July is Disability Pride Month and Hand in Hand is thrilled to uplift some of the leaders with disabilities in our community for all they do in the fight for domestic worker rights and a more just and caring economy. Please note, this is not an exhaustive list but rather a snapshot of members who have taken leadership this year and agreed to be highlighted. Hand in Hand takes great pride in our community, and is deeply grateful for all of our supporters, members and leaders who are contributing their time, skills, and passion to our work.

Ligia Andrade Zúñiga

Deleted: Ligia Andrade Zúñiga sitting in a wheelchair wearing a black dress and red scarf.Ligia Andrade Zúñiga, M.P.A. believes that education opens the path to opportunity. She has dedicated her focus on educating, advocating for, and empowering individuals with disabilities and young people of color around higher education, reproductive health rights, civil rights, and disability justice. For over 20 years she has served on many commissions, boards, and committees such as the San Mateo County Commission on the Status of Women, Teen Pregnancy Prevention Coalition of San Mateo County, San Mateo County Health Commission, California State Independent Living Council, and the San Mateo County Commission on Disabilities. Ligia holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Services with an emphasis in Administration and Counseling, and a Masters Degree in Public Administration from Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont, California. Ligia is a parent of two graduates of the SMUHSD and resides in San Mateo. She is active in Hand in Hand’s California chapter.

Kathleen Barajas

A headshot of a white woman with short brown hair sitting in a wheelchair, with a sparkly sequenced white dress with a white sash, smiling. Kathleen Barajas is a Disability Rights Advocate, an accountant, and President/Founder of Project AIR. She was born with cerebral palsy, which significantly affects her mobility, coordination, and speech. Kathleen has been a Disability Rights Advocate since 2020, and is on multiple disability-related boards and committees. Kathleen was crowned Ms. Wheelchair California in 2016, and at the Ms. Wheelchair America 2017 Pageant in Michigan, won the Lifetime Achievement Award. Her passion is educating public entities about individuals with more severe disabilities and speech impairments – instilling the concept to “always presume competence.” Kathleen is active in Hand in Hand’s California chapter.

Sascha Bittner

Headshot of white woman with long curled red hair wearing a red blazer and black shirt

Sascha Bittner has been an employer leader with  the California Hand in Hand since 2011,  and is also on the National Steering Committee.  She is quadriplegic as a result of cerebral palsy, and domestic workers make it possible for her to be an active member of the Bay Area community. Sascha also currently serves as a mayoral appointee to the San Francisco Disability and Aging Commission, and is a past chair of the California State Council on Developmental Disabilities. She is a delegate to the California Democratic Party and the interim of its Disability Caucus.  In October 2022, she was appointed to the National Council on Disability by then Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Sascha has been a disability rights activist for over 25 years, and has served on numerous disability-related committees and boards. She is committed to the mission of creating fair, equitable conditions for both domestic workers and those who rely on their services.

Nikki Brown-Booker

Headshot of black woman with short curly brown hair and red shirt wearing red lipstick is sitting in a wheelchair outside smiling.Nikki Brown-Booker is on the National Steering Committee of Hand in Hand and believes that all workers deserve a dignified workplace including workers that work in the home. As a person with a disability she has been employing personal care attendants since age 18, when she moved away from home to attend UC Davis. She has a Masters in clinical psychology and is a licensed marriage and family therapist. She is currently a Program Officer at the Disability Inclusion Fund at Borealis Philanthropy. She is strongly connected to disability justice, labor and immigrant rights movements. Her mother is a Filipino immigrant and former domestic worker and her father was an active member of the SEIU union.

Gemma Calinda

Black woman with long dark hair, wearing a black shirt and orange with black print pants, and a pink glove on one hand, sitting in a wheelchair. Gemma Calinda was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis as a teenager and has used a wheelchair for the last seven years. She received her B.A. in Legal Communications from Howard University and a Master’s of Science Management in healthcare from Kaplan University. Deeply appreciative of the support she received from her home attendants over the years, Gemma has dedicated herself to improving the salaries of home care workers in New York State through Hand in Hand’s New York Caring Majority campaign, where she currently serves as the Hudson Valley organizer.


Jensen Caraballo

Headshot of Jensen Caraballo, person of color, with short dark hair, a mustache and beard, wearing a blue suit jacket.Jensen Caraballo is a 33-year-old disabled person of color living in Rochester, New York, and is a dedicated advocate for disability rights. Living with Spinal Muscular Atrophy type 2, depression, and anxiety disorder, Caraballo actively promotes the rights of disabled individuals and cautions against the dangers of assisted suicide laws. Jensen also advocates for home and community based services in order to support disabled individuals with living independently in the community. He serves as a Director for the boards of the SPM Disability Justice Fund and the Consumer Directed Action of New York. He was forced to live in a nursing home at the age of 15 years old, but has been living independently in the community for over 10 years. Jensen is active in Hand in Hand’s Fair Pay for Home Care Campaign with New York Caring Majority and has advocated in Washington DC for a National Domestic Workers Bill of Rights.

Julie Farrar

Julie Farrar, a white woman with silver hair and a sunflower behind her hair, wearing a bright orange shirt, sitting on the driver side of a car while smiling Julie Farrar has been involved in the disability rights movement since she was 16 years old. She participated in the Capitol Crawl in DC in 1990, using direct action tactics to persuade legislators to pass the Americans with Disabilities Act. Julie currently works on building a fusion Social Justice Movement that includes perspectives and leadership from the disability community. She works with the Independent Living Center of the Hudson Valley, Poor Peoples’ Campaign and Caring Majority (FairPay4HomeCare), fighting for access to Healthcare for All and livable wages for home care workers and family caregivers.


Angela Gardner

A black woman with black hair pulled into a ponytail while wearing black glasses and a blue shirt.Angela Gardner is a disability rights advocate and member of Hand in Hand. Angela learned about Hand in Hand from social media, and started going to membership meetings and getting involved in campaigns. She has been involved with advocating for an LTSS insurance program in California, as well as the Time for $20 campaign, which aims to raise wages for home care workers in LA County and other counties across the state. Learn more about out Angela’s work with Hand in Hand in this blog post.


Keith Gurgui

Middle-aged woman of color, standing next to Keith, a white man with short brown hair and beard, wearing a white t-shirt, sitting in a wheelchair smiling widely. Keith Gurgui was raised in a family of nurses, which influenced his passion for health care advocacy. In 2009 Keith sustained a spinal cord injury from a swimming accident which left him wheelchair bound, and requiring full-time home care support. Since then Keith has been outspoken for disability rights, and currently works as a Systems Advocate at the Resource Center for Accessible Living. Additionally, Keith has been advocating to raise the wages of home care workers in New York State through the New York Caring Majority and is a member of Hand in Hand. Last but certainly not least, Keith is currently running for City Council in Ulster County, NY.

Zack Hilty

 Hilty, white man with short brown hair and bieard, wearing a light blue t-shirt, headrest of wheelchair behind his head.Zachary Hilty is a 35-year-old quadriplegic man who became disabled as a result of a swimming accident. Since then he requires 24/7 care to live independently. Zachary feels fortunate to own his home, to drive and have part-time employment, but recognizes this would be impossible with out his care team and family. Zachary is involved with the New York Caring Majority to fight the injustice of the wages pay his personal attendants receive through Medicaid. Additionally he works as a peer counselor at the Resource Center for Accessible Living in Ulster County, is an avid gardener, dog owner, history buff, and a diehard New York Mets fan.

Janine Hunt-Jackson

Janine, a white woman with short blonde hair sitting in a wheelchair in the middle of Times square. While wearing a blue watercolored print shirt, and a blue necklace. Janine Hunt-Jackson had polio at age two in 1955 which started a life-long interest in medicine and disability rights. She raised a family, then returned to school to become a social worker which further influenced her passion for justice and disability rights. While retired, she does her best to remain active in associations and activities supporting individuals with disabilities through avenues such as advocating to raise the wages of home care workers in New York State through the New York Caring Majority and is a member of Hand in Hand. Furthermore, she is a member of the Social Welfare Action Alliance, which is dedicated to a radical return to the roots of social work and away from stigmatizing clinical practice.

Sage Jobsis

white woman with shoulder-length brown hair, wearing glasses and a yellow t-shirt that reads: stax, smiling widely. Headrest of wheelchair behind her head.

Sage Jobsis was raised very politically aware, specifically around environmental issues and had been planning to turn that interest into a career in environmental law. However in 2010 at age 30, Sage was diagnosed with a severe form of MS which has left her as a visually impaired wheelchair user. However, this has given her a new look at the way the world exists for folks with disabilities. Since being diagnosed with MS, Sage started by getting her home fully wheelchair accessible, and then her neighbor’s home, and some friends’ homes too. Sage then started a nonprofit, Thrive HV, which works to increase inclusion and access to public spaces and businesses for people of all abilities in the Hudson Valley. Sage is active within Hand in Hand’s Caring Majority Upstate NY chapter and serves on the National Steering Committee. 

Jennifer Kumiyama

Asian-American woman with long curly, brown hair, and bright-red lipstick, smiling.Jennifer Kumiyama was born with Arthrogryposis and uses a wheelchair daily. She is active in Hand in Hand’s California chapter, and is a long-time disability rights advocate as well as a performer and singer. Kumiyama earned a spot on Warner Bros. reality TV show “Popstars 2” and earned national accolades from many publications including Variety Magazine and TV Guide – referring to her as “the girl in the wheelchair, who’s voice blew everyone out of the water”. Shortly after that in 2002 – Jennifer was cast in Disney’s “Aladdin; a Musical Spectacular” at Disney California Adventure Theme Park, where she is the first performer in a wheelchair to ever be on any Disney stage in the world. Her new passion, in addition to singing – is being a voice for people living with disabilities by breaking attitudinal and architectural barriers.  Jennifer is currently the City of Long Beach Citywide ADA Coordinator. Her full biography can be found at https://www.jenniferkumiyama.org/

Jessica Lehman

white woman with shoulder-length brown hair, wearing a white blouse, and a name tag, smiling widely.Jessica Lehman is founding member of Hand in Hand, and a long time advocate for domestic worker rights. Jessica served as the Executive Director of Senior Disability Action (SDA). Prior to SDA, Jessica worked as Housing Advocacy Director with Senior Action Network. She previously worked as a community organizer at ACORN and then at an independent living center, where she founded the Disability Action Network, a grassroots group of people with disabilities building a voice for their community. Jessica also leads monthly Organizer’s Forum calls, as part of the National Disability Leadership Alliance, to share ideas and experiences related to organizing the disability community.

Russell Rawlings

white man with a graying goatie, wearing a plaid newsboy cap, sunglasses and a green colared shirt, smiling widely. Headrest of wheelchair behind his head.Russell is Hand in Hand’s California Education Organizer, and has over fifteen years of experience as a disability rights activist and organizer. Born with cerebral palsy in Texas, Russell relocated to Sacramento, California in 2001, where he experienced a transformational connection to the Independent Living Movement. Russell served for seven years as President of DOGFITE (Disability Organizing Group For Initiating Total Equality), and most recently, as the Statewide Community Organizer at California Foundation for Independent Living (CFILC), facilitating the DOnetwork (Disability Organizing Network) — a statewide network of systems change advocates and organizers connected through California’s 28 Independent Living Centers. Additionally, Russell has organized with the Disability Action Coalition, including co-organizing the first Disability and Aging Capitol Action Day, which brought over 800 participants to Sacramento for a day of legislative advocacy with the disability and older adult communities.

Kendra Scalia

Headshot of Kendra Scalia, white woman with long dark hair, wearing a shimmery black bouse, headrest of wheelchair behind her head.Kendra Scalia is a disabled queer woman, healthcare policy analyst, and disability justice organizer living in the Hudson Valley in New York.  She has worked on the Fair Pay for Home Care campaign to raise home care worker wages since its inception. Kendra is a member of Hand In Hand, and currently serves as Board President at the Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Association of New York State (CDPAANYS). Kendra can also be found organizing with the NYC Mobilization for Reproductive Justice.


Bhumit Shah

Headshot of Bhumit a brown-toned man with short hair wearing a gray polo shirt smiling. Bhumit Shah is a long-time disability rights advocate living with Cerebral Palsy based in the city of Lakewood in Los Angeles. Bhumit has helped people with disabilities in a professional role since 2012. He began his advocacy journey at Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Hospital as a Peer Mentor. After, he continued his work in advocacy at the Dayle MacIntosh Center as a Systems Change Advocate and Personal Assistant Service Coordinator, where he helped consumers navigate Long-Term Support Services (LTSS) for 5 years. In 2021, he joined the team at Disability Rights California as an Advocate, supporting people living with disabilities by assisting them in understanding their rights and in teaching them ways to navigate the system through abundant resources. Bhumit is an active leader in Hand in Hand as well as a recipient of Hand in Hand’s Home and Community-Based Storytelling Fellowship. Currently, he is a part of the Caring Across Generations Fellowship Program, which advocates on the local, state, and, federal levels for LTSS.

Alexander Sing

Alexander sing, man with short dark hair and goatee, wearing a black jacket over a blue shirt, headrest of wheelchair behind himAlexander Sing is an Information and Referral Specialist at the Center for Independent Living (CIL) in Berkeley, CA. He became involved in the Independent Living Movement as a teenager through CIL’s youth program and was hired in the summer of 2012. Over the years at CIL, Alexander has been a youth mentor, travel trainer, receptionist, content creator, and assistive technology and information and referral specialist. As a person with a disability who employs personal care attendants, he became aware of Hand in Hand through the fight to make care jobs good jobs. Alexander also regularly shares employment resources with his consumers. Alexander is active on social media and periodically participates in Hand in Hand’s calls for digital action. When not advocating for disability justice, he enjoys hanging out with his friends and family, watching movies, Broadway musicals, or television series, listening to music, and much more. You can learn more and follow him online at https://linktr.ee/asing87.

Cynde Soto

 white woman wearing a headband, orange sweater over a yellow turtleneck, black scarf and glasses, sseated in a personalized wheelchair. Behind her is the flag of the United States, with stars in the shape of the wheelchair-accessible symbol. Cynde Soto was born with a disability and has used a wheelchair her entire life. After graduating from California State University, Long Beach with a BFA in Art, she began volunteering with Communities Actively Living Independent & Free (CALIF) where she now works as a systems change advocate. Cynde has also volunteered with Long Beach Transit and LA Metro on their Accessibility Advisory Committees and participated in sensitivity training for bus operators as well as advocated for affordable accessible housing. Cynde was a fellow at Hand in Hand’s Home and Community Based Storytelling Fellowship and is active in the California chapter. She also currently chairs the Personal Assistance Services Council (PASC) in LA County, which oversees the LA County In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) program.

Jade Theriault

Non-binary white person with shoulder-length wavy dark blonde and red lipstick. They are wearing a black bandanna with white stars around their neck and a black top with small silver sparkles. They are on a stage, behind a microphone held by a robotic prosthetic arm with a microphone stand in the foreground.Jade Theriault is a Forbes-recognized comedian who combines provocative thought with moving furniture. Jade, a borg, was manufactured in the Bay Area and has performed at many popular showcases, festivals and comedy clubs. Jade starred in Malic Almaya’s “RUN!” (2018), featured in Jeff Giordano’s “Romantic Chorus” (2021), and was on an episode of MTV Decoded (2018). Most recently, Jade featured in Troma’s “Divide & Conquer” (2021) as an understudy for Ron Jeremy who was forced to resign from the project due to scandal. From 2019-present, Jade clowns seasonally under the famed SF drag queen Peaches Christ. Jade is an active member of Hand in Hand’s California chapter, and has spoken out in the fight to raise home care wages and for affordable home and community based services. When not anxious, Jade thinks about the future of Artificial Intelligence. Learn more about Jade at https://www.jadetheriault.com/

Janie Whiteford

Deleted: Headshot of Janie Whiteford, white woman with short grey hair wearing a white shirtJanie Whiteford is a long-term advocate for issues affecting seniors and persons with disabilities where she had the opportunity to work with these populations at both Silicon Valley Independent Living Center, Valley Medical Center and a small private practice. After retirement, she became very involved with CICA, a statewide organization she was instrumental in developing and where she is currently the President of the Executive Committee. She also represents CICA in many other non-profit organizations and State Committees addressing the needs of seniors and persons with disabilities. Having acquired a significant disability 35 years ago has given her an intimate perspective on the issues affecting many people with disabilities. Janie has three children, seven grandchildren and currently lives with her husband in the Bay Area.

Steve Way

Headshot of Steve Way, white man with short brown hair, wearing glasses and breathing respirator, white neck pillow around neckSteve is a 32 year old substitute teacher by day and stand up comedian by night. He was born with Muscular Dystrophy and is an advocate for disability awareness. Steve performs stand up in the NJ/NY area, motivational speeches around the country, and is the co-creator and star of the web series Uplifting Dystrophy. He can be seen in the Hulu show Ramy. Steve has been performing stand up for over 8 years with his first set at the Comedy Charity Explosion in his hometown of Rutherford, NJ. He has performed at the 2011 Bamboozle music festival and was the co-host of The Lockdown, a monthly stand up show at the People’s Improv Theatre in New York City. Since the early age of 10, Steve has been public speaking, most notably with the Muscular Dystrophy Association. He has spoken at major events and fundraisers and now does motivational speaking on overcoming adversity. Steve has been active in the fight to win a Domestic Workers Bill of Right in New Jersey where he resides, as well as advocated in Washington D.C for national legislation. Learn more about Steve at https://www.thesteveway.com/