State Rehabilitation Council Members
Kate Brady, Ph.D. ABD - Chair
Kate Brady has worked in the field of disability policy, services, and systems advocacy for nearly two decades. Kate is Deputy Director for the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities with extensive experience in vocational rehabilitation, Medicaid, Social Security, systems change, and workforce development. She lives in Hapeville with her wife Michelle, two children, and three huskies.
Deborah Hibben is a retired educator who previously worked for Henry and Clayton county schools, and her highest degree is that of Education Specialist from Lincoln Memorial University. Deborah serves on the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities. Hibben lives in McDonough, Georgia, and she has two children, Hillary Anne and Hannah Elizabeth.
Christina Peggy Venable has over 40 years of experience with vocational rehabilitation services, case management, job placement and vocational evaluation, among other areas of expertise. She is certified in work adjustment, vocational evaluation, job placement and worker’s compensation.
Peggy is the project director of The Muskogee Vocational Rehabilitation Program and has served as a family, individual and mental health counselor with various other agencies. She is a member of the Georgia and National Rehabilitation Association, Georgia State Rehab Council and the Georgia Statewide Coalition on Blindness. She also serves as treasurer on the Executive Board of the Consortia of Administrators for Native American Rehabilitation (CANAR). She holds a Master’s in Psychology, a Doctorate in Theology, a Ph.D. in Philosophy and received her Doctorate of Divinity, Summa Cum Laude.
She is a member of The Lower Muskogee Creek Tribe and the Project Director for the Muskogee Vocational Rehabilitation Program. She is a singer, songwriter, author and serves as the tribal historian of The Lower Muskogee Creek Tribe in Whigham, Georgia.
Austin McDonald is a physical education teacher with Cornerstone Christian Academy in Peachtree Corners, Georgia. He has seven years of experience in both private and public schools, and he has used his time as a physical education teacher to help students overcome their unique barriers and provide encouragement. He lives in Dunwoody, Georgia with his wife, Christine, and their child, Ryelee.
Cherise Mlott is Director of Corporate Real Estate Portfolio Management and Transactions at AT&T. Mlott has worked for AT&T for twenty-three years. Mlott earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Georgia and an MBA from Georgia State University. Cherise is a strong advocate for the Multiple Sclerosis Society and has cycled for the last 19 years raising over $310,000 to fund a cure for MS. She is a native of Atlanta and lives in Brookhaven, Georgia with her husband Brent and Katie, their Irish Setter.
Jennifer M. Page is the Director of the Georgia Client Assistance Program and has worked for this agency for the past 13 years. She has worked with the disability community for 18 years. Jennifer is a member of the Georgia Rehabilitation Association, the Georgia Rehabilitation Counselors and Educators Association and attends workshops and trainings to improve her knowledge and skills to better assist her clients. CAP is involved in community outreach to inform and educate those who are not aware of the services GVRA and CAP can provide. She has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from South Carolina State University and a master’s degree in Counseling from Webster University and resides in Atlanta.
Lisa Leiter is a Transition Resource Specialist for the Cobb County School District. Lisa earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Education, with a concentration in Intellectual Disabilities from the University of Georgia and a Master of Science in Education Degree with an emphasis in Secondary Special Education and Transition from the University of Kansas. Lisa is an active member of the Metro Atlanta Transition Council and the Statewide Interagency Council. Lisa and her husband, Jason, have four children and live in Marietta. She and her family served as the ambassador family for the 2013 March of Dimes Cobb Signature Chefs, she was named 2014 “Volunteer of the Year” by Cobb Life Magazine, and she was awarded the 2018 “Teacher of the Year” award from the Marriott Foundation’s Bridges from School to Work Program.
Brenda Bentley-Parrish is a management and program analyst and the local accessibility coordinator for the Internal Revenue Service. She enjoys having oversight of the employees with disabilities in the Accounts Management business unit. Brenda earned a bachelor’s degree in Biology from Knoxville College, in Knoxville, Tennessee. She has two children: a son Theodore and a daughter Brionne. Last year, she was blessed with granddaughter Dallas Kynnedi Simone Smith. She lives in DeKalb County, Georgia.
Dawn Johnson is the Director of Employment Services with the Hi-Hope Center and the former director of adult programs for the Frazer Center. She represents Georgia as a legislative liaison on the National Association of People Supporting Employment (APSE) First Public Policy Committee and sits on the board of directors for the Georgia chapter of APSE. Dawn also sits on the board of directors for the Service Providers Association for Developmental Disabilities and is a member of the UNLOCK! Coalition, which advocates for child and adult disability services in Georgia. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Biology from the University of South Carolina Aiken and a master’s degree in English from Queens University of Charlotte. Dawn and her husband, Joe, have two children and reside in Winder.
Wina H. Low
Wina Low is a program manager senior of the Division for Special Education Services and Supports with the Georgia Department of Education. She was previously the director of student services for Carrollton City Schools and worked as an educational diagnostician and a classroom teacher. Wina earned a bachelor’s degree in Middle Grades Education from Brenau University, as well as a master’s degree and an education specialist degree in Special Education and Special Education Administration from the University of West Georgia. She and her husband, Michael, have two children and two granddaughters. They reside in Big Canoe in the North Georgia Mountains.
Karen Addams is a Vice President at Parent to Parent of Georgia, where she has worked for over 13 years. She had previously worked for 6 years for Georgia State University as a Parent Educator for the Babies Can’t Wait program. Karen has a bachelor’s degree from Virginia Commonwealth University and has been supporting the disability community since the birth of her daughter over 30 years ago. She and her husband, Peter, live in Lilburn and are the parents of two daughters.
Col. Dr. Samuel Verniero, Jr.
A resident of Woodstock, Georgia, Samuel Verniero, Jr. has previously served as a Kentucky Colonel, Arkansas Traveler and Ambassador, United Nations World Humanity Commission Deputy High Commissioner-Ambassador, member of the DeKalb County Community Service Board, member of the Selective Service System Appellate Judicial Board, and member of the Department of Behavioral Health Advisory Council.
Juliet Hardemon is a mentor in the Georgia Parent Mentor Partnership, where she supports families of students with disabilities in Savannah-Chatham County Public Schools. Hardeman has also taught high school students with disabilities and holds a Master of Education from Georgia Southern University. Additionally, Hardeman has served in the Army Medical Service Corps for over 21 years, and she has been deployed globally in support of combat and humanitarian missions. She and her husband, Frank have been married for over 32 years and have raised 2 daughters on Wilmington Island, Georgia.
Jerry Haywood is the Program Coordinator and an Associate Professor of Psychology at Fort Valley State University. Before accepting a full-time faculty appointment, he worked as Director of Academic Counseling & Disability Services for nearly 10 years where he served as an advocate and liaison for students with disabilities within the University community. Haywood’s research and program development strategies on African American Males in Higher Education have been well recognized by colleagues and scholars across the nation. He attributes much of his success and his passion to his experiences growing up in a small town in rural Georgia. Haywood received a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a Master of Science in Rehabilitation Counseling, both from Fort Valley State University. In 2012, he received a Ph.D. in Psychology from Capella University. In addition to his experience in higher education, he has over 15 years of experience and training in both group and individual counseling.
Katie Hearn works for the Atlanta Braves as Senior Coordinator, Digital & Accessible Services, and is their Club ADA Coordinator. At the age of 28, Hearn was diagnosed with pseudotumor cerebri, a rare disorder related to high pressure around the brain due to an excess of spinal fluid, resulting in the loss of her eyesight. In 2018, the Braves awarded Hearn with the Walker Banks Award for her extraordinary customer service. Hearn is passionate about providing opportunities to Georgians with disabilities to live, work, and thrive in our state. She resides in Smyrna.
Joy Norman served for 18 years as the Director of the Center for Accommodation and Access at Columbus State University. Recently retired, she continues to work as a part-time instructor at Columbus State University and gives self-advocacy presentations for Georgia high school students with disabilities for High School High Tech. Norman recently resigned from the Columbus Mayor’s Commission for Persons with Disabilities after serving 6 years as chair. Columbus Mayor Skip Henderson proclaimed September 1, 2021, as Joy Norman Day in Columbus. Norman is married to Mickey Norman. They have a son and daughter and 6 granddaughters. She holds a bachelor’s degree in health science and a master’s in community counseling.
Aarti Sahgal is the founder of Synergies Work, a 501c3 that is committed to expanding business opportunities for people with disabilities. By providing mentorship, training, and ongoing support through their network of industry experts and volunteers, the organization helps individuals find that special spark and turn it into a business. As a parent of a child with Down Syndrome, Sahgal has always been an advocate for her son and resisted services for her son that might isolate or disempower him. Prior to founding Synergies Work, Sahgal worked as a consultant to the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities, building inclusive communities and workforce strategies for individuals with different abilities and for three years with Parent to Parent of Georgia as a diversity coordinator. She currently serves as a secretary on the board of Georgia APSE. Sahgal holds a degree in business administration and has worked in the for-profit world for 14 years.