Where are you from? Lincoln Park, Chicago
School/grad year/major: BA, Middlebury College (2010), Joint Major Philosophy/Religion, Russian Language Minor. MPP Candidate, The University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy (2018), Policy Analysis and Disability Inclusion
Last thing you searched on Bing: Wonder Woman, show times
Why did you choose Microsoft’s fellowship program? Following graduation from college, I worked for Challenge America, a national database that connects injured military members and their families to resources in their local communities. This non-profit experience, and later experiences working in the digital strategy and design spaces, led me to recognize the major interdependencies between technology innovations and disability inclusion. Microsoft’s fellowship offers an incredible opportunity to engage with and learn from the current accessibility and digital equality efforts of Shelley Stern Grach and Adam Hecktman (here in Chicago) and Jenny Lay-Flurrie and team (in Seattle). By learning from leaders in the disability and accessibility advocacy fields and collaborating with local government officials, private companies, non-profits and public-sector organizations, this fellowship provides an unparalleled opportunity to explore innovative solutions for empowering Chicagoans with different technological resources and abilities.
What’s your favorite civic project in the Chicago area? Though miles away from some of my favorite hiking trails and ski mountains, Chicago does an incredible job of bringing green initiatives to our beautiful flatlands! The Riverwalk, the 606 and the Lakefront running/biking trails, Chicago’s green, open and accessible spaces are high on my list of favorite civic projects.
Who is your civic tech mentor/idol? Marca Bristo of Access Living. Marca was a key driver in writing the 1990 American’s with Disabilities Act, calling for (among other requirements) lifts on buses, accessible facilities, ATMs and telecommunications, as well as access within the workplace. I greatly admire her work in the city of Chicago and beyond.
What projects are you working on for your position as tech fellow for Microsoft Chicago? Among other outreach efforts and meetups, I’ll be focusing on the launch of DigiSeniors, which was started by the incredible, Civic Tech Fellow, Kevin Wei. I’ll also be working on Microsoft’s Women in STEM and Accessibility strategies throughout this fellowship in coordination with CPS, ADA25, ITKAN and others.
What excites you about civic tech? For me, civic tech doesn’t mean I need to be a developer or a data scientist (of which I am neither) to innovate. I am excited about facilitating new connections between developers, data scientists, government and policy experts, and public and private organizations to accomplish big things for the city of Chicago.
What’s one problem you hope civic tech will solve for cities? Microsoft and its partners are well positioned to improve digital literacy and workforce opportunities for Chicago’s impoverished neighborhoods, senior citizens and people with disabilities. I am beyond excited to be a part of this mission in my role as a Civic Tech Fellow.
Tags: Access Living, ADA, ADA25, Adam Hecktman, Anna Draft, Challenge America, Chicago, Chicago Public Schools, Civic Tech Fellow, CPS, DigiSeniors, Disabilities Act, ITKAN, ITKAN Chicago, Jenny Lay-Flurrie, Kevin Wei, Lincoln Park, Marca Bristo, Microsoft, Microsoft Chicago, Shelley Stern Grach, The Riverwalk