WHO WE ARE
MEET OUR STAFF
Welcome to the staff information page of Disability Rights Connecticut (DRCT). We hope that you will take a few minutes to learn about the disability and civil rights experience that staff bring to the organization. There may also be a few other interesting details, too!
Gretchen Knauff is the Executive Director at Disability Rights Connecticut. With the exception of a short period of time as a program auditor, Gretchen held various jobs at the State Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities. In 1987, she began her tenure as an Information and Referral Specialist and later became a Management Analyst before advancing to the position of Assistant Director of the agency. Gretchen supervised the Advocacy Unit with direct supervision for the Assistive Technology and Voting programs focusing on the rights of persons with disabilities in these areas. She also directly supervised the advocacy program at Southbury Training School and has been active in Campaign 2020, a movement to close Southbury Training School and the regional centers run by the Department of Developmental Services. Gretchen is also excited to be working on Customized Employment and creating a new way of approaching employment for people with disabilities.
Gretchen enjoys providing presentations and training on topics including the Americans with Disabilities Act, Assistive Technology, and the Voting Rights of people with disabilities. She was also a faculty member for Partners in Policymaking, an intense leadership training program for people with disabilities and family members. Gretchen was a member of a national committee that assisted other protection and advocacy agencies with addressing organizational capacity and development issues, chairing the committee for three years. Outside of the responsibilities of her daily job, Gretchen also taught a class on assistive technology for adults at a local community college.
Please feel free to call her discuss Disability Rights Connecticut and how it can best serve people with disabilities in Connecticut!
Cathy Cushman has been practicing law in Connecticut for thirty years focusing primarily in the fields of civil and disability rights litigation. She began her career at the Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities where she represented persons with disabilities in individual and class action matters. Her cases resulted in increased community services for persons with brain injuries, interpreter services in hospitals for persons who are deaf or hard of hearing, a reasonable accommodation for persons with cognitive disabilities applying for United States citizenship, and acquisition of durable medical equipment for persons who utilize motorized wheelchairs. Cathy continued her work on behalf of individuals with disabilities when she joined Connecticut Legal Services (CLS) where she worked for the past eleven years. At CLS her practice focused mainly on representing students in special education cases and advocating for adults with intellectual disabilities in need of community services. Cathy is committed to working with a highly qualified team of attorneys and advocates at DRCT to ensure the rights and opportunities of Connecticut’s residents with disabilities are among the most secure and progressive in the nation. She welcomes the chance to partner with people across the state in advancing these goals, so don’t wait; call or write or stop by today!
Kasey Considine joined Disability Rights Connecticut (DRCT) in February 2018. She has been a part of the Protection and Advocacy (P&A) network since July 2016, when she joined Disability Rights Kansas (DRC KS). While at DRC KS she worked to protect the rights of students in special education, employees facing disability discrimination, and on behalf of clients facing systemic issues within Kansas’s mental health systems.
Jennifer Jenkins has always been passionately committed to the inclusion people with disabilities. As a special education teacher in the public schools, she advocated for the needs of her students through collaboration with parents and other educators. She has spent the past few years raising her own children, one of whom happens to have Down Syndrome. Her educational background, along with her personal experience give her a unique perspective to bring to DRCT. She is a graduate of the Partners in Policymaking class of 2017; an experience which taught her that she has a powerful voice and a responsibility to use it to help improve the lives of people with disabilities.
Mary Jane Keane
Mary Jane Keane is the Office Manager at the Disability Rights Connecticut (DRCT). Mary Jane has worked as a secretary, executive assistant and business manager in many different settings. For 20 years she worked for the State of Connecticut, including seven years as a secretary in the Legal Unit for the State of Connecticut’s Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities (P&A). Mary Jane recently retired from the State of Connecticut and is ready to put her administrative and managerial skills to work at Disability Rights, CT.
Linda Mizzi is the Information and Referral Coordinator and the Client Assistance Program (CAP) Advocate at the Disability Rights Connecticut (DRCT). Linda brings more than 26 years of disability advocacy experience to DRCT. After 23 years of state service, she retired from the State of Connecticut’s Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities (P&A). Before coming to DRCT Linda spent 16 years as the Assistant Program Director for P&A’s Information and Referral Unit and Client Assistance Program. Linda also developed self-help publications, participated as a faculty member of the Partners in Policymaking leadership training, and represented P&A on several boards and councils. Linda is passionate about employment for all people with disabilities and community inclusion.
Brandy Petrone is a Connecticut native who is a deeply passionate and dedicated proponent of social justice. Brandy comes to Disability Rights CT with over 8 years of professional experience working in the behavioral health field-serving individuals who experience disabilities. Brandy has also volunteered and interned with a variety of agencies in the Greater Hartford area, further fostering her knowledge and love for her work.
Brandy will be graduating from Fordham University with her Master’s in Social Work in 2019.
Gerrit Reynolds is passionate about advocating for the disability community. He has served on the Mental Health Connecticut board as a community volunteer and also the PAIMI advisory council and was a graduate of the 2016 Partners in Policy-making program for Connecticut where he learned how to interact with legislators, the history of the disability movement, and how to make your voice be heard. He has lived in Spain as an English teacher and also walked the Camino de Santiago, which is a 500 mile pilgrimage across the north of Spain. Coming from a business job - advocacy enables Gerrit to use analytical thinking and his knowledge of how large corporations operate to navigate the multitude of resources available for the benefit of people requiring case management, information and referral, and advocacy.
Marissa Rivera is the daughter of two Deaf parents and raised in a bilingual household. While in Colorado, she graduated from Front Range Community College with an Associate in American Sign Language Interpreting. She graduated a B.A. in Communication Studies from the sole Deaf liberal arts college in the world, Gallaudet University, in Washington, D.C. While at Gallaudet she founded the student organization, CODAdet, for people who hear and were raised by Deaf parents. She interned at Capitol Hill for Congressman Mark Takano and assisted with the Congressional Deaf Caucus.
Upon graduation, Marissa signed up with AmeriCorps and served her yearlong term in Montana. In her role as an Abuse and Neglect advocate at Disability Rights Montana, she advocated for the rights of individuals subjected to seclusion in the state hospital and individuals awaiting psychiatric evaluations for the court system. She also interviewed prisoners with disabilities at the State Prison about their care. At the end of her service, the National AmeriCorps program formally recognized her as the “Most Engaging with People with Disabilities” in honor of Senator Tom Harkin.
Maria Feliciano, BA, is an Advocate with Disability Rights CT (DRCT) in Hartford, CT. She attended Saint Joseph College where she earned a certificate in the Adelanté Latinos Studies program before completing her BA at Springfield College School of Professionals and Continuing Studies. She is currently a graduate student at the University of Saint Joseph in their MSW program. Maria is also a graduate of Partners in Policymaking, an intensive leadership-training program for parents and individuals with disabilities.
In addition to her formal education she has 20 years’ experience in the field, working with at risk youth and their families in community- based programs in Connecticut. In her role as the Connecticut Network of Care Transformation (CONNECT) Statewide Family Engagement Coordinator, Maria led a workforce development team of parents in providing cultural and linguistic competencies through training materials in Spanish used to train parents and providers in the Agents of Transformation (AOT) 5 modules curriculum. She also served as a Trainer and Consultant for TARGET (Trauma Affect Regulation: Guide for Education and Therapy) model, Maria trained and provided individual and group coaching to other helping professionals in the juvenile justice, child welfare, and children’s mental health fields. Her overarching goal is to support the people she comes in contact with to live their lives to their fullest potential.
Sylvia McGrath joined Disability Rights Connecticut (DRCT) in January 2019 as an Investigator. She comes to our agency with a Law Enforcement background. In 2001, she was hired by the Hartford Police Department. After graduating from the Academy she served as a Patrol Officer and held several positions within the Department to include: Field Training Officer, Street Crime Unit and Operation Safe City 2008 Initiative. In 2008, she was promoted to the Rank of Detective and was assigned to The Special Investigative Division. In 2013, she was assigned to Major Crimes Division, Burglary Unit. She was also a member of the Hispanic Officer Association for 14 years and most recently, held the position of Sergeant at Arms. She retired from the Hartford Police Department in 2018, and she is eager to put her Investigative skills to work at Disability Rights, CT.