting student. She spent nearly a decade working with various Development Disability nonprofits, for both adults and children. Inclusion and advocacy are two very important parts of her life, not just from a professional standpoint, but a deeply personal one, as members of her family navigate the world of disability and accessibility. After completing a BA in psychology, she had to step away from hands-on work in the developmental disability field and has shifted her focus towards becoming an ASL interpreter. She plans to pursue a masters in counseling to be able to bridge a gap in services for mental health care and the Deaf community. Katherine hopes to help the steering committee reach further into the western suburbs and provide cultural access outside of Chicago’s borders.

Katherine joined the Steering Committee in 2023.

Memorable Cultural Experience: Getting a chance to visit DC for the first time in 2022 is easily the top of my list. Not only did I get to explore a few of the Smithsonian museums and art galleries, such as the National Museum for the American Indian and the Smithsonian American Art Museum, but it provided me a chance to connect with the Deaf community close to Gallaudet. The museums were great… but Mozzeria, the Deaf-owned pizza place may have been better.

Carly Englander

Carly Englander ( she/her/hers )
Carly is a Caucasian woman with short brown hair, wearing glasses, a collared shirt, and a gray jacket. She stands in front of a gray background with the city of Chicago flag in the background.

Originally from New York, Carly received her Bachelors in Sociology with a Minor in Art from New Paltz University and her Masters in Rehabilitation Counseling from Hofstra University. Carly is a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor and Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor. She is currently working as a Career Placement Counselor at the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities (MOPD). The Career Center at MOPD, which was launched in July 2022, seeks to increase meaningful employment and career opportunities for Chicagoans with disabilities. Carly works directly with job seekers throughout their job search process, including career exploration and goal setting, resume creation, job search assistance, providing interview preparation, navigating disability disclosure, and requesting reasonable accommodations. Prior to joining MOPD, Carly worked at the Chicago Lighthouse for the Blind as a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor. Before moving to Chicago, Carly was an Employment Counselor at the Queensborough Public Library. She taught job readiness and technology workshops to library patrons. Carly developed staff trainings on appropriate ways to assist library patrons with disabilities and educated staff on disability laws and policies. Carly’s career has focused on helping individuals with disabilities find meaningful employment and retain that employment; Carly takes pride in helping people find work and helping them in their journey towards independence.

Carly joined the Steering Committee in 2023.

Memorable Cultural Experience: In 2014, my brother and I took a trip to Israel as a part of Birthright Israel, a non-profit that works to provide Jewish young adults the opportunity to visit the country. I am not a fan of heights – an 11 hour flight was not my idea of a good time. I didn’t expect to be so moved by the history of my culture, but words cannot describe how I felt when I visited the Western Wall and touched 5000 years of my people’s history. There are cracks in the wall where people leave messages to G-D. Leaving my own message was one of the most powerful moments of my life, and feeling the messages that others had left made me feel more connected to my culture then I had before.

Susan A. Friel

Susan A. Friel ( she/her/ella )
Susan is a white woman with a full face of freckles and a smile. Her short hair is various shades of blue that match her eyes. She is outdoors in front of blurry greenery in the background.

is an educator, artist and lifelong learner who currently manages education and engagement programs for the City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE). Susan’s path along the way weaves in, out and around schools, museums and arts organizations across the globe, including the Art Institute of Chicago, Spain, Ethiopia and LA. In 2018 she initiated the first exploration of the Chicago Cultural Center through touch and sound which inspired the installation of a touch gallery and Learning Lab which celebrates all the senses. She is honored to have contributed to the inspirational book that continues to feed her spirit daily: Learning by Heart: Teachings to Free the Creative Spirit. 

Susan joined the Steering Committee in 2019. 

Memorable Cultural ExperienceI remember falling fast asleep on the cold hard floor of the City Museum of St. Louis after a thrilling day of perusing exhibits that involve crawling, jumping, and sliding down a four-story chute. Thanks to Barb and Tim for hosting the best adult sleepover wedding reception ever!

Josh Garrett

Josh Garrett ( he/him/his )
Josh is a Caucasian, cis male in his Mid 40s, with a brown beard and short hair standing arms crossed in a dark blue suit with a light blue button-down shirt.

CI and CT, NIC, is currently the GM of Operations for Ai-Media, a global captioning and interpreting company. He was Founder/CEO of JG Interpreting and Training Services for 21 years followed by Access Consulting and Interpreting for three years. He worked as the Staff Interpreter/Interpreter Coordinator for the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He taught interpreting for Goshen College and Purdue University, in addition to workshops, conferences, and trainings across the U.S., Jamaica, Canada, and Bulgaria. He has extensive experience in adult continuing education, along with curriculum and training development surrounding the field of interpreting. He has served as a mentor for interpreters for Columbia College Chicago and the CATIE Center at St. Catherine University and performed volunteer committee work or board service for Indiana Chapter of RID and Illinois Chapter of RID, where he also won the Distinguished Service Award. He holds three national interpreter certifications. He has decades of proven experience coordinating people, schedules, processes, policy and procedural development, business management, operations experience, and Deaf child advocacy within a variety of settings. He has happily devoted his life to access for 26+ years, his entire professional career. (Member of the LGBTQIA+ community.)

Josh joined the Steering Committee in 2023.

Memorable Cultural Experience: I attended an event that had ASL interpreters, DeafBlind interpreters, captioning on screen, and a captioning link that people could access via their phones from their seats. It was the first time I saw that level of access for the Deaf, DeafBlind, and Hard of Hearing community at a public event, so it was very memorable to me.

Bill Green

Bill Green ( he/him/his )
Bill is a white man in his 40’s with short, dark hair and beard, wearing round glasses. He is pictured in a blue dress shirt seated in front of green leafy plants at the zoo and smiling to camera.

is the Hart Prins Fund Accessibility & Inclusion Manager at Lincoln Park Zoo. He uses his experience from working in the disability community to foster accessibility and inclusion in all environments where people engage with the zoo. Personal experience also informs Bill’s work. Since birth, he has been low vision. He has also been a lifelong enthusiast of zoos and museums and the diverse ways people interact with these spaces. Bill has consulted with many cultural institutions in Chicago, including serving as an inaugural member on The Second City’s Accessibility Board.

Bill joined the Steering Committee in 2021.

Memorable Cultural Experience: My dear late friend, Dr. Elsie Haug, and I made several trips to the Oriental Institute for multi-sensory tours. We shared the sounds, smells, and textures of the ancient world. Into her late nineties and even at age 100, Elsie was the most curious and inquisitive company at any museum.

Christena Gunther

Christena Gunther ( she/her/hers )
Christena is a white woman in her 30s who smiles directly at the camera, seated on a brick staircase. She has medium-length dark hair that is down, and is wearing a black dress with a chunky geometric gold necklace.

Bringing Chicago together around the intersection of disability and the arts was Christena’s main aim as she started Cultural Access Collaborative in 2013. Having over a decade of experience in cultural accessibility from a variety of cultural organizations, including the Metropolitan Museum and Lincoln Center, she currently serves as Assistant Director of Disability Services at Adler University. Thanks to her brother who has Down syndrome, cultural accessibility became her passion as they visited museums and attended plays together. Christena speaks internationally about cultural accessibility, especially the importance of establishing a local access knowledge network in one’s own community.

Christena served as a Steering Committee Co-Chair from 2013-2021. Currently she serves as Board President.

Memorable Cultural ExperienceMy fourth grade class studied From The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, which involves two kids running away from home and living in the Metropolitan Museum. Our class slept over at our city’s art museum (Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum). It was magical to live like the characters in the book for a night!

Zhen Heinemann

Zhen Heinemann ( they/them )
Zhen is a white person with grey sliver to black hair in two mouse ear like buns, wearing large frame dark glasses, hanging black fringe earrings and a v neck grey and white striped blouse smiles showing their dimples and teeth in front of a blurred field of white flowers.

(/ʒ/ – en) is an audience-focused arts and immersive experience engineer whose work centers on creating more accessible, inclusive and inviting spaces and engagements for communities and individuals. Currently they are the Director of Visitor Experience & Public Engagement with the City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, creating and managing engagement spaces in the Chicago Cultural Center, consulting on guest-facing items in Millennium Park and at Taste of Chicago and created an Accessibility Plan for adding access initiatives across all divisions of DCASE. They have over 15 years experience in public programming development, community engagement, production management and design. They hold a CPACC (Certificated Professional in Accessibility Core Competencies) Certification from IAPP (International Association of Accessibility Professionals) and are a member of the Disability Lead Network.

Zhen joined the Steering Committee in 2021.

Memorable Cultural Experience: I remember visiting Walt Disney World with my Pa & Patti when I was about 8 years old and being enchanted by the storytelling, simulacra on Main Street, the venue’s ability to transport us into a manufactured ideology with regimented customer service and thoughtfulness of spaces and amenities.

Whitney Hill

Whitney Hill ( she/her/hers )
Whitney is an African American female with short black curly hair, smiling in front of a white background and wearing a black sweater with a black and gold decorated top.

is a specialist on accessibility with over a decade of experience in program management and communication. Her background in universal design and public accessibility combined with her personal background of identifying as someone with a disability give her a unique skillset to connect individuals with needed services, while also empowering them to advocate for themselves.

Throughout her career, Whitney has aimed to ensure that public and institutional spaces are made readily accessible to all. In her role with LCM Architects and previous position at the Institute for Human Centered Design, Whitney partnered with government and private entities in conjunction with the Americans with Disabilities Act to meet and exceed standards for equal opportunity in accessibility. In addition to these roles, Whitney serves as Founder/Director of SPORK!, a 501(c)3 non-profit/website that provides ADA User Testing and serves as a creative voice for the Disabled community.

Whitney has been featured in Crain’s Chicago Business as one of their 2022 Notable Black Leaders and Executives. Whitney aims to continue her pattern of advocacy in Illinois as elected member of Governor Pritzker’s Blind Services Planning Council, Board Member at 3Arts, and as a Fellow (2020) and Member at Disability Lead. She is also a newly appointed member of Equip for Equality‘s Protection & Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness (PAIMI) Advisory Council. Additionally, Whitney is the former Chair of Chicago Transit Authority’s (CTA) ADA Advisory and the CTA Wayfinding Subcommittee.

Whitney joined the Steering Committee in 2023.

Memorable Cultural Experience: My first experience with really connecting and communicating with others was through the visual arts. As a child growing up in Dallas, TX with numerous disabilities that ranged from speech disfluencies to learning/mental disabilities, I always found my outlet in expression through painting and design – what I could create through the arts was both therapeutic as well as a way to engage with people on a personal level. The greater part of my adolescence has been working within the art community while the greater part of my adulthood has been merging my affection for the arts community with my passion for the disabled community. Being a part of the Cultural Access Collaborative Steering Committee and organizations like 3Arts is truly an honor and childhood dream come to realization.

Matt Lauterbach

Matt Lauterbach ( he/him/his )
Matt is a white man with short brown hair, a close shaven beard, and a broad smile. He wears glasses and a light brown plaid shirt, and stands in front of a red brick wall.

is a filmmaker and accessible media artist. He founded All Senses Go in 2020 as part of an effort to build a filmmaking community that prioritizes access to captions, audio description, and accessible websites and screenings. All Senses Go clients have included Sundance Film Festival, International Documentary Association, SFFILM Festival, Full Spectrum Features, Kartemquin Films, and more. As a documentary film editor, Matt has contributed to over a dozen documentaries, including his most recent credit, For the Left Hand (2021). He is an Adjunct Faculty member in the School of Cinematic Arts at DePaul University in Chicago, where he recently taught one of the nation’s first courses in Accessible Cinema. 

Matt joined the Steering Committee in 2021. He was hired as the Programming and Communications Coordinator in 2022.

Memorable Cultural Experience: I was 9 years old when the Field Museum first unveiled their exhibit, “Inside Ancient Egypt,” and it felt like an actual burial tomb from the past had been dropped into the museum for me to explore. I’ll always remember that feeling of immersive discovery — especially when I peered down a hole in the floor to glimpse a pharaoh’s sarcophagus far below. The memory of descending a spiral staircase down through a 35-foot burial shaft, however, reminds me as an adult how the experience was not accessible to everyone, and sparks a desire to problem solve: how can we get the best of both worlds, immersion and accessibility?

Kris Nesbitt

Kris Nesbitt ( she/her/hers )
Kris is a white woman with shoulder length gray hair, smiling as she stands in front of a patterned door.

currently works as Senior Director of Planning for Black Ensemble Theater after serving as Chief Strategic Initiatives Officer at Chicago History Museum. Prior to that, as Shedd Aquarium’s Senior Director of Exhibits and Experience Development, she spearheaded the kickoff and development of their award-winning Accessibility program. She is an avid traveler and museum-goer, having visited more than thirty countries in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, Asia, and the Americas, and now loves traveling with her husband and two young daughters.

Kris was on the Steering Committee from 2015-2019. She joined the Board in 2019.

Memorable Cultural Experience: was watching my daughters’ joy while they explored the Performing Arts Museum in Stockholm, filled with interactive and creative elements.

Lauren Pincus

Lauren Pincus ( she/her/hers )
Lauren is a white woman with light short brown hair wearing a navy blue v neck long sleeve with a big smile and rosy cheeks.

Raised in Miami, FL, Lauren Pincus has dedicated her life to the arts. After completing a BA in Theatre from Florida State University in 2017, Lauren worked at the critically acclaimed Adrienne Arsht Center in downtown Miami before moving to Chicago in 2018 to pursue a career in ASL (American Sign Language). In May 2022, Lauren completed a second BA in ASL-English Interpretation from Columbia College Chicago. She has a love for helping others and found her passion for access through her work in the Access Committee at Second City, where she worked part-time in the Box Office while going to school. Lauren currently works at Chicago Humanities Festival as the Audience Accessibility Coordinator.

Lauren joined the Steering Committee in 2021.

Memorable Cultural Experience: Seeing Deaf West’s Spring Awakening on Broadway in 2018 was a once in a lifetime experience. At the time, I was learning ASL and about Deaf Culture, so being immersed like that was truly incredible. After the show, I was able to have a conversation with one of the Deaf cast members. It was not easy, because I was still a beginner, but I was hooked! That experience solidified my wanting to move to Chicago and pursue a career in ASL Interpreting.

Aliyah Rich

Aliyah Rich ( she/her/hers )
Aliyah is an African-American woman with short black hair who is wearing a blue shirt that says Infiniteach Autism Innovation.

is a person with autism, who works for the company InfiniTeach. Aliyah first started working at InfiniTeach as an intern while at a special education high school in Chicago, IL. 

Aliyah has continued to spend her years working on many of InfiniTeach’s technology and disability projects such as their apps, website blog, and supporting partnerships and outreach. 

Aliyah loves to promote InfiniTeach’s mission of supporting the Autistic community and families to feel more included and accepted wherever they travel.

I enjoy the work Cultural Access Collaborative does for people with disabilities, and I am so happy to join with them on their projects. The biggest impact I want to make as a CAC member is to promote more awareness and amazing news for people with autism and other disabilities. 

Memorable Cultural Experience: When I was child, I loved spending time visiting a lot of Chicago’s famous attractions and museums. Some of my fondest memories are and enjoy interactive exhibits in the Science and Industry Museum. Some of my favorite areas are Farm Tech, Yesterday’s Main Street.

Risa Jaz Rifkind

Risa Jaz Rifkind ( she/her/hers )
Risa is a brown woman with long brown hair parted to the side. She's wearing a red top with matching red lipstick and a multistring pearl necklace.

is a justice advocate who seeks to make change by shifting access to power and influence. As the Director of Civic Engagement and Marketing for Disability Lead, she propels the organization to realize its vision to have people with disabilities lead with power and influence. By identifying and developing strategic partnerships, Risa positions Members to take on leadership roles that advance their careers, civic engagement, and equity for people with disabilities. By integrating this vision into all internal and external communications, she leads Disability Lead’s brand awareness, public and private Member programming, and community engagement and outreach. She is also a Disability Lead Member.

In 2020, she also participated on the Disability Inclusion Fund’s grantmaking committee. Previously, Risa was Program Manager at The Chicago Community Trust where she developed their disability inclusion priorities and practices and managed several disability inclusion initiatives including the Disabilities Fund, ADA 25 Advancing Leadership, and ADA 25Chicago. With the Disabilities Fund, Risa supported a rebrand and strategic plan redesign that resulted in a 500% increase in annual grantmaking for which she acted as the program officer. During 2015, ADA 25 Chicago leveraged the25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act to move the spirit of the law forward. This included engaging and supporting over 200 partner organizations’ commitments and events.

She has consulted for organizations to increase their disability inclusion including the University of Indiana Kelley School of Business, Institute for Nonprofit Professionals, and has spoken at conferences including the Leadership Exchange in Arts and Disability, Unity Summit, and Upswell Conference.

Risa is passionate about the arts and serves on the Board of Directors for the Chicago Cultural Accessibility Consortium as Treasurer. Risa received a B.A. from Johns Hopkins University.

Risa was a Founding Steering Committee Member in 2013 prior to co-leading the Steering Committee as a Co-Chair 2017-2021. Currently, Risa serves as Vice President on the Board of Directors.

Memorable Cultural ExperienceI had to be about 7 when my parents took me and my younger brother to Madison Square Garden to see Crosby Still Nash and Young. I remember thinking that it was so cool and weird at the same time watching all these hippies and former hippies rock out all night (way past my bedtime). That didn’t stop me from standing on the chair and rocking out as well – minus the lighter and other hippy equipment, of course.

Whitney Rosier

Whitney Rosier ( she/her/hers )
Whitney is a white cis-woman in her early 30s smiling with her teeth showing against a white background. She has dark brown hair pulled back in a bun and thick bangs that go down to her eyebrows. She is wearing a gray sweatshirt with white flowers and a collared shirt underneath it.

Is the art director at Envision Unlimited, an organization that supports adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities throughout Chicago. She graduated from the Maryland Institute College of Art with a bachelor’s in fine arts, and from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago with a master’s degree in art therapy. Whitney became interested in art therapy by becoming immersed in self-taught art through volunteering at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore and the American Folk Art Museum in New York City. She has been facilitating art-making with people with disabilities for over 10 years and is dedicated to ensuring art museums and galleries are inclusive and accessible to all.

Whitney joined the Steering Committee in 2023.

Memorable Cultural Experience: I can still picture walking into the Temple of Dendur at the Metropolitan Museum of Art as a child and seeing the Egyptian temple surrounded by water. Seeing an Egyptian temple inside a museum just floored me! I would daydream about the Met while watching the Sesame Street special “Don’t Eat the Pictures” on VHS when I was at home and would wish I was there with Big Bird and Grover.

Crom Saunders

Crom Saunders ( he/him/his )
Crom is a white male with multiple earrings, glasses, bushy eyebrows, and a clean-shaven head is smiling at the camera. He is wearing a burgundy button-up shirt, against an orange-reddish background.

is currently Director of Deaf Studies at the American Sign Language Department of Columbia College, Chicago. Crom works extensively in translation, including PSA videos and children’s stories, with organizations such as Fun4TheDisabled and Sally Is Sarah, LLC. Crom has interpreted dozens of plays, from children’s theatre to musicals, including at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Steppenwolf Theater, and has taught dozens of ASL linguistics and theatrical workshops across the nation, in addition to working as a Director of ASL for several theatre companies across the nation. Crom also performs improv and his one person show, “Cromania!” internationally.

Crom joined the Steering Committee in 2023.

Memorable Cultural Experience: I visited Quito, Ecuador for a couple days in 2012 and had the opportunity to visit the local Deaf club. After about an hour of chatting with the local Deaf community members, in my very rudimentary LESEC (Ecuadorean Sign Language) it came to their attention that I was a performer. I was asked to perform a story on their venue stage. With a lot of gesturing, pantomime, and asking the audience for LESEC signs, I managed to share a story with the audience. 6 years later, I was able to return to present a workshop for the local interpreters, interpreter students, and Deaf community members, in LESEC.

Jesse Swanson

Jesse Swanson ( he/him/his )
Jesse is a white man in his mid-30's who's once boyish good looks have retreated faster than his hairline. He's working on convincing himself that baldness is a good look. His blue eyes look through a pair of round overpriced warby parker glasses. He is pictured in a wrinkled light blue button down against a white background.

is a producer, arts administrator and comedian. He currently serves as the Executive Producer at iO Theater (formerly Improv Olympic). He has led organizations large and small and presented original work across the country and around the world. Originally from the east coast, Jesse began his career in Philadelphia, where he produced and directed original sketch, stand-up improvisation and several world premier comedic plays and musicals. His independently produced work won acclaim at The Philadelphia and DC Fringe Festivals as well as the CrisisArt Festival in Italy. After deciding to take comedy a little more seriously, he came to Chicago in 2012 and went to work for The Second City where he oversaw talent development and production of new work, partnering with companies like The Kennedy Center, LucasFilm and Disney. As an artist with a disability Jesse is an organizer and advocate for access in the arts and passionately pursuing making all art accessible to everyone.

Jesse joined the Steering Committee in 2023.

Memorable Cultural Experience: My cultural journey started at a summer theater camp. Before I was ever interested in watching theater, I fell in love with the process of creating it. It was at the Kelsey Theater in suburban New Jersey where I got the first taste of what it meant to get together with a group of like minded weirdos and create something that could make a room full of 300 people laugh all at the same time. It galvanized for me the idea of comedy as a tool to bring people together and from that point on it’s been my goal to bring as many people in on the joke as possible.

Karen Tekverk

Karen Tekverk ( any/all )
Karen is white person with shoulder-length straight brown hair, metal-frame glasses, and a bright pink cardigan stands in front of a circular 90,000-gallon aquarium with the words CARIBBEAN REEF in large lettering around the top. They are wearing a Shedd Aquarium nametag.

is the manager of the Certified Ecological Restoration Practitioner (CERP) program with the Society for Ecological Restoration, where she started in June 2023. Prior to joining SER, Karen was the Manager of Community Partnerships and Impact at Shedd Aquarium, working with partner organizations around the Chicagoland area and beyond. As part of Shedd Aquarium’s Access & Inclusion Team, she championed work to train guides and volunteers in audio description and tactile tour facilitation. Karen has a BA in Geology from Haverford College and a MS in Earth and Planetary Sciences from Northwestern University. Previously, Karen worked in Guest Engagement at Shedd Aquarium, interpretation at Chicago Botanic Garden, researched climate change with Respiratory Health Association, and taught geology.

Karen joined the Steering Committee in 2019. 

Memorable Cultural Experience: There weren’t a lot of museums in my rural hometown, but as a kid we would visit my grandparents in New York for the holidays. I loved spending Christmas Eve at the American Museum of Natural History. It felt like we had the place entirely to ourselves, and my sisters and I reveled in it. Our favorite thing was to find a 2 foot model of a mosquito, whom we had named Skippy. I visited NYC recently, and I was glad to find Skippy still going strong!

Founding Co-Chairs

Evan Hatfield

Evan Hatfield, Founding Co-Chair (2013-2018) and Steering Committee Member Emeritus

Lynn Walsh

Lynn Walsh, Founding Co-Chair (2013-2017) and Steering Committee Member Emeritus


Arkey Adams (2021-2022)

Rachel Arfa (2013-2020), Founding Steering Committee Member

Bri Beck (2021-2022)

Dave Becker (2021-2023)

Matthew Bivins (2017-2021)

David Carrasquillo (2019-2023)

Yolanda Cesta Cursach (2015-2017)

Chauncey Alexander Davis-Mauney (2017-2018)

Jason Harrington (2013-2017), Founding Steering Committee Member

Alyssa Harsha (2017-2019)

Tsehaye G. Hebert (2021-2023)

Robin Jones (2013-2015), Founding Steering Committee Member

Nick Joseph (2021-2023)

Kinneret Kohn (2019-2021)

Lucas Livingston (2013-2015), Founding Steering Committee Member

Emma MacLean (2019-2021)

Chaitanya Mantanda (2019-2020)

Christina McGleam (2021-2022)

Theresa Pacione (2013-2015), Founding Steering Committee Member

Casey Peek (2019-2022)

Brittany Pyle (2017-2021)

Jeanna Rathell (2015-2019)

Bonnie Rosenberg (2019-2021)

Mike Shaw (2015-2019)

Jaclyn Wegner (2013-2015), Founding Steering Committee Member

Andy Wilson (2019-2023)

Sandie Yi (2013-2015), Founding Steering Committee Member