Established in 2019, the Advisory Committee for Transit Accessibility (ACTA) is an all-volunteer group of community members committed to working with the MTA on a range of accessibility issues. The goal of ACTA is to represent many forms of disability and include persons from across the spectrum of disabilities.
ACTA collects community and rider feedback on accessibility issues to share with the MTA. This includes feedback on subways, buses, and Access-A-Ride paratransit. ACTA helps the MTA develop new accessibility initiatives and promotes these projects to the community.
Learn about the ACTA members
Katherine Bouton is President of the New York City Chapter of the Hearing Loss Association of America. She is the author of three books about hearing loss, including a memoir, “Shouting Won’t Help,” and “Smart Hearing,” a guide to living with hearing loss. She is a former editor at The New York Times, where her primary focus over 22 years was on the intersection of science and culture. She works to make public venues more accessible to the deaf and hard of hearing and to educate people about the issues relevant to people who are oral but hearing impaired, emphasizing the differing needs of the Deaf and the hard of hearing. She has progressive bilateral hearing loss and uses a cochlear implant and a hearing aid, as well as assistive-listening devices.
Leonard Blades is a resident of Brooklyn NY. As an individual with a disability who utilizes a motorized wheelchair, he understands firsthand the significance of accessible transportation in NYC and hopes to have a positive impact through his knowledge and experience on NYCT's Advisory Committee for Transit Accessibility. Leonard is a CUNY alum of Brooklyn College with a B.A in Psychology and is pursuing his master’s degree at the CUNY School of Professional Studies (SPS) in Disability Services in Higher Education. He serves as the Chairman for the CUNY Coalition for Students with Disabilities (CCSD), the representative organization for the more than 11,000 students with disabilities throughout CUNY. He also currently serves as the Vice Chair of Disability Affairs for the University Student Senate (USS), CUNY's student governance organization that represents and advocates for the more than 500,000 students throughout CUNY. His motto throughout life is that while you may encounter defeat, you should never truly feel defeated. He hopes to continue being a positive example on the importance of being able to advocate both for yourself and for others as well.
April Coughlin is a professor at SUNY New Paltz in the School of Education. She also worked as a high school English teacher in New York City public schools for six years. April earned her PhD in Inclusive Education with a focus on Disability Studies at Syracuse University. Her research and teaching focus on access and equity for students with disabilities in schools. A "wheeler" since the age of six and life-long disability rights advocate, April is committed to increasing awareness and education about the need for physical access and inclusion for individuals with disabilities in schools and community.
Annalyn Courtney is a Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist at VISIONS Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired. She has served on the New York State Board of the Association for the Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AERBVI) and the PASS Coalition. Annalyn has worked with the New York City Department of Transportation (NYC DOT) on multiple initiatives to provide insights into how NYC DOT's projects impact persons with visual impairments.
Jessica De La Rosa
Jessica De La Rosa is a lifelong New Yorker who has been advocating for better transit access for many years. As Ms. Wheelchair New York 2016, she started a mentoring program and conducted training classes to teach mentees how to use the transit system. She is currently an Independent Living Associate at Independence Care System.
Giuseppe (Joe) Floccari
Giuseppe (Joe) Floccari is a dispatcher employed by Medical Transportation Management with the accessible dispatch program. He is an avid advocate and activists for people with disabilities. He is on the board of Disabled In Action and a member of ADAPT. As an advocate who regularly attends quarterly ACTA meetings, he believes in the importance of disabled people's visibility with MTA and ability to work behind the scenes to make the MTA more accessible.
Edward Friedman is a native New Yorker and JD Candidate in the Class of 2024 at Yale Law School. Born with cerebral palsy and a power (motorized) wheelchair user, Edward is a passionate disability justice advocate who served as the Policy and Intergovernmental Affairs Coordinator at the New York City Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities prior to law school. In that role, he was the main contact for stakeholders, including disability advocates and the MTA, on all policy and legislative matters related to people with disabilities. Despite moving away from home to New Haven, Connecticut where he is living independently for the first time, Edward remains deeply involved in the local disability community and plans to return to New York City full-time after receiving his JD. He uses the Metro North to frequently go between New Haven and Brooklyn and is an active participant in Access-A-Ride’s same-day e-hail pilot program when in the five boroughs. Edward has received numerous honors for his disability advocacy, including a 2022 Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans. He graduated as a valedictorian from Macaulay Honors College at Hunter College, CUNY in May 2018.
Christopher D. Greif
Christopher Greif has been an executive member of the NYCTRC since September 2010. Chris was nominated by Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, appointed by Governor David Paterson, and was re-nominated by Eric Adams. Chris is a passionate transportation advocate for seniors and people with disabilities. He currently serves as a member of the Brooklyn Borough President’s Advisory Committee on Disability Issues, Correspondence Secretary to the Brooklyn Family Support Service Advisory Council, and Vice Chairperson for the Brooklyn DD Council. Chris has been a regular attendee and contributor at the Council’s meetings. Chris is a member of the ADA LIRR Taskforce, the Rail Users Network (RUN), and ADA Passengers in USA. Chris is a former Special Olympics athlete and member of the Special Olympics NY Congress. Chris graduated from Sheepshead Bay High School in 2004 with a
New York State IEP Certificate Diploma. While there he received numerous outstanding student awards, including the Disability Award, Advocate Award, and more.
Peggy Groce is a pioneer in the development of travel training for persons with significant cognitive and physical disabilities and in the emergence of the profession of travel training. Peggy initiated Travel Training in the NYC Department of Education in 1970 for students with intellectual disabilities who aged out of school at 17 years of age unless they could travel independently to school. Over time travel training instructional services were offered to students with diverse disabilities other than blindness in the NYC public schools. A strong advocate for the rights of all persons to obtain equal access to transportation and independent living options in the community, Peggy has actively collaborated with various local and national organizations in research and demonstration projects to increase/improve access for persons with cognitive, sensory, and physical disabilities. Recognizing that awareness and knowledge of disability history lays a strong foundation for advocacy and self-determination, Peggy has persistently promoted the teaching of the disability rights movement to students, families, and professionals.
Lakshmee Lachhman-Persad is the founder of Accessible Travel NYC, whose mission is to inspire and empower people with disabilities to experience the expansive offerings of the New York City tourism landscape. She is an impassioned advocate for inclusive marketing and social tourism. She serves on the Steering Committee for Tourism Recovery and is a newly elected member of the Board of Directors for NYCGO, the city’s official destination marketing organization, driving its accessible equity and inclusion strategy.
Emily Ladau is a lifelong New Yorker and passionate disability rights activist whose career began at the age of 10, when she appeared on several episodes of Sesame Street to educate children about her life with a physical disability. Her writing has been published in outlets including The New York Times, CNN, Vice, and HuffPost and her first book, Demystifying Disability, was published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House, in September 2021. Emily has spoken before numerous audiences, from the U.S. Department of Education to the United Nations. Central to all of Emily’s work is harnessing the power of storytelling to engage people in learning about disability.
Jessica Murray earned her Ph.D. in developmental psychology at The Graduate Center, CUNY in 2020. Her dissertation, Self-Determination in Transportation: the Route to Social Inclusion for People with Disabilities, examined the role of basic psychological needs in transportation environments. She completed her master's degree in work-family psychology in 2014 with a thesis titled, Work-Life Experiences for People with Mobility Disabilities Living in New York City, which explored structural and environmental issues impacting the daily lives of wheelchair users. She earned a BFA in Design from the University of Texas at Austin in 2003 and worked in multimedia and graphic design prior to attending CUNY. Since 2017, she has been an outspoken advocate for improving the accessibility of New York City Transit subways, buses, and paratransit service as a scholar-activist and member of the Rise and Resist Elevator Action Group.
Gian Carlo Pedulla was born and raised in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. Legally blind due to Leber’s Congenital Amaurosis, he has persevered to overcome his blindness as well as all related obstacles to meet both personal and professional goals. Raised in an Italian American home, he learned the importance of a good meal, being fastidious, having a strong work ethic, and to be as independent as possible despite his blindness. After 15 years of teaching, Mr. Pedulla is now an administrator for Educational Vision Services within the New York City Department of Education.
Besides his passion for Mathematics, Physics, and being a Teacher of the Visually Impaired, Mr. Pedulla enjoys music and has been successful as a professional Disk Jockey performing at numerous private and corporate functions throughout the tri-state area over the last 25 years. Mr. Pedulla has been able to adapt and integrate himself to the different school environments and to utilize his strong interpersonal skills to interact with a variety of individuals and personalities, disabled and non-disabled alike. Assistive Technology has been an integral part of his ability to access an array of materials and complete a variety of assignments to achieve goals, both in academia and the workplace.
Eman Rimawi is a Black, Native American, and Palestinian woman who lives in NYC. She began writing poetry and prose early in life. Her natural creativity steered her towards becoming a spoken-word artist, educator, and youth organizer for dozens of non-profit organizations in New York City, including the Audre Lorde Project, FUREE, Casa Atabex Ache, and the Jed Foundation. She went on to teach creative writing, community organizing, history, and political science workshops to youth in New York. Eman has been focused on organizing around disability rights and staying true to her passion for community connectedness and proven strength. She started Amped Up, an organization that helps people with disabilities to be creative and live lives they love, through fashion, creativity, and social gatherings. She also creates graphic novels and children's books in which people with disabilities are the main characters. Eman facilitates workshops to support businesses who employ people with disabilities to better support and interact with their staff. Eman joined New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYLPI) as its Access-A-Ride Campaign Coordinator and Organizer.
Michael Ring has lived his entire life in Brooklyn except for the time he had to leave to earn his Master's in Social Welfare from Stony Brook University. In 2014, while preparing for his 20th New York City Marathon, he developed Guillain-Barre syndrome and was rendered almost completely paralyzed. He used a wheelchair for about a year and, although he can currently walk, uses ankle foot orthotics. He is now training for his 25th New York City Marathon with the assistance of Achilles International. As a result of his partial paralysis, it will take him twice as long to complete the race. Michael is currently on the Board of Directors of Disabled in Action of Metropolitan New York. He is a co-coordinator of the Transportation and Voter Accessibility committees for the Downstate New York chapter of ADAPT. Michael is looking forward to returning to his roots in social welfare to help make our city more accommodating for its disabled population.
Christine Serdjenian Yearwood is the Founder and CEO of UP-STAND. Since 2015, her work has focused on improving accessibility for pregnant women, families, and caregivers. She has worked on multiple transportation and infrastructure initiatives, including the revisioning of Broadway Junction and Astoria Boulevard. Christine advocated for congestion pricing as a transit coalition member, and is a frequent speaker at transit rallies, hearings, and forums relating to accessibility matters. She leads workshops and training sessions to assist participants with improving accessibility in the workplace and their communities. Christine holds an M.E. in Higher Education from Harvard University, a M.S.T. in ESL from Pace University, and a B.A. in Sociology from Brown University. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Astoria Film Festival, Girls of Armenia Leadership Soccer (GOALS), and Healthy Babies (Queens), and is a Center for Independence of the Disabled (CIDNY) Poll Site Accessibility Monitor for the NYC General Elections. Christine was recently recognized for her work on 2 projects by the Citizens Committee of New York City to improve accessibility in NYC, The Ramp Project NYC and One Stop Family Pop Up. Christine lives in Queens with her husband and children.
A transplant to New York from North Carolina, Abigail Shaw strives to educate the public on persons with disabilities through her hobbies and work. She received a Bachelor’s of science in Music Industry Studies from Appalachian State University and is currently pursuing a Master in Social Work from Fordham University. Abigail has been working at Learning Ally, an educational solutions organization primarily serving individuals with print related disabilities for three years. At Learning Ally, Abigail has served as the College Success Program’s mentorship coordinator and contributes her skills with audio and recording to the production process of Learning Ally’s audio books. As a long-distance runner, she is a member and co-captain of the New York City chapter of Achilles International, an organization promoting mainstream athletics for people with disabilities. She has competed in several national half and whole marathons and triathlons. Whether by plane, train, or automobile—Abigail’s preferred method of transportation is with her yellow lab guide dog from Guiding Eyes for the Blind by her side.
Sharada Veerubhotla has been a Teacher of the Visually Impaired at Lavelle School for the Blind since 2007 (www.lavelleschool.org). Prior to 2007, she worked for 13 years at Bellevue Hospital Center. Ms. Veerubhotla has a Master of Science in Special Education, Magna Cum Laude, from Hunter College CUNY. Since 2015, she has been serving on the Paratransit Advisory Committee. Some other volunteer projects Ms. Veerubhotla has been involved with include: consulting with Guggenheim Museum’s Mind’s Eye Program to ensure accessibility to individuals with visual impairments, training students with visual impairments on essential skills to achieve independence and college success in collaboration with the New York State Commission for the Blind and Visually Handicapped (CBVH), and creating and implementing ‘Running a Small Business’ and ‘Seasonal Shopping’ projects to enable students to engage with the local community. Ms. Veerubhotla was recognized as NY1’s New Yorker of the Week for the dedication she has demonstrated with her students. Her interests include reading, taking long walks, and listening to music.