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 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!
Nancy is the Legal Director of Disability Rights Connecticut. Prior to joining DRCT, Nancy was the Managing Attorney at the State of Connecticut Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities (OPA) for more than 17 years. She has a long history as a civil rights lawyer, dating back to 1983 when she was a Reginald Heber Smith Community Lawyer Fellow, better known as a “Reggie.” She worked at Neighborhood Legal Services in Hartford specializing in Employment Discrimination, Police Misconduct and Farmworker Law. While at NLS she was one of the original attorneys in the Sheff v. O’Neill school desegregation case. She then moved to New York where she was a staff attorney and later a supervising attorney at the New York City Commission on Human Rights where she specialized in disability discrimination cases.
At OPA, Nancy brought a number of cases in the District Court of Connecticut and the Second Circuit Court of Appeals that affirmed the right of OPA to have access to the records of individuals with disabilities and to facilities where they receive services. She brought litigation affirming the rights of people with mental illness and cases challenging the way prisoners with mental illness were treated by the Department of Correction. OPA also challenged the failure of movie theaters to provide captioning to its deaf constituents and the failure of the State to provide services to individuals with mental illness in the least restrictive environment.
Nancy was also a member of the Legal Committee of NDRN for approximately six years and was the chair of the Committee for her last two years. She has presented at NDRN conferences, at NARPA, and in front of various other groups. She is thrilled to be part of this new exciting venture!
Craig Awmiller joined Disability Rights Connecticut (DRCT) in November 2018 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 is a Staff Attorney with 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!
Welcome our newest staff member!
Kasey Considine joined Disability Rights Connecticut (DRCT) as a Staff Attorney 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.
Maria 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.
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
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 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.