Commission on Disabilities

Commission on Disabilities

Commission on Disabilities Members

Message from the Chairperson

It is my privilege to have been placed on the Commission on Disabilities and then chosen by my peers to act as Chairperson this year. I have many mentors on the Commission and I am sure with their guidance and direction we can continue to help those in the community we serve. Working with the City and the many dedicated people, programs and agencies we seek to promote awareness, acceptance and inclusion of people with disabilities and their families within the Community of the City of Riverside.

The City of Riverside and its leadership have shown a true commitment to the Disabled Community by forming this commission to help the City Council address the following concerns and issues:

  • Inclusion – Actively promote the total integration and participation of persons with disabilities into all areas of economic, political and community life. This is a core goal of the Commission on Disabilities.
  • Advisory – To aid the City in its stated goal of utilizing all available resources and coordinating efforts towards removing barriers to full integration and participation of persons with disabilities.

To work with the City to identify and eliminate conditions, policies, or practices that may operate to discriminate against, exclude, or hinder the full integration and participation of persons with disabilities.

To work with the City to create an environment to establish policies and practices, and develop or adapt programs which will facilitate the full integration and participation of persons with disabilities into all areas of economic, political, and community life.

To render advice, monitor, and evaluate all city policies, practices, and procedures which immediately or remotely impact upon persons with disabilities.

  • Advocacy - To serve as a advocating/ coordinating body for the purpose of receiving input from citizens on the needs and concerns of the disabled community, to formulate and recommend solutions to these identified needs and concerns, and to convey such recommendations to appropriate citizens, businesses and governmental bodies.
  • Assistance - To assist the city in its efforts to comply with codes, ordinances, and statutes that affect disabled persons in the City of Riverside.

As a commission we meet regularly and encourage comments, feedback and new ideas from the public.

Keith Nelson
Chair (Ward 4)

Chair Keith Nelson’s (Ward 4) mission is to bring his technology knowledge and passion for sports to the Commission on Disabilities and increase community awareness and programs.

Keith Nelson and his family have lived in Riverside since 1985. He has a Doctrine in Computer Science and completed his American Electronics Association (AeA) [now The Stanford Executive Institute) at Stanford University. His children all attend or have attended Riverside Unified School District Schools and he became involved with local Special Education Programs. Keith was President of the Riverside Poly High School Special Education Boosters while his eldest son attended high school. Keith’s passion is athletic and social programs for those with special needs, and has coached for many years with Arlington Little League – Challenger Baseball. With his wife, he later started Junior All American (AYSO) VIP Soccer and later began coaching with Special Olympics. Keith’s community involvement has focused on youth and young adult activities with a slant towards athletics. Keith also serves on the Board of Directors for Ability Counts, Inc., a community non-profit, public benefit corporation that provides employment and employment training for individuals with developmental disabilities. ^ Top of the Page

Lesley Robinson (Ward 7) and her husband Dwain have lived in Riverside for 16 years. Lesley has a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from California State University, Dominguez Hills. After more than 20 years of employment with the California State University system, Lesley retired from the Chancellors Office as Assistant Director of Student Services for the Long Beach headquarters. She served as the CSU Student Liaison, advising the Chancellor concerning various aspects of the student population, including the disabled student population.

As part of the Commission on Disabilities, Lesley’s goal is to foster mutual understanding and cooperation for all citizens, both disabled and able-bodied. It is her continuing goal to promote greater awareness about the constantly changing life patterns, opportunities, and responsibilities of the City of Riverside’s disabled community.

Lesley is currently a volunteer both for Chapman Convalescent Home and Chapman Hospice located in the City of Riverside and she currently serves as president of the California Disability Rights Association, Riverside, Chapter 34. ^ Top of the Page

Donald Hawecker (Ward 3) has lived in Riverside since 1967 and is an advocate for those with disabilities. Donald is a volunteer with the PossAbilities program and the Drayson Center, a fitness facility on the Loma Linda University campus. As a person with disabilities, Donald brings a unique perspective on the needs of the disabled community.

After becoming suddenly disabled in a vehicle accident, Donald decided that he would remain positive and not be left behind in life. He sought and received specialized help from the PossAbilities program where doors to accomplishment were opened when he attained a wonderful level of physical fitness at the Drayson Center with one arm, one prosthetic leg and the other leg in a brace. Doctors and nurses have called on Donald to counsel others who have suffered severe accidents and are facing amputation and other physical limitations.

Donald refuses to dwell on things he can no longer do. Instead he turns his focus on the possibilities and opportunities before him. Through the Commission on Disabilities, Donald would like to help disabled residents be as independent as possible and look forward to what is ahead.
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Former Chair Debbie Keller (Ward 4) has been an advocate for seniors in this community for over 30 years.

Debbie is currently the Executive Director for the Riverside Meals on Wheels and an advocate for disabled rights. Her goal is to better serve the disabled community by sharing her knowledge and expertise to help people with disabilities reach their potential. She is intrinsically motivated to improve services for the disabled and elderly in Riverside.

Debbie has been involved with numerous agencies, school districts, and programs throughout her life and remains committed to improving services for senior and disabled residents. ^ Top of the Page

Sharon Nakama (Ward 4) is a high school teacher serving students with special needs in the Riverside Unified School District (RUSD) and is founder and co-chairperson of the Very Special Art Fair and A Very Special Night, both district wide events in the RUSD.

Sharon was the Ramona High School Teacher of the Year in 2009-10 and the RUSD High School Teacher of the Year 2009-10. Also in 2010, she was awarded the Arc of Riverside County Professional of the Year Award. Currently, she serves on the City of Riverside’s Commission on Disabilities and is on the Board of Directors for the Arc of Riverside County. She has worked with students with a variety of physical and intellectual disabilities from kindergarten to adult ages, and served as a teacher, special education program specialist and as an assistant principal in the Watts area of Los Angeles for nine years. She teaches night classes at Brandman University in their Graduate School of Education and studied American Sign Language at El Camino College. ^ Top of the Page

Ty Lawyer retired as a Fire Department Battalion Chief after 22 years. Even though he was not disabled at that time, Ty was instrumental in writing the ADA policies for the Lawrence Township (New Jersey) Fire Department, was a volunteer Marion County Indianapolis Sheriff’s Deputy for over 20 years, served in the Marines, served a paramedic and a sheriff’s deputy.

He and his wife Linda (who is a native of Riverside) moved to Riverside in 2005 and have been active in the community ever since. Ty has not let being in a wheelchair stop him from active community involvement and encouraging others. He is also an avid volunteer with Keep Riverside Clean.

Ty is a member of the Riverside Parkinsons Support Group. He participated in the community group that planned the Universal Playground at Fairmount Park, he volunteers annually at the Festival of Lights, and is involved in many Chamber of Commerce and community activities. Making Riverside a livable and accessible community for those with disabilities is important to Ty.

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Quick Links
General Information
3900 Main St.
Riverside, CA 92522

Phone: (951) 826-5427

Monique Gordon
Administrative Analyst/ADA Coordinator

Mission Statement
The mission of the Commission on Disabilities is to promote greater awareness of, respect for, and the total participation of individuals with disabilities into all aspects of life.
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