Our Mission

Tangata Group is a human and disability rights-based organization that facilitates collaboration among domestic and international communities in developing local projects that support access to advocacy, education, law reform, and sustainable development to assure the rights of people with disabilities to live self-directed lives with dignity.

Our Values

Tangata Group:

  • Recognizes and respects the cultural, social, political, racial, historical, and economic contexts and rights of local communities around the world;

  • Values the essence of humanity, with empathy for all;

  • Encourages full and equitable participation in all human activities (facets) of life;

  • Holds paramount equitable treatment and local ways of knowing and understanding human beings;

  • Fights for the elimination of all forms of discrimination (e.g., systemic, individual, physical, attitudinal, legal, educational); and

  • Is committed to implementing decolonizing and indigenous methodologies.

Our Vision

Tangata Group envisions a world where people with disabilities have access to live self-directed and dignified lives that are free of oppression, exploitation, and discrimination.

Dr. Brent Elder

Brent C. Elder, Ph.D.

Brent C. Elder is an assistant professor in the Interdisciplinary and Inclusive Education Department at Rowan University. He was a special education teacher at a public elementary school in California from 2004 to 2012. While there, he created a successful inclusive education program. He also taught courses from 2010 to 2012 in the Teacher Education Program at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and from 2012-2016 in the School of Education at Syracuse University. He has collaborated with the US Embassy in Manama, Bahrain, and the Ministry of Education in Kenya as an education consultant. He is engaged in ongoing critical disability studies research focused on the intersections of disability, poverty, and education in post-colonial Kenya. During the 2015-16 academic year, he conducted his doctoral research in Kenya as a Fulbright scholar.

See Dr. Elder's CV and a full list publications read: Dr. Elder's Publications


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Michael A. Schwartz, Ph.D., J.D.

Michael A. Schwartz, Ph.D., J.D.

Michael Schwartz, a deaf lawyer, is an associate professor of law and has been the director of the Disability Rights Clinic in the Office of Clinical Legal Education at the Syracuse University College of Law since August 2004. Schwartz received his Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Brandeis University and a Master of Arts degree in Theater Arts from Northwestern University. He then joined the National Theater of the Deaf and toured the United States as D’Artagnan in Dumas’s The Three Musketeers.

Michael Schwartz obtained his J.D. from the New York University School of Law and joined the New York State Bar. His first legal position was a judicial clerkship in the chambers of Federal District Judge Vincent L. Broderick of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. After his clerkship, Schwartz joined the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office as an Assistant District Attorney in the Office’s Appeals Bureau and served seven and one-half years. He then became a Trial Attorney in the Employment Litigation Section of the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. Then, he relocated and practiced law for three years in New York City and was admitted to the Bars of the States of New Jersey and Connecticut.

Schwartz then joined the Civil Rights Bureau of the New York State Department of Law as an Assistant Attorney General and successfully litigated the Office’s first Americans with Disabilities Act case, which established the right of a State Attorney General to bring an action under the ADA on behalf of the state’s residents with disabilities. After leaving the Department of Law, Schwartz obtained his LL.M degree from Columbia University School of Law, and served on the faculty at the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, NY for four years. In 2004, Schwartz joined the law faculty at Syracuse University and in 2006 he received his Ph.D. in Education with a concentration in Disability Studies from Syracuse University.

Schwartz received a Fulbright research award to study at Queen’s University Belfast in Northern Ireland in 2016. The focus of his study was the experiences of deaf patients in the health care field, with a particular focus on mental health services. The Disability Discrimination Act and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities provided the legal framework for analysis.

Michael Schwartz is a licensed pilot and certified scuba diver. He loves to read, swim, travel and play chess. He’s married to Patricia Moloney, and they have a daughter, Brianna.

To see Dr. Schwartz's CV and a full list publications read: Dr. Schwartz's Publications


Janet E Lord

Janet E. Lord

Janet E. Lord is an international human rights lawyer who specializes in the rights of persons with disabilities. A senior fellow at the Harvard Law School and an independent disability inclusive development consultant, she brings more than 15 years of practice in designing, implementing, monitoring and evaluating disability rights and inclusive development programming. She served as legal counsel to Disabled Peoples International and several lead governments throughout the drafting of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Most recently, she served as Team Leader under the Services to Improve Performance Management Enhance Learning and Evaluation (SIMPLE) mechanism for USAID/Egypt, resulting in the first ever assessment on the Accessibility of Students with Disabilities to Egyptian Public Higher Education. An affiliated adjunct professor of law at the American University, Washington College of Law and the University of Maryland Carey School of Law, she has more than 15 years of experience teaching and training on international and comparative disability rights law, international human rights law, health and human rights, humanitarian law and criminal law standards relating to trafficking in persons. She holds an LLM in international and comparative law with highest honors from the George Washington University Law School and an LLB and LLM from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. She sits on the Board of Directors for Amnesty International USA.

To See Janet's CV and a full list publications read: Janet E. Lord's CV


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Judith Heumann

Judith (Judy) Heumann is a lifelong advocate for the rights of disabled people. She contracted polio in 1949 in Brooklyn, New York and was denied the right to attend school because she was a "fire hazard" at the age of five. Her parents played a strong role in fighting for her rights as a child, but Judy soon determined that she, working in collaboration with other disabled people, had to play an advocacy role due to the continuous discrimination. 

She is now an internationally recognized leader in the disability rights community. Her memoir, “Being Heumann: An Unrepentant Memoir of a Disability Rights Activist,” is coming out through Penguin Random House in February of 2020. She has been featured in numerous documentaries on the history of the disability rights movement and she delivered a TED talk in the spring of 2018. Her story was also told on Comedy Central’s Drunk History in early 2018, in which she was portrayed by Ali Stroker, the first disabled woman to play on Broadway. As a former Senior Fellow at the Ford Foundation, she worked to help advance the inclusion of disability in the Foundation’s work and led a project to advance the inclusion of disabled people in the media. She also currently serves on several non-profit boards and is an Ambassador for Leonard Cheshire based in London. 

Judy was a founding member of the Berkeley Center for Independent Living and then served on its Board of Directors from 1973-1993. CIL Berkeley was the first of its kind in the United States and helped to launch the Independent Living Movement both nationally and globally.

In 1982, Judy co-founded the World Institute on Disability with Ed Roberts and Joan Leon, a nonprofit that works to fully integrate people with disabilities into the communities around them via research, policy, and consulting efforts. 

From 1993 to 2001, Judy served in the Clinton Administration as the Assistant Secretary for the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services in the Department of Education. 

Judy then served as the World Bank's first Adviser on Disability and Development from 2002 to 2006. In this position, she led the World Bank's disability work to expand its knowledge and capability to work with governments and civil society on including disability in the global conversation.

During his presidency, President Obama appointed Judy as the first Special Advisor for International Disability Rights at the U.S. Department of State, where she served from 2010-2017.  Mayor Fenty of D.C. appointed her as the first Director for the Department on Disability Services, where she was responsible for the Developmental Disability Administration and the Rehabilitation Services Administration. 

She was also responsible for the implementation of legislation at the national level for programs in special education, disability research, vocational rehabilitation and independent living, serving more than 8 million youth and adults with disabilities.

Throughout her life, Judy has traveled on her motorized wheelchair to countries on every continent, in urban and rural communities alike. She has played a role in the development and implementation of major legislation including the IDEA, Section 504, the Americans with Disability Act and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Judy graduated from Long Island University in Brooklyn, NY in 1969 and received her Master’s in Public Health from the University of California at Berkeley in 1975. She has received numerous awards including being the first recipient of the Henry B. Betts Award in recognition of efforts to significantly improve the quality of life for people with disabilities and the Max Starkloff Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Council on Independent Living. She has been awarded six honorary doctorates: an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Long Island University (1994), an Honorary Doctorate of Public Service from The University of Toledo, Ohio (2004), an Honorary Doctorate of Public Administration from The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (2001), an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Brooklyn College (2018), an Honorary Doctorate of Education from Middlebury College (2019), and an Honorary Doctorate of Humanities from Rowan University (2019).