Founding Team Members
Laurie Alphonse MSW – Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
“By working together there is no challenge to which we are not equal, no obstacle that we cannot overcome, no aspiration so high that it cannot be achieved.”
A registered Social Worker with membership of the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers and of the Ontario Association of Social Workers, Laurie has been involved professionally for many years in both policy and frontline initiatives to promote the independence of people with disabilities.
It was her unshakeable commitment to disabled people that precipitated the creation of her own business Access Infinity Management, which assists people with disabilities develop and maintain empowerment towards independence.
Laurie’s business also assists companies and policy makers in creating accessible inclusive environments for people with disabilities.
Most people believe the existence of disability to be a “problem”. Laurie introduces the existence of disability “as a way of life”. She believes that it allows people to start approaching the accommodation of people with disabilities as a positive action. Whether it is to do with the structural renovations of physical space, the employment and retention of people with disabilities, or improving access and attitudes to customers with disabilities, Laurie teaches that equal inclusion in workplaces and access to businesses and buildings begins with a partnership of Thought and Action.
Alan Broadbent – Barcelona, Spain
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
An expatriate Englishman resident in Spain, Alan has built a substantial disabled access travel business with a strong reputation throughout Europe. He is a confident highly motivated individual whose pro-active approach to life and business, his energy and dedication set high benchmarks for people with a disability. His rich tapestry of experiences as an educator, businessman and occasional journalist/author, add to the wealth of experience that he willingly calls on to assist other people with disabilities seeking to start in business.
He has held the professional titles of Manager/Director, Training Needs Consultant, Bespoke Course Designer, School Teacher, University and College Lecturer, Musical Director and Conductor, and they are all apt descriptors reflecting the diversity of experiences that have characterised his career and business background.
During R&R in the UK Alan has found the time to be Founder, Musical Director and Chairman of the Norfolk County Youth Orchestra and Brass Band; a concert promoter; fundraiser for amateur musical groups; charity events organiser and a creator of inter-cultural European Exchange programmes in the UK, France and Germany.
He says “My disability has created only opportunities, opened new horizons from which to move ever forward in life. Without my disability Disabled Accessible Travel would never have existed.”
Simon Cox FCIPD – Yorkshire, UK
“Fr3edom - Enable, Empower, Enrich”
An innovative Human Resources and Diversity business manager who enables people achieve their career goals and potential.
Simon has 20 years experience within the employment development field. A strategic human resources professional he has extensive experience of supporting, guiding and coaching a diverse range of people to realise their potential, fulfill career ambitions and drive job performance.
Simon’s background includes work within the public sector, with a range of private companies in communications, professional services, hospitality and automotive sectors. He is founder of Diverse Matters Limited which delivers HR and Diversity training, coaching and consulting.
Simon has particular expertise in working with people who face significant challenges such as discrimination and prejudice and he is expert in enabling people build strategies to overcome such barriers.
High energy, enthusiasm and passion are key drivers that underpin Simon’s ability and experience in helping disabled people achieve their career and business goals and aspirations.
Simon says of his own career “A natural curiosity and interest for what drives people forward what motivates them to succeed and achieve their dreams has led me to pursue a career in HR, organisational development and diversity. This gave me the opportunity to meet and work with a very wide range of individuals with different roles from leaders of organisations to frontline service providers. For the past 5 years I have been building my own business, providing training, coaching and consultancy. I have particular expertise in supporting people to tackle and overcome barriers and discrimination.”
Rob Crawford – Phoenix, Arizona, USA
“Empowering Courageous Self-Expression”
The Life Development Institute (LDI) was founded by Rob in 1982 for individuals with hidden disabilities such as Learning Disabilities, ADHD, Asperger’s syndrome, bipolar disorder and other related conditions. These disabilities affect one out of every five persons in the USA and know no socio-economic, gender, or racial boundaries.
LDI offers youth and adults with hidden disabilities a unique opportunity to develop the skills needed for making successful life transitions into the larger adult world. Its mission is to provide “real world” experiential learning that significantly improves the functioning and performance of all participants.
LDI not only helps program participants enhance their literacy, employability, and independence but empowers the emerging leadership of each person it works with by treating them as a whole person, not a person ‘with a hole in them.’
Rob’s business provides an environment that helps a person to redefine what success and winning really mean to them. It is based on the philosophy that personal victories are as big a reward as winning any award or prize from competitions. Winning is making your first true friend, earning a paycheck, or speaking up for yourself. Winning is whatever makes you feel like you’ve done something to be a winner.
Robs says of his business “There is nothing sexy about my success, rather it has occurred as a result of learning how to be consistent and persistent in responsibly following through when I decide to give my word, commit to a project, and finishing what I start.”
Brandy Duchesne-Martin – Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
“Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
Brandy holds a BA in Sociology from the University of Waterloo, Ontario and a Diploma in Radio & Television Broadcasting from Conestoga College, in Kitchener, Ontario. She is in the beginning stages of starting her freelance writing and media services business, ViAble MultiMedia Services.
"I had been thinking about starting my own business for years", she says, "and I had always been keen on the idea of working from home. I began thinking more seriously about starting a small business while being home with my daughter. I have a passion for writing, so I thought, how could I make this lucrative, and possibly, could it evolve into a career? Finding lucrative and progressive employment is challenging, and this challenge can become more involved, and multi-faceted, when you have a disability."
Brandy has a passion for the not-for-profit sector, and community participation. She believes strongly that our community and the individuals within it are made stronger, and a community, more cohesive, when we support one another, as we draw upon our strengths. ViAble MultiMedia Services is fuelled by her passion for helping others – and her desire to assist not-for-profit organizations and other businesses that support and promote awareness of persons with disabilities, youth/students, and her community.
Brandy also has a young daughter, whom she adores. And she says, her daughter is her best teacher. "My daughter has taught me so much about life...how to live it fully and to truly embrace it - and she reminds me daily, that the power of love, faith and the belief in my capabilities, are my life's keys. I have always believed that anything is possible - this is our motto - and that, in challenge, there is always opportunity."
Linda Fitzpatrick – New York, USA
“What can we cause together?”
Linda Fitzpatrick brings to the network a wealth of business experience in corporate brand building as well as entrepreneurial mentorship. In her early career at Kraft Foods, Linda was on the founding team which created the Country Time Lemonade brand, now one of the top selling lemonade products in the US. In later years, her market research consultancy’s recommendations were credited with creating double digit sales breakthroughs for Warner Lambert’s Rolaids brand. In the telecommunications industry, Linda’s business was awarded the AT&T Partner Recognition award, provided to a select few of that worldwide company’s base of vendors.
On the entrepreneurial front, Linda founded a vibrant Women’s Forum which attracts hundreds of self employed women from across the New York Tri State area. The groundbreaking Forum format she created provides a structure for women to empower one another through networking and education in businesses ranging from manufacturing to law to home based enterprises in the service sector.
In 2003 Linda founded The Disability Etiquette Training Company to meet the emerging need for easy-to-digest knowledge and skill with the diverse and growing population of people with disabilities. And in 2010, in a dynamic collaboration with fellow network founding member John Little, CEO of the Successful Resumes international group, Linda has co-founded Successful Resumes America to provide leadership and distinction in the realm of employment services.
In her commitment to the Global Network for Entrepreneurs with Disabilities, Linda is a taking stand for people with disabilities to gain full financial participation in their communities, achieving the dignity of a paycheck whether through self employment or work for others.
John Little – Sydney, Australia
“Wind extinguishes a candle, but fans a fire”
John Little has been a business builder, entrepreneur, mentor, facilitator and motivator for the last 30 years. He is also passionate about ensuring equal access to opportunity for people with a disability so they may share in the financial prosperity of the nations in which we all live.
He is founder and CEO of the worldwide Successful Resumes organization which is now represented and operating in 4 countries, Australia, New Zealand, UK and USA. Prior to this he was Managing Director of a successful advertising agency in Sydney Australia, which he also built from the ground up.
During his working life he has helped and mentored many people seeking new employment and career opportunities, from people with a disability, through graduates, lawyers and other professionals to senior managers of large businesses.
John strongly believes that he is where, and who, he is today because of his disability not in-spite of it and is now aiming to put something back. Following meeting Rob Crawford at the 2009 USBLN Conference and subsequently Linda Fitzpatrick and Simon Cox, they have worked closely on establishing, along with some colleagues in the USA, Canada and Spain, the NFP Global Network for Entrepreneurs with Disabilities. The Network is the first truly global initiative to provide support for people with a disability wishing to commence and be successful in their own business.
John is married to Suzanne Colbert AM, CEO of the Australian Network on Disability (a national employer network). They have a blended family of 4 adult children who live around the globe with careers that include international insurance underwriting, law, national disability support and local government.
Ed Larsen CTS CPC – New Jersey, USA
“Be careful what you ask for, you just might get it!”
Ed is a professional recruiter with over 30 years experience in the staffing industry. He has a great passion for diversity and inclusion, and in founding AbilityMarket he provided the platform to showcase and exercise that passion on a daily basis.
Ed found the greatest frustrations in the staffing world came from presenting a candidate with a disability to a client company and suddenly having the opportunity inexplicably disappear. This experience prompted him to become involved in community and professional organizations involving employment for candidates with disabilities.
As a result he was Chair Person of the Community Options Business Advisory Council and was a Business Advidory Council member at Bridging the Gap at New Jersey Institute of Technology. He was also the New Jersey State Coordinator for Disability Mentoring Day.
Ed has been mentored himself and learned early on from a mentor to focus on abilities.
Ed says “I am looking to change perceptions and not be apologetic about a qualified candidate who may or may not require any reasonable accommodation or adjustments.”
When away from the pressure cooker atmosphere of a competitive industry in an uncertain economy, he likes running in the woods with his dogs, planning elaborate parties and doing all the cooking and gardening with his partner Rick.
Ghulam Nabi Nizamani - Pakistan
“I believe in a bottom to top approach which has been my life….born and based in a remote and rural area in Sanghar Pakistan and now working at an International level!”
The Global Network for Entrepreneurs benefits greatly from the contacts and inspiration of Ghulam Nabi Nizamani, who brings great depth of credentials. Nizamani recently joined Asia Pacific Development Center on Disability (APCD) Empowerment Cafe' (e-cafe') as Chief Barista. He is the coordinator of the All Sanghar Handicaps’ Association (ASHA) and CEO of the Pakistan Disabled People’s Organization. Nizamani also contributes as Secretary of the Disabled People’s International Asia Pacific Region. He is Vice Chair of the CBR Network Asia Pacific as well as Executive Representative of the Commonwealth Disabled People’s Forum (CDPF) for Asia.
In addition, Ghulam Nabi participates on the Asia Pacific Disability Forum (APDF), South Asia Disability Forum (SADF), Asia Pacific Network on Independent Living (APNIL) as well as with the National Coordinator: DET Forum Pakistan.
As a person with a Physical Disability and a Wheelchair user, Ghulam Nabi serves as a model for all people in his work as a Disability Movement Activist, travelling to cities large and small in order to forward the mission of full inclusion for all people. Ghulam Nabi provides trainings, consultancy and facilitation on Disability at an International level. He notes the wise words of Morirrio Mirbaher: “When people without disabilities fail to achieve any task, people with disabilities succeed.”
Trish Robichaud – Ontario, Canada
“Take the first step in faith. You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step." ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
Trish is passionate about empowering and advocating for people with disabilities. Her business, Changing Paces, brings together in one Consultancy her skills as a Disability Awareness Coach, Maximum Life and Healthy Business Coach, Facilitator, Advocate, Author & Motivational Speaker.
Having overcome substantial health and disability hurdles herself she has proven, through her own life experiences, that it is possible to create a whole new pace of life that nurtures optimal health and sustainable career success.
Now through Changing Paces, Trish teaches and supports people facing life, health and career transitions in how to plan their lives and careers to honour and accommodate their health while maximizing their quality of life and taking their career or business to new levels of success.
She also teaches women living with chronic illness or disability how to achieve the same transformation in their health, their lifestyle and their financial potential.
In her own transition, Trish has become a Disability Awareness Coach. This assists her to leverage her health challenges with authenticity and credibility. She advocates for the elimination of barriers to social, health care, educational and economic opportunities; in turn empowering people with disabilities.
Trish leads a well-paced life in "cottage country", Keswick, Ontario, Canada with her best friend and very supportive husband Ernest.
Debra Ruh – Virginia, USA
“Making the World of Technology Accessible”
Debra has a justifiably impressive international reputation for her work in ensuring that emerging technologies are accessible to people with disabilities. She has developed and utilizes in her business TecAccess LLC, a one-of-a-kind telecommuting model that allows the world’s highest skilled technologists, many of whom happen to also have disabilities, to work from their homes, rehab facilities, and hospital rooms.
TecAccess has over 50 associates with disabilities, and is also a leading employer of veterans with disabilities and baby boomers. This award-winning team of technology experts is known worldwide for using their firsthand experience of having a disability to in turn help large corporations around the world better understand this population.
Recently Debra was invited to participate in The Dell Women's Entrepreneur Network, held in the USA Pavilion at Expo 2010 in Shanghai. Dell and Bloomberg gathered female founders, CEOs and innovative leaders who run businesses in the world's top markets and are on the verge of breaking through to the next level. Debra participated in the “Taking Your Own Path though Global Tech Strategies” forum.
Prior to becoming the founder and CEO of TecAccess, Debra was Vice President of Training, Quality Control and Development at the the SunTrust Mortgage. She was also was Vice President and Dean of Distance learning at the Market Street Mortgage Corporation. She was also Founded and was Chief Executive Officer of Strategic performance Solutions LLC.