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Student Leadership and Service (SLS)

Good Work with Joanne Johnson

Date: 5:30pm - 6:30pm PDT April 22, 2019 Location: JR Howard 121

  • Joanne

JR Howard 121

Joanne is the Disability Program Coordinator for the City of Portland, and has over 10 years’ experience in disability advocacy and justice work. 

A native of Michigan, she earned her undergraduate degree from Michigan State University. Johnson credits a 2006 internship with the Michigan Disability Rights Coalition for further developing her understanding of disability as an identity while she worked with local colleges and universities to create access for students with disabilities. 

Moving to Philadelphia in 2008, Johnson worked with Liberty Resources, a center for independent living. The Center had all staff engaged in advocacy and participating en mass at community actions. This experience provided a deep understanding of disability culture’s scope and range. Successes were due to engagement that brought a coming together of the larger community by the center’s entire staff. 

She studied and was awarded her master’s degree in social work at Western Michigan University. Johnson volunteered with Disability Network Southwest Michigan’s Transportation Advocacy Group and was hired as an Information and Referral Specialist during graduate school. A Portland connection for her came from a scholarship she received from Incight. 

In 2010, she became a Community Education & Systems Advocate for Disability Network Southwest Michigan. There, she recruited and supported people to engage in self-advocacy and systems change as well as providing community presentations on ableism, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), creating accessible communities, and other disability issues. 

A major focus of her engagement and advocacy work in Michigan was public transportation advocacy, including advocacy for more effective, reliable transit and compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). She helped riders with disabilities to be advocates by providing training on how the system functions, decision making in the system, impacting the decision-making, connecting with the decision makers and advocating with them. By advocating alongside disabled riders, and collaborating with the local planning commission and transit authority, she helped the urban transit system to implement an ADA compliant para-transit service. 

Another project involved a collaboration with the Michigan Secretary of State’s office and the state’s Communications Department to develop and provide an audio version of the state driver’s manual. 

The Michigan Library for the Blind assisted in delivering “What Every Driver Must Know” in an audio format. The project evolved from a consumer complaint for accommodation. 

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