Advisory Committee for Transit Accessibility

The Advisory Committee for Transit Accessibility (ACTA) is a new, all-volunteer group of community members committed to working with New York City Transit on a range of accessibility issues.

The Advisory Committee for Transit Accessibility (ACTA) is a new, all-volunteer group of community members committed to working with New York City Transit 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 NYCT. This includes feedback on subways, buses, and Access-A-Ride paratransit. ACTA helps NYCT develop new accessibility initiatives and promotes these projects to the community.

ACTA members meet several times a year at NYCT offices and in the field. The first ACTA Meeting was held on June 19, 2019.

While the initial 18 members of ACTA have been selected, we will take applications for future members on a rolling basis to fill vacancies swiftly when they occur. If you are interested in being a future member, please send a resume and one-page letter of interest to accessibility@nyct.com. Members need not be experts in disability or accessibility issues, but must be Transit riders committed to working with NYCT to advance systemwide accessibility.

Read more about the committee guidelines.

Learn about the ACTA Members

Yannick Benjamin

Yannick is a New York City-based sommelier and one of the co-founders of Wheeling Forward. In 2003, a car accident left Yannick paralyzed but did not stop him from pursuing his dreams of going on to college and becoming a world class sommelier. Yannick is currently an Advanced Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers and is the head sommelier at the University Club.

He is also a para-athlete who has competed in several marathons and races including the New York, Boston, and Chicago marathons. Yannick is a Bronx resident who uses the NYC subway system to get around every day.

Leonard Blades

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.

Katherine Bouton

Katherine Bouton is the author of “Shouting Won’t Help” (2013), a memoir of adult-onset hearing loss, and "Smart Hearing” (2018), a guide to living with hearing loss. She is a former editor at The New York Times. She has had progressive bilateral hearing loss since 1978. In September 2009, she received a cochlear implant. She is president of the New York City Chapter of the Hearing Loss Association of America and a member of the national Board of Trustees of HLAA. She writes the popular blog "Hearing Aids, Hearing Loss, Hearing Help".

Michael Cairl

Michael is recovering from a stroke he suffered in November 2018; among other things, he had to learn to walk again. His mobility remains impaired, and as he relies on buses and accessible subway and rail stations he is acutely aware of the importance of accessibility in public spaces. Michael is Senior Manager, Engineering Operations at STV Incorporated, managing systems integration for the Hudson River Tunnel Project and risk management for the design of the Cross Harbor Freight Tunnel. Previously, Michael worked on system integration and commissioning of light rail projects in Norfolk, Virginia and Salt Lake City, Utah, and the new downtown streetcar in Kansas City, Missouri, all of which emphasized accessibility in station and vehicle design, and many other transit projects around the country. Michael is the past Board Chair of the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative, a co-founder of the Grand Army Plaza Coalition, and past president of the Park Slope Civic Council, among other volunteer activities. Michael lives in Brooklyn.

April Coughlin

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

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.

Christina Curry; M.A., MPA

Christina Curry is the Executive Director for the Harlem Independent Living Center (HILC), Harlem, NY since 2001, having joined in 1999 as the Program Director.

She was appointed to the Executive Board of the NYS Commission for the Blind and the Interagency Council for the Deaf, Hard of Hearing and Deaf-Blind by Governor Paterson. She also serves on Community board 10/Harlem; Health and Human Services committee & the Public Safety committee. As well as the National Council of Independent Living (subcommittee on emergency preparedness) and the New York State HIV Advisory Board (subcommittee on social determinants).

Ms. Curry/HILC provides disability/Deafness sensitivity trainings to the New York District Attorney’s office, various hospitals within the HHC Corporation, various hospitals within the Mt. Sinai Continuum, domestic violence agencies and shelters, local police precincts, community based organizations and schools, area colleges both public and private. Additionally, Ms. Curry has worked with FEMA (Puerto Rico) and the New York City Emergency Management (NYCEM) on emergency preparedness and the disabled/Deaf communities.

Laura Friedman

Laura Friedman is the Assistant Director of Communications at Workforce Opportunity Services (WOS), where she leads strategy and implementation of the organization's marketing and communications initiatives. Prior to joining WOS, Laura was the Communications and Programs Manager at Hearing Health Foundation (HHF), a nonprofit dedicated to funding research to better understand, diagnose and treat hearing and balance disorders. There she managed HHF’s scientific research programs, media and press efforts, and communications. She also served as senior editor of Hearing Health magazine, a quarterly publication of HHF, as well as managed the magazine’s advertising sales.

Outside of the office, Laura is an advocate for people with disabilities and hearing loss. She serves as a Member of New York City Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities Disability Youth Council and Hearing Loss task force. She is a peer mentor for children with hearing loss through the Center for Hearing and Communication (CHC) and will be among the several recipients of the CHC's Sheldon Williams Leadership Award in June 2019.In 2018 Laura was named a HearStrong Champion by The HearStrong Foundation and was one of the young adults featured in The Listening Project, a documentary where she and 13 other deaf and hard of hearing individuals shared intimate details of their experiences living with hearing loss.

Chris 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.

Richard Jacobson

Rich is a New York City native from Queens, currently residing in West Harlem. His career began in community organizing and working on social justice issues. Rich then shifted his skills towards building support for universities and nonprofits institutions for over 20 years. Most recently, he transitioned into a career as a Senior Account Executive. After becoming visually impaired in 2018, he has focused on building his skill set to adapt to his new life. As a daily transit user, he has been able to identify what challenges the Visually Impaired community can face while trying to navigate NYC's subways and buses.

Jessica Murray

Jessica Murray is a doctoral candidate in developmental psychology at The Graduate Center, CUNY. She earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Design from the University of Texas at Austin in 2003 and worked in multimedia and graphic design prior to attending CUNY. 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 examined structural and environmental issues impacting the daily lives of wheelchair users. She co-chairs and manages communications for a cross-campus group, the CUNY Disability Scholars, a network of students and faculty who teach, research, and write about disability studies. She has also created and managed multiple websites as a graduate fellow for the Center for the Humanities and the Futures Initiative, both at The Graduate Center. Her doctoral research focuses on transportation and takes a universal approach to understanding how information, communication, and psychological barriers impact daily travel for people with all types of disabilities. Her dissertation project, OurMobility.org, is a multi-part study of factors in transportation that impact motivation and self-determination for people with disabilities. 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. She designed the campaign logo, Elevators are for Everyone, which depicts the true diversity of elevator users.

Gian Pedulla

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.

Edith Prentiss

Edith M Prentiss is an active member of multiple political, civic, transportation and disability advocacy organizations. She is a member of the New York County Democratic Committee and a public member of the Traffic & Transportation of CB12M. She was President of the 504 Democratic Club for 15 years. Ms. Prentiss is Chair of the Taxis For All Campaign. She is a member of the New York State Independent Living Council, the Manhattan Borough President Disability Taskforce, the OEM Disability & MOPD’s Access and Functional Needs Committees, and the Permanent Advisory Committee to the MTA/Transit Riders' Council.

After using various mobility aids, she has used a manual and motorized wheelchair since 1992. She was a geriatric case manager for thirteen years and then the Director of Operations for a multi-state rehabilitation practice for seven years.

Ms. Prentiss holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology from the State University of New York at Stony Brook. She completed additional Masters level coursework in Medical Sociology at Miami University.

Eman Rimawi

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.

Christine Serdjenian

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.

Abigail Shaw

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.

Henry Stifel

Henry G. Stifel, III is a Senior Vice President in the Private Wealth Management Division of Morgan Stanley and obtained his Certified Financial Analyst (CFA) designation in 1999. He joined the firm in 1989 after graduating from the College of William and Mary. In addition, he Co-chairs the Morgan Stanley Disability Network and serves on the Firm’s National Diversity Council.

Henry is a graduate from the College of William and Mary, Vice-Chair of the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, and former Trustee of The Pingry School. In addition, he is a member of the Northern New Jersey SCI System Consumer Advisory Board.

Sharada Veerubhotla

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.