GDRL Recognition Page

The Global Disability Rights Library (GDRL) project was inspired by the growing international disability rights movement and the new international treaty, the United Nation's Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). The growing sector of disabled people’s organizations (DPOs) operating at local and national levels around the world is leading the implementation of the CRPD and empowering diverse disability communities with information and resources. The GDRL seeks to build a bridge between global information sources and millions of people with disabilities, advocates, and policymakers around the world by making it easier for them to access hundreds of thousands of educational and organizational resources on disability rights, whether or not they have access to the Internet.

The GDRL is a joint initiative of the United States International Council on Disabilities (USICD) and the University of Iowa’s WiderNet Project with funding support from the United States Agency for International development (USAID).

Many staff, students, and volunteers have worked to bring you the library you see today. Hundreds of organizations have contributed their websites and other digital content to the GDRL, and we are incredibly indebted to them. The copyrights to the resources belong to their original authors, to whom we are very grateful.


 Content Developers:

Sherry Lochhaas
Digital Librarian, WiderNet

Sherry is a Digital Librarian for WiderNet. She graduated from Truman State University with a B.A. in Philosophy & Religion in 2009, and in 2011, she received her Master’s degree in Library and Information Science from the University of Iowa. She recommends browsing the National Center on Physical Activity and Disability.

Katherine Wilson
Digital Librarian, WiderNet

Katherine is a Digital Librarian at the WiderNet Project. She graduated from the University of Northern Iowa with a B.A. in Art Education with an emphasis in Art History. Katherine is currently working toward her Master's degree in Library and Information Science from the University of Iowa. She recommends you check out this course on wheelchair design in developing countries.

Brennan Prisk
Digital Librarian, WiderNet

Brennan is a Digital Librarian at the WiderNet Project. He began as a volunteer through AmeriCorps working on the Global Disability Rights Library in October 2010. He studied history at the University of Iowa and is now working on his Master's degree in Library and Information Science at Indiana University. Brennan recommends that you check out this site on inclusive development.

Samantha Bouwers
Digital Librarian, WiderNet

Samantha is a digital librarian at WiderNet working on the GDRL. She graduated with a B.A. from the University of Iowa in journalism and religious studies. Now she is working towards her Master's in Library and Information Science. Sam assisted in developing the content for the Capacity Building for NGOs Library that is part of the GDRL Project and suggests you browse this page to help you manage your nonprofit or NGO.

Ellis Ballard
Research and Programs Associate, USICD

Ellis focuses on operations and managing volunteer and intern support of the Global Disability Rights Library project. His favorite resource in the Global Disability Rights Library is Campaigning with Grassroots Comics by World Comics India. The project provides templates, workshops, and examples of activist campaigns, including disability rights advocates among others, based on homemade comic strips.   

Esmé Grant
Education & Advocacy Initiative, USICD

Esmé is an attorney who has focused her work on disability rights law. She is currently working on CRPD ratification efforts as the Disability Rights Educator for USICD’s Education & Advocacy Initiative.  Although she finds the technical materials on the CRPD to be useful in her work, Esmé recommends you see this great resource to help children with disabilities understand the rights given to them by the CRPD.

Mary Dakim
Graduate Student Intern, USICD

Mary worked with the GDRL team in the fall of 2010 as a graduate student intern from the International Development program at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. Mary is originally from Jos, Plateau State, Nigeria. She recommends this case study on improving inclusive education in Zambia.

Kayleigh Marshall
Graduate Student Intern, USICD


Kayleigh was an intern from American University, where she studied Law and Society. She recently graduated with a B.A. in Arts and Science. She assisted in developing the Capacity Building for NGOs portal and recommends you see this great resource to understand the basics of capacity building.

Sherzodbek Sharipov
Research and Programs Fellow, USICD


Sherzodbek is currently coordinating and working on the Russian Portal of the GDRL as well as assisting in development of the Human Rights Portal. Sherzodbek recommends you check out the Human Rights Watch page for resources on both basic human rights and disability rights.

Linda Vakunta

Graduate Student Intern, USICD

Linda Vakunta is a graduate student intern from Cameroon studying rehabilitation psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She encourages you to explore the Handicap International sites because of their international experience and desire to have resources available for everyone.


Kristen Tammen
Digital Librarian

Kristen has her B.A. in Eastern Religions and Anthropology from the University of Iowa. She has previously worked as a librarian at Bradley University and is a Digital Librarian at the WiderNet Project.

 Technical Support Team:

Brent Palmer
Information Architect, WiderNet

Brent Palmer got his Bachelor's degree in Biology from Kalamazoo College. During his time at Kalamazoo, he also spent nine months in Dakar, Senegal, on foreign study. After college, he had several adventures including teaching English in Japan and hiking the entire Appalachian Trail. Since then, he has obtained a Master's degree in Library and Information Science from the University of Illinois. He primarily works on the eGranary project helping to design and build the next version of the digital library.

Casse Jensen
Project Assistant, WiderNet

Casse began at the WiderNet Project as a Clerk. She graduated from the University of Iowa in August 2008 with a B.A. in Religious Studies. Since then, she has held various titles at the WiderNet Project, the last being Administrative Services Coordinator.

Preethi Ambati
Programmer, WiderNet

Preethi volunteered for six months before being hired as a programmer. She is also a student in Computer Science at the University of Iowa. In her spare time, she is also a painter.

Jay Clelland
Programmer, WiderNet

Jay studied Mathematics and Computer Science at the University of Iowa and currently works on developing software and integrating third-party content for the eGranary Digital Library.

Matt Neely
Computer Technician, WiderNet

Matt has been working in the computer field since 1982 when he started teaching classes at a community college. He has since made his way to the University of Iowa where he is a technician for the WiderNet Project and working towards his degree in geography.

 Administrative Team:

Cliff Missen
Director, WiderNet Project

Cliff is the director of the WiderNet Project and an instructor in the School of Library and Information Science at the University of Iowa.

He oversees the WiderNet Project’s efforts to improve digital communication in developing countries as well as the development of the eGranary Digital Library, an innovative way to deliver the world’s knowledge to people and institutions with inadequate Internet access. The eGranary Digital Library is installed in more than 360 schools, hospitals, clinics, and universities in Africa, India, Bangladesh, and Haiti.

Missen’s first visit to Africa was with a medical team in 1982 and he continues to teach and promote appropriate water well drilling technology through the U.S. non-profit organization Wellspring Africa.

David Morrissey
Director, USICD

David is the executive director of the United States International Council on Disabilities (USICD). A leader in the nonprofit sector for over a decade, Morrissey has advanced missions of HIV/AIDS care and prevention, disability and independent living, and community volunteerism. He has presented internationally on developing disabled people’s organizations and the transition to adulthood for youth with disabilities, with particular focus on Vietnam and its disability community.

Andrea Shettle
Program Manager, USICD, Global Disability Rights Library Program

Andrea is responsible for the day-to-day activities of the GDRL project including librarianship and also building relationships between the GDRL team and disability, human rights, anti-poverty, and humanitarian organizations around the world. She likes the set of toolkits that Disabled Peoples’ International (DPI) has developed in English, Spanish, and French for Disabled People’s Organizations (DPOs) that are working to ratify or implement the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in their country.

Tom Cook
Executive Committee Member, WiderNet Project
Professor of Occupational & Environmental Health, University of Iowa

Thomas Cook is a professor at the University of Iowa in preventive medicine and environmental health and physical therapy as well as Director of the Center for International Rural and Environmental Health (CIREH). He has advanced degrees in physical therapy, biomedical engineering, and industrial engineering. He also directs the biomechanics and ergonomics facility at the UI's Oakdale Research Campus. His research interests include ergonomics, international health and uses of information/communications technology.

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Tomeka Petersen
Partnerships Coordinator, WiderNet Project

Tomeka is working on Partnerships at the WiderNet Project. She has a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Massachusetts, Boston, and an M.S.W. from Simmons College. She has over ten years of experience working in the U.S. and abroad empowering the lives of less privileged children and families. She served in the Peace Corps in Kenya from 2001 to 2003 and served as a volunteer Life Skills facilitator with Global Camps, South Africa, in 2004. Tomeka lived and worked in Eldoret, Kenya, from 2005 to 2008 assisting in the design and implementation of a food security and OVC program within the Academic Model Providing Access to Healthcare (AMPATH), a comprehensive HIV/AIDS care system offering care to tens of thousands of HIV-infected people living in western Kenya.

Karen Chappell

Karen Chappell
Project Administrator, WiderNet Project

Karen Chappell has a B.A. in International Relations from the University of Southern California, an M.A. in Foreign Affairs/Overseas Operations from the East-West Center in Hawaii and has studied at both Cambridge University in England and Keio University in Tokyo, Japan. She has experience as a university administrator and as an arts administrator, having worked as a Program Consultant at the University of Minnesota, an Assistant Dean of Women at USC, Associate Director of the Center for International and Comparative Studies at the University of Iowa, and as head of several arts organizations across the country. She and her husband were most recently in New York City where she was a Development Director and a Development Consultant for several arts organizations. She is also a potter.