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.
Chair (Ward 4)
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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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
Former Vice-Chair Gigi Welch (Ward 6) and her family have resided in Riverside since 1985. Two of her three adult children have disabilities. In raising her children, she experienced many obstacles that could easily have been improved with the correct assistance and direction. Gigi would like to help create a more integrated community for disabled citizens.
Gigi has volunteered at Community Access Center and has been asked to speak with families of disabled children. She also volunteers to help doctors at Children’s Hospital by speaking with families with disabled children and has helped organize and execute a seminar on Disability Rights and Opportunities. She was drawn to the Commission on Disabilities because of her experience raising disabled children in Riverside. Her goal is to help make Riverside totally accessible for everyone. ^ Top of the Page
Former Chair Paul Van Doren (Ward 1) and his family have lived in Riverside since 2004. He graduated from Cal State Fullerton with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Accounting; he has a certificate in Applied Assistive Technology from Cal State Northridge and has Braille Institute Certification. Paul is actively involved in various activities that serve to make Riverside a better place for all people.
Paul currently serves as Executive Director for the Community Access Center, which provides Independent Living Services to people with disabilities regardless of age or disability. He has received extensive training and gained vast experience in the area of disability issues which include civil rights, accessible/ affordable housing, assistive technology, public access, transportation, disability benefits, and employment. There are 29 Independent Living Centers in the state of California and they have a very strong network that channels information to Sacramento and receives legislative updates relating to people with disabilities.
Paul is also a member of the National Council on Independent Living and the California Foundation for Independent Living Centers. He is the Chairperson of the City Advisory Committee on Disability Issues and a past member of the City Community Development Advisory Committee, Riverside Chapter of the California Council of the Blind, and Californians for Disabled Rights. He also participates on the Riverside County ADA taskforce which works on employment issues for people with disabilities and was appointed by the Riverside County Board of Supervisors to the County’s General Plan Advisory Committee. ^ Top of the Page
Virginia Werly (Ward 1), her husband, and their three sons have resided in the Wood Streets of Riverside since March of 1993. She is a graduate of St. Petersburg College with a degree in Business Administration. Virginia and her family are actively involved in programs that feed and serve the homeless population of Riverside.
Virginia currently serves as Contract Operations Manager for the Riverside Transit Agency (RTA). One of her responsibilities for RTA is to oversee the Agency’s Dial-A-Ride service for senior and disabled residents in Western Riverside County. Virginia’s responsibility as RTA's Contract Operations Manager requires her to be extremely involved with the Disabled community. She serves on the Commission on Disabilities because she recognizes that, in many cases, providing residents with disabilities a means of transport is their only way to maintain their independence - providing that vital link means that RTA service helps change lives, and there is no better reason than that to serve. ^ Top of the Page
Jack Brewer (Ward 5) is a 41 year resident of Riverside and retired after 32 years with the California Alcoholic Beverage Commission (ABC). He is a past-President of the Riverside County Law Enforcement Administrators’ Association, and is a life member of the California Peace Officers’ Association. Mr. Brewer was elected as the first vice-chairman and the second chairman of the Community Police Review and served 8 years on that commission. Prior to ABC, he served with several police departments and has been involved in law enforcement since 1955. ^ 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
3900 Main St.
Riverside, CA 92522
Phone: (951) 826-5427
Administrative Analyst/ADA Coordinator
- Animal Welfare Information Center
- Americans With Disabilities (ADA)
- Disability and Business Technical Assistance Centers
- Federal Government Disability Website
- Federal Transit Administration
- HUD Disability Rights and Resources
- National Council on Disability
- National Organization on Disability
- Parking Programs:
- Service Animals in Places of Business
- U.S. Department of Labor, Disability Employment Policy
- U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission