Disability Rights Texas Selects Five New Board Members

Posted on

October 18, 2012

Edie Surtees
Communications Director

AUSTIN – Disability Rights Texas (DRTx), the legal protection and advocacy agency for people with disabilities in Texas, recently selected three members to return for a 2nd three-year term and five new members to join its board of directors. Marie Burns of Houston, Jon Vandiver of Carrolton, and Adelita Winchester of Austin will remain on the board for another term. New board members include Paula C. Hughes of Dallas, Joseph Muniz of Harlingen, Sharon Fisher Roberts of Tyler, John Roppolo of San Marcos, and Ileta Sumner of Converse.

Paula C. Hughes served successfully for more than 20 years in the nonprofit arena as executive director for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Arthritis Foundation, and Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, raising more than $50 million for research, public education, and patient service programs. “I am passionate about the work of DRTx because I have close family members with disabilities, and I, too, have a physical disability,” said Hughes. Now retired, she counts it a privilege to give her time to an organization that protects and advocates for people with disabilities so they can break through barriers and achieve their personal goals and dreams.

Joseph Muniz joins the DRTx board with 20 years of professional experience in the field of library science including18 years of public service on state agency boards and councils that serve or advocate for Texans with disabilities. He is currently president of the Governing Board of the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. Muniz was also appointed to positions on the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services Council and the State Independent Living Council. “For years I have greatly admired the work of DRTx and am honored to help lead this great organization,” said Muniz.

Sharon Fisher Roberts brings 24 years of invaluable professional legal experience to the DRTx board. She began her career as an attorney for the city of Tyler, working on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Task Force and the Mayor’s Council on Persons with Disabilities, and serving as a statewide speaker on ADA, civil rights, liability, and risk issues. She went on to become a municipal judge and is currently a lawyer in private practice, devoting much of her personal time in service to nonprofit humanitarian causes. “I am motivated to serve this organization because even though great strides have been made to assure freedom and equality for people with disabilities, challenges and obstacles remain, and we have more work to do,” said Roberts.

John Roppolo is Chief Investigator for the Hays County Criminal District Attorney’s Office. During his 28-year law enforcement career he has earned professional honors including serving on the Investigator’s Board for the Texas District and County Attorney’s Association and Criminal Justice Advisory Board for the Capital Area Council of Governments. Roppolo has also been a volunteer with Kiwanis, Optimist Club, Parent-TeacherSchool Organizations, Hays Caldwell Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse, and more. He and his wife, Debbie, are recent recipients of the Parent Volunteers of the Year Award from Texas Parent to Parent, a statewide organization. Roppolo and his wife also founded the parent support group, Central Texas Autism Network, in 2010. “In my years of public and community service I have observed the challenges faced by individuals with disabilities,” said Roppolo. “And as the father, husband, and son of family members with disabilities, I am also personally aware of these obstacles and want to be a strong advocate so people can understand and exercise their rights under the law.”

Fighting the fight for many years from the personal and legal side, attorney Ileta Sumner is passionate about helping Texans with disabilities. “I have received so much help from a myriad of sources for me and my loved ones who have disabilities, and I believe my service on the DRTx board is one way I can give back,” she said. Sumner received her law degree from Boston College Law School and has served as Staff Attorney for Bexar County Legal Aid and General Counsel for the Battered Women’s Shelter of San Antonio. Her successful career earned her a host of local, state, and national accolades such as the Ma’at Justice Outstanding Woman of the Year Award and J. Chrys Dougherty Award, both from the State Bar of Texas. Sumner has served as president of the San Antonio Black Lawyers Association and the Bexar County Women’s Bar Association.

“I am honored to welcome these five outstanding individuals to the DRTx board,” said Mary Faithfull, executive director of Disability Rights Texas. “They have strong personal records of supporting and advocating the rights of people with disabilities. I believe each brings a unique perspective and will add tremendous value to our board.”

The Disability Rights Texas board of directors is comprised of 16 members from across Texas. One member serves as chairperson of the agency’s Protection and Advocacy for People with Mental Illness (PAIMI) Council. Board members may serve up to two three-year terms. The Disability Rights Texas board of directors reflects the diverse constituency served by the agency, which is federally mandated to serve individuals with developmental, mental, and physical disabilities.

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Disability Rights Texas (previously named Advocacy Inc.) is the federally designated legal protection and advocacy agency (P&A) for people with disabilities in Texas. Our mission is to help people with disabilities understand and exercise their rights under the law, ensuring their full and equal participation in society.