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Commission for People with Disabilities 

The mission of the Denver Commission for People with Disabilities (DCPD) is to promote and enhance equality for people with disabilities through empowerment, advocacy, and education by working with community members, as well as City and County of Denver officials and employees who have the ability to affect change. 

Commission Goals

The commission received numerous requests for a resource guide after its 2017 Employment Symposium to continue to emphasize the importance of the employment of people with disabilities to potential employers and employees. Given our unique leadership role, the commission felt that there is an inherit responsibility of our commission to the citizens of Denver and the surrounding area to provide a guide for employment resources and more.

To build public awareness of disability issues by focusing on what inclusion means, and to highlight the City and County of Denver efforts to support people with disabilities. 

Commission Meetings

The Denver Commission for People with Disabilities meets the 1st Tuesday of each month from 5:30pm-7:00pm at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, Suite 106, 2001 Colorado Blvd, Denver, CO 80205. All meetings are open to the public.

If you need sign language interpretation or CART, contact at least three business days prior to the meeting date.

Note: All commission meetings are open to the public. 


The “H”-word is a slur to people living with disabilities. Everyone should be encouraged to eliminate the word from their vocabulary. People with disabilities often use accessible parking and accessible restrooms. #NoToTheHWord

Commission Members

Julie is an accomplished patent and intellectual property attorney who focuses on providing creative and balanced legal advice to entrepreneurs and start-ups. Prior to her current private practice, Julie was the Chief Patent Counsel with Roche Pharmaceuticals, Chief IP Counsel with BaroFold, Inc., and Special Counsel with the law firm of Faegre & Benson in Denver. Before her legal career, Julie spent time at Norden Laboratories and National Jewish Center for Immunology and Respiratory Medicine.

At the age of 25, Julie had a catastrophic equine accident that opened her eyes to, among other things, mortality, community service, and public perception. Julie is passionate about causes related to disabilities, women, and animal welfare. To that end, she currently sits on several advisory boards, volunteers, and mentors.

As a parent of a child with a disability Pamela gained practical experience regarding the rights of children/individuals with disabilities. 

Pamela is the Coordinator for Child and Family Advocacy with AdvocacyDenver.  Formerly, Pamela worked for the Denver Public Schools, Office of Special Education.

Her professional experience is marked by her devotion to individuals in need, first-hand knowledge of the operation of different public systems and their obligation under state and federal law.

Lauren (Thome) Burgess is the founder and Executive Director of Garden, Inc. and Dirt., two social enterprises with a mission to empower individuals with autism and related neurodiversities located in downtown Littleton. Garden provides community outreach to youth and adults with autism and Dirt is a coffee shop that trains and employs adults with autism.

Lauren joined the commission in 2016 in effort to advocate on behalf of the community she serves. Currently, Lauren serves on the Executive and Recruitment Committee.

Outside of work, Lauren enjoys traveling and spending time with her dogs, chickens, and husband.


Shannon Callahan joined the commission to help guide the community of Denver to be more inclusive with of everyone. The deaf community has been and will continue to be an integral part of Denver.

Callahan hopes to bring new voices to the table through his work with the commission. He offers a unique experience and knowledge and although it may sound cheesy he believes things might take a surprising turn when new views are being for the betterment of society.

Shannon enjoys the outdoors, playing with his dog, trying new things, reading too many books, and enjoying food.


Leah Dawson is a Senior City Planner with the City of Denver and has over 13 years of experience in municipal government planning and is also the current Secretary/Treasurer of the Colorado American Planning Association. 

After moving from her hometown in Alabama to Boulder, she received her Environmental Design degree from CU, and obtained her master’s in Urban and Regional Planning from CU Denver. In 2009, she sustained a traumatic spinal cord injury from falling off a ski lift. As a City Planner, and with a disability, Leah has a more perceptive outlook when it comes to planning for the physical environment for people with disabilities. Leah advocates in her daily work to ensure that design issues that affect people with disabilities are thoughtfully resolved.

Mike Hess, who was appointed to the Denver Commission for People with Disabilities in January 2016, is the executive director of the Blind Institute of Technology (BIT), a Colorado-based 501(c)(3) non-profit organization he founded in February 2013.  

Determined to improve diversity and inclusion in the workplace for people with disabilities, Mike leads BIT’s mission is to prepare blind and visually impaired individuals with IT and other technical skills and the employers who hire them for success. Among his distinctions, Mike was recognized in 2015 as the Colorado Technology Association’s ‘Talent Champion of the Year.’

Prior to BIT, Mike spent four years as a senior software engineer for Level 3 Communications, where he led IT and other technical projects. Before Level 3, Mike held IT, software engineering and similar positions with Qwest, U.S. West, and other companies during his 18-year career.

Gemma Lockhart is a journalist and owner of Open Road Pictures, a small production company that has mainly served American Indian people and communities.

Lockhart joined the commission to assist with writing and photography.  She listens to the community through commission meetings, outreach and through the work of the commission’s strategic planning committee.

Outside of Open Road and the commission, Gemma travels, plays guitar and is currently learning more about Climate Science and Change through a global course offered by Cornell University.


Kate is an Enforcement Program Coordinator at the Denver Metro Fair Housing Center (DMFHC) where she works to end housing discrimination in the Metro Denver are through the enforcement of fair housing laws.

McElhaney joined the commission because most of the clients she works with at DMFHC have been discriminated against because of their disabilities. She knows the housing challenges and overall discrimination people with disabilities face and wants to get more involved to help make Denver more inclusive of people of all abilities.

Outside of work she loves to cook, travel, explore the mountains, and take her cat and dog for walks!

Originally from Hudson, Colorado, Neal studied Computer Science at the University of Colorado where he joined the Educational Technology House and worked on early GPS-based assistive technology along with the Faculty Teaching Excellence Program helping professors to improve practical application of technology in their curriculum. In the summer of 2003, he traveled to Washington DC with the American Association of People with Disabilities, the federal government, and Microsoft. He was invited back the following summer by the World Bank. After college, he moved back to DC to spend nearly a decade working in and around the non-profit sector. After starting a family, Neal returned to Denver where he runs a small consulting firm and is involved with several local committees and groups. He enjoys spending his free time at home with his wife and three kids in southeast Denver.

Michael Pearl, a person living with disabilities, is a full-time volunteer working independent of agencies to assist individuals who require assistance with medical care navigation. In addition, Michael is a board member of the Colorado HIV Alliance for Prevention, Treatment and Care as well as a board member of the Colorado HIV and AIDS Prevention Grant Program.

Michael has a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from Loyola Marymount University. In addition, he has a Master of Business Administration and a Masters of Telecommunication from the University of Denver

Carol was officially appointed to the Commission in January 2018. Carol is a native of Denver and she currently works as the ADA Compliance Specialist for the University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora, CO.

Carol has a master’s degree in Health Services Administration. Her background consists of working in various sectors of health/health care. Her professional and volunteer work has been driven by her interest to improve health and educational equity in underserved communities.

When Carol is not working, she enjoys spending time with her family, international travel, going to the movies, playing board games, and listening to audio books.

A proud Denver native, Damian was excited to join the Denver Commission for People with Disabilities in January 2016. 

Having long been part of the disability movement both locally and nationally, Damian brings a myriad of experiences and resources to the Commission. 

As the Director of Outreach for Personal Assistance Services of Colorado (PASCO), he is well versed on initiatives, resources, and barriers within the community. A board member of a few local non-profits, he is very familiar with programs, advocates and systems working with people with physical disabilities as well as those experiencing intellectual/developmental disabilities.

A former teacher in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn, Damian earned his master’s degree in Education from Brooklyn College.

When not working, Damian enjoys spending time with his family, riding his bike, reading and football.

Bio coming soon

Amanda Therrien is a special education coordinator at TACT, an organization that provides trade and technical skills to children, young adults and families living with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Therrien joined DCPD to make an impact. Disability has touched the lives of those closest to her since childhood. Her mother - the single most influential person in her life - was diagnosed with Trigeminal Neuralgia, a chronic and violently painful nerve disorder. As a “TN Warrior” her mother modeled the importance of compassion, advocacy, and awareness. Now, with TACT, Amanda shares these strengths with the community as well as empowers her students through education and meaningful workforce skills. With the DCPD she hopes to continue to create awareness and facilitate lasting change in the disability community in Denver. 

Outside of work Amanda spends most of her time with friends and she is a huge supporter of the arts! You’ll likely bump into her in small local galleries, strolling art walks, gawking at new street art, laughing at a comedy show or singing along to a musical performance all around the city! She is fortunate to have many friends in the disability community and can frequently be found volunteering and supporting their adventures as well!

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ASL Version of This Page

Disability Resource Guide 2017

Denver Disability Resource Guide Cover Page with Collage of People with disabilities

This resource guide provides the community with a list of agencies, a summary of the services provided by the agency, and their contact information. The resources are sorted by categories for ease of use.

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For questions, comments, or more information please contact:
Dr. Aisha Rousseau, DCPD Liaison

Are you interested in joining the Commission For People With Disabilities?
Apply Online Today!


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