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

 photo of Gretchen Knauff, executive director

photo of Gretchen Knauff, executive director

Gretchen 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! 
 

Catherine Cushman

 Photo of cathy Cushman, Legal Director

Photo of cathy Cushman, Legal Director

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! 

 

craig awmiller  

 photo of craig awmiller, investigator

photo of craig awmiller, investigator

Craig Awmiller joined Disability Rights Connecticut (DRCT) in November 2017 as an Investigator.  From 2000 to 2009, he was the principle investigator for Disability Rights Washington (DRW.)  Craig has conducted multiple systemic and individual investigations regarding disability rights issues and has given numerous presentations, nationally and internationally, regarding his work.

 

 

Megan Collins

 Photo of Megan Collins

Photo of Megan Collins

Megan Collins is on the legal team at Disability Rights Connecticut. Prior to joining DRCT, Megan was a Staff Attorney at Disability Rights Florida on the Advocacy, Education and Outreach team where her work focused largely on special education and post-secondary education. Since 2013, Megan has been involved in work with the Protection and Advocacy Systems, including work with DRCT's predecessor, Connecticut's Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities. 

She enjoys getting to participate in outreach events and conduct presentations in the community and is excited to once again be working on behalf of people with disabilities in Connecticut!

 

Kasey Considine

 photo of Kasey Considine

photo of Kasey Considine

Welcome our newest staff member!

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

 Photo of Jennifer Jenkins, Advocate Trainee

Photo of Jennifer Jenkins, Advocate Trainee

Jennifer 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

 photo of mary jane Keane, office manager

photo of mary jane Keane, office manager

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

 photo of linda mizzi, lead advocate

photo of linda mizzi, lead advocate

Linda 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.  

Marissa Rivera

 Photo of Marissa rivera, advocate

Photo of Marissa rivera, advocate

Marissa 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, her to 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.