Committee Chair, Employment Services
Committee Member, Board Recruitment
Committee Member, By-Laws
Committee Member, Fund Development Committee Member, Personnel
Committee Member, Programs
Board member since: March 2004
Born Jose Fernando Roldan Velez, he was born in Cucuta, Department of North Santander, Colombia with arthrogryposis multiplex congenita and uses a power wheelchair to get around. But being born with AMC made his parents, Jose and Maria, almost lose hope because Fernando was born premature and was close to death. However, his parents are strong Catholics and never gave up and were determined to give him a good education and a bright future.
In 1977, his parents emigrated from Colombia along with their other son Cesar Augusto Federico Roldan Velez to the United States. Fernando was raised and still lives most of his life in Glendale. He did most of his schooling in Glendale where he began at Columbus Elementary, then Woodrow Wilson Junior High School and finally graduating from Herbert Hoover High School in 1991. He graduated in 1996 from Glendale Community College with an Associate’s of Arts degree in mass communications and later in 1999 with a Bachelor’s of Arts in journalism from California State University Northridge.
Fernando began on August 6, 1999 to work for the State of California Employment Development Department in Canoga Park. Later he was moved to the Pacoima EDD office in 2000. He then transferred to the Crenshaw EDD office in May 2002 and has worked ever since.
Fernando began his career with CALIF in 2002. He is now President of the organization since July 2009. He likes to volunteer for the grassroots radio station KPFK and is a confirmation/Life Teen Teacher at his church Holy Family Catholic Church. His goal is always to help people, especially in the disability community. Among his hobbies are watching movies and sports, as well as going to the beach, dancing and museums.
CALIF Board of Directors
Honorary Board Member
Board member since: June 2014
Honorary Board Member
Member, Board Recruitment Committee
Member, By-Laws Committee
Member, Fund Development Committee
Member, Personnel Committee
Board member since: September 10, 2010
Hi! My name is Machiko Wakabayashi. I came from Japan about 20 years ago. I work at Japanese TV weekdays, and teach math at Asahi Gakuen School on Saturdays.
I was raised by my aunt. Down Syndrome was in my family. It was natural for me to live with disabled people since I was born. I had an unforgettable day, on July 16, 2002, when I met a man in wheelchair. I met Gordon Anthony, who was a member to establish ADA, at a bus stop near the Los Angeles Central Library. After that, for 10 years until his passing, he showed me a lot of the world of the disabled community, and I learned how much disabled people have strength we should respect. He will continue to be part of my life and influence me until the day I die. I began serving on the CALIF Board in December 2017. I hope I can contribute as a Board member.
One of my dreams is to visit all 50 states. I still have 26 states remaining. When you plan to trip, please ask me! If it is a state I have not been to, I may become your good travel mate.
Board member since: November 8, 2017
Chair, By-Laws Committee
Board member since: August 26, 2015
Committee Member, Board Recruitment
Committee Member, Fund Development Committee Member, Personnel
Committee Member, Programs
Board member since: September 19, 2014
I was born in Burbank, California and raised in Glendale. I am the fourth child out of a family with six children. I was born with a disability called Congenital Muscular Dystrophy. My oldest sister and my younger brother also have it. Having siblings with the same disability made it so I never had the feelings of being alone.
I graduated with honors from Glendale Community College and California State University Northridge. I earned a BA in Pan-African Studies. Many people have asked why I majored in Pan-African Studies. The answer is simple really. Nearly every ethnic group that has come to this country has had its own struggle to gain civil rights. The right to education, transportation, voting, housing and in general to be treated with dignity and equality had to be fought for. In many ways these are the same struggle the disabled community is fighting today. I wanted to know the history of the battle and ways to solve the problems.
After college I went to work in construction rental equipment. I worked my way up from receptionist to purchasing agent. After about five years I moved on to healthcare. I worked my way up from working in a call center to work flow manager and claims processor. While working professionally I also did a lot of volunteer work. I helped to feed the homeless and ran a FEMA distribution center after the Northridge earthquake. I helped the visually impaired learn Braille. Plus, I helped many people with issues relating to Social Security and Medi-cal. After working for about twelve years my health started to decline and I had to quit working. When my health improved again I wanted to do more to help the disabled community. I was introduced to Lillibeth Navarro and to the great staff at CALIF. I started doing volunteer work mainly in fundraising. After several months Lillibeth offered me a job as a Benefits Advocate. I loved the job but once again my health started to decline and I had to quit.
Luckily for me, my health has improved once again and Lillibeth has asked me to be a member of the Board of Directors. I am truly honored. I look forward to using my skills and abilities to help to improve the lives of the disabled.
Board member since: October 12, 2016
Radio Name: Darryl Evans “THE MASTER BLASTER”
Born: Altoona, Pennsylvania
Disability: Polio and Post-Polio Syndrome and Crippling Psoriatic Arthritis
Darryl Eversole grew up in the Pittsburgh area where his love of the Pittsburgh Pirates grew and so did radio. Lived in an area called the Hill District. Darryl began his career in radio as a high school junior and senior in the 1960s in a radio show playing rhythm and blues and Doo-Wop, as well as classic rock and roll. After high school, he traveled the country working at small to medium sized radio markets and landed in Los Angeles in the late 1970s working in several radio stations. One radio program through KRLA focused on the disabled community in the early 2000s.
Darryl began his advocacy of the issues facing the disabled community during the 1960s when he saw the injustices, discrimination and civil rights issues being violated for himself and the people he would love and defend.
Currently Darryl is a Board member of CALIF since 2015 as a bylaws chair. His commitment is to make sure the Americans with Disabilities Act is enforced.
His radio show, “Classic Soul,” can be heard 6:00-10:00am, Monday-Saturday and Sundays, 11:00pm-Midnight, through another show called “The Doo-Wop Hour,” as well as Monday-Thursday 9:00pm-Midnight through Tunein Radio.
Board Vice President/Secretary
Board member since: October 11, 2017
Engracia Figueroa is a Bay Area Native. She was born in San Leandro and grew up in East Oakland and the youngest of six siblings. She’s worked in the insurance industry since high school until she acquired her disability in a sudden accident at the age of 22. Learning to adjust to the newness of being a disabled woman became her new normal in life. Being a first generation Californian as her parents both come from other states and territories (New Orleans and Puerto Rico) during the civil rights era later came into focus as she learned that the fight for advocacy was insurmountable and necessary.
She’s actively pursuing her acting dreams along with animal rights and food justice for all beings but her own personal life has been the catalyst of disability community involvement and advocacy.
She’s a Bay Area sports fan (A’s, Giants and Raiders), loves to surf, shop, go to restaurants, everything related to the Arts, travel and cooking vegan food and trying to ‘veganize’ recipes.
Hello my name is Nikki Diaz. I am a 49-year-old woman who was born with Spinal Muscular Atrophy and have been in a wheelchair all of my life. I have been living independently and on my own since I was 19 years old. Up until recently I did not find the task of being independent so difficult and there was very little hardship.
Making an SSI check stretch for 30 days while paying rent was not as difficult as it is now, the economy was much different.
In 2002 I married a wonderful man who took on becoming my primary caregiver which established our lives on a fixed income with what he made for taking care of me and my SSI. In October 2015 my husband fell gravely ill. He suffered a massive heart attack which left him in a minimally vegetative state and living in a nursing facility. His illness left me in a financial desperate state. Then I began my housing dilemma.
I lost my husband's income which was over 75% of the household income, left again on just SSI. I had three weeks to relocate my residency because I could not afford the next months rent so with the economy the way that it is I found myself unable to find a place to live so my mother took me into her senior housing apartment. We moved furniture around, I put most of my belongings in storage and I lived with my queen size bed, two dressers and my computer desk in her small living room. We managed to survive for 11 months that way. But during the 11 month stay I encountered a housing threat. The company that owned this complex sent my mother a 3-day cure or quit notice. It stated that if I did not move out on my own immediately within three days that she would be threatened with an eviction notice herself. Little did they know that I had been searching for an apartment on my own since April 2016, their notice was given in September 2016. I discovered in that short time through many applications submitted, many apartment unit viewings, that the housing climate wasn't prepared nor adequate enough to accept my special and unique circumstances. Finding accessible housing turned out to be an absolute no-win situation. I encountered too many steps that led to the front door, or a bathroom doorway that was too narrow for a wheelchair to fit through, or a kitchen that was architecturally designed so tucked tightly into the corner of the unit that short of cutting out a counter space or otherwise removing the refrigerator all together I would not be able to have any access into the kitchen. I even had an experience where a landlord had to move her car out of the garage so that I can get up into a very high one step that led into the kitchen because that was the only access into the unit. Coming down to leave the unit after viewing it was so difficult that my caregiver and I almost fell to the ground. Needless to say, that landlord rejected my application. I wouldn't want to put myself in a potential liable situation either if I were a home owner renting my home.
I discovered that there are many obstacles in our housing sector for a person who uses a power wheelchair. For example, without one having proper finances for transportation using public transportation to get to and from searches for housing is extremely difficult. I recall a hot summer day when it was 102 degrees outside I and my caregiver had to wait outside for an hour in the parking lot of a gas station for my public transportation ride to arrive. I chose the gas station because it was the nearest address to the unit I went to visit. Because of the situation I exhausted my sparingly saved funds on renting wheelchair vans so that we wouldn't experience that again. Due to my toilsomeexperience in the Housing search I've come to realize that there were no available assistance for someone in my specific and unique housing needs. Needs that the public are extremely uneducated about. Needs that without proper organizations and government regulations homeowners are not enforced to surrender to as landlords ultimately leaving the challenged renter like myself, to make major sacrifices and do without in very basic ways such as bathrooming, entering and exiting a property, proper heating and cooling conditions which without those particular needs met could have a major medical effect on a disabled person's health and daily independent functionality. Just to name a few of the challenges I endured.
Although I did make it through and finally landed me a fairly safe rental I did not do it without the supportive help from my friends at CALIF (Communities Actively Living Independent and Free), an Independent Living Center based in Los Angeles serving a community of disabled people of 50 zip codes. I can say I am proud to recently have been voted in as a member of their Board of Directors.
CALIF rose to my need when I couldn't make a "same day" viewing appointment to a rental of my interest. Their Housing Rep came to my aid as she went out to visit rentals in lieu of me. When my finances became tied up in payroll for caregivers and I couldn't afford my security deposit, CALIF financed a small loan to me free of interest to satisfy my move-in expense.
We need organizations like CALIF. We need CALIF to have access to the resources and funding they'll need to accomplish their efforts in our housing crisis in regards to disabled people. They proved to be a genuine example of what it means to bring inclusion to the presence of my community of people by providing support and not a hand-out which respects our freedom to accomplish independence. They are a complete embodiment of collaboration and compassion. They know we are a people with real responsibilities, we have spouses and children, mortgages and rents, jobs and businesses, dreams and goals atop of our extra challenges. They accept that we want to get our lives done on our own competent terms yet we need assistance. I am grateful for CALIF and I not only hope to see this service grow but I plan to be a part of advocating for this type of service in efforts to make it catch on!
Injured in a diving accident at age 20, Nancy Becker Kennedy returned to college to complete a Masters degree in communications. She went on to become a news producer for public television, a published playwright, award-winning writer and composer as well as the first person in a wheelchair to star as a series regular in both daytime "General Hospital" on ABC and night time "The Louie Show" on CBS television.
Nancy is committed to opening doors. A lifelong activist, she has lobbied congress to advance the rights of people with disabilities and has been arrested more times than she can remember for acts of non-violent civil disobedience as a member of ADAPT American Disabled for Attendant Programs Today, a national civil rights organization that fights for the release of people who are inappropriately locked away in nursing homes and institutions. With the arts, Nancy opens another kind of door--the door of the heart that sometimes closes in fear when you see someone in a wheelchair.
Having spent equal time in both worlds, and possessing unusual candor, warmth and iconoclastic humor, Nancy is uniquely qualified at helping people deal with the discomfort that can exist between people with disabilities and people without them. When asked how she can answer intimate questions with so much ease, she replies "The deeply seated answer is that I am unbelievably insensitive."
Nancy served almost 20 years and the Los Angeles County Personal Assistant Services Council that oversees the in-home care of over 200,000 seniors and people with disabilities. She is dedicated all of her adult life to making sure the people disabilities live independently and fighting changes to the In-Home Supportive Services program and SSI that make that a barrier. She is thrilled to be serving as the Olmstead Coordinator for Communities Actively Living Independent and Free (CALIF).
In addition to her work as a comedian, playwright, stage and television actress, Nancy Becker Kennedy is a nationally recognized expert featured in magazines ranging from "Ms." to Penthouse where she was touted along with John Callahan as ushers of a new era of disability "hip humor." She has given countless television and radio interviews including featured stories on "60 Minutes," "60 Minutes II," "CBS Eye on America with Dan Rather," "CBS Nightwatch" with Charlie Rose," as well as print media including "The New York Times" "The Washington Post" and "New Republic." Nancy is a Contributing Editor to the award-winning national magazine "New Mobility," and is currently touring with her autobiographical play "I Had to Break My Neck to Get Here."
Ben Rockwell is a native Californian, born in Glendale, California in 1945 who had Polio at the age of 7. He grew up in San Bernardino and Riverside Counties and worked with people who are blind since the age of 9 and has also worked with individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing since age 25.
He has been a member of Californians for Disability Rights (CDR) since 1980, where he held various positions on a state level and the Beachwood (Long Beach, CA) Chapter. He was a provider for In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) for 8 years and retired in 1988.
Ben is also an active member of many community organizations and serves as a member of Accessibility Committee for Metro since 1988. For leisure, Ben plays very hard, enjoys classical concerts, loves to travel and has traveled to 42 out of 50 states of the US. He has also been to the many states in Mexico and speaks some Spanish.