Helena has been a disability-rights advocate for over 30 years. She recently retired as President & CEO of the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD). Under Helena’s leadership, she helped transform AAPD into one of the nation’s leading cross-disability civil rights organizations advocating for the full recognition of rights for the over 60 million Americans with disabilities. Helena is a mission-focused, seasoned, strategic, and process-minded leader with experience scaling an organization, leading an executive team, and developing a performance culture among a diverse group of individuals.
Prior to joining AAPD, Helena was the Advocacy Director for the Eastern Paralyzed Veterans Association (EPVA), renamed in 2005, United Spinal Association. Under her direction, EPVA’s advocacy program significantly expanded its public education and community outreach activities aimed at raising awareness of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Consequently, she has extensive experience in designing and implementing grassroots programs and working effectively with non-governmental organizations, community and business leaders, and public officials and entities to increase the rights, opportunities, and inclusion of disabled individuals.
Helena’s international disability rights work includes being a featured speaker for the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Information Programs. She has spoken with government and disability-rights leaders in Mongolia, Nepal, and Cyprus, and traveled to Vietnam, Jordan, and the West Bank in Israel to help advance disability rights and inclusion.