Who We Are

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DRPI was founded in collaboration among an international Advisory Committe and Co-Directors Bengt Lindqvist and Marcia Rioux. The project staff include Paula Hearn, the DRPI Project Coordinator, Paula Pinto, Research Associate, and Natasha Altin and Rachael Dempsey, who work with DRPI as Research Assistants. The work is also supported by a number of graduate students. The following is a list of some of the main groups of people detailed on this page that are working with DRPI:


DRPI is directed by Bengt Lindqvist and Marcia Rioux.

Bengt Lindqvist

Photo of DRPI co-director Bengt Lindqvist wearing a beige suit

Bengt Lindqvist was the UN Special Rapporteur on Disability from 1994 until January 2003, and was also a Member of Parliament in Sweden, serving as Minister for Social Services and Family Affairs. He has received honorary doctorates in social science (Stockholm University, 1999) and community medicine (Lund University, 2002). By profession, Bengt Lindqvist is a language teacher. He has extensive experience in the movement of people with disabilities, both in Sweden and internationally.

A profile of Bengt Lindqvist was published as a chapter of the book Tänk själv (Think for Yourself). The chapter titled Vulnerable groups lose most when the power of the state diminishes is available online in English (translated from Swedish).

Marcia Rioux

Co-director Marcia Rioux smiling

Marcia Rioux is a Distinguished Professor in the School of Health Policy and Management; in the MA and PhD (Critical Disability Studies) and in the M.A./PhD in Health Policy and Equity at York University, Toronto, Canada. She is the past Director of the York Institute of Health Research (YIHR).   She works with many disability organizations and has published and consulted widely on disability and human rights and disability policy issues, both nationally and internationally. Marcia has lectured throughout the Americas, Europe, Africa and Asia. She advises federal and provincial commissions, parliamentary committees, and international NGO‘s as well as United Nations agencies. She recently published with Brill Press, Critical Perspectives on Human Rights and Disability Law, (Eds. M. H. Rioux, L. Basser, M. Jones). She is the co-editor of a forthcoming edited collection of essays on participatory monitoring, Building Power out of Evidence.  She was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 2014.

International Co-ordinating Centre Staff

Paula Hearn

Project coordinator Paula Hearn

Paula Hearn is the Project Coordinator for DRPI AWARE. She holds a Master’s degree in Critical Disability Studies from York University, and a Bachelor’s degree in International Development from the University of Guelph.

Paula brings over 7 years of experience working in the disability field. Prior to her current position, Paula was a research assistant with DRPI, having contributed to DRPI’s Canadian media monitoring report, and assisted in organizing an international workshop. Additionally, she has provided training on disability awareness and accessibility at the University of Guelph’s Center for Students with Disabilities.

Paula Pinto

Researcher Paula Pinto

Paula Campos Pinto is an assistant professor at the School for Social  and Political Sciences, University of Lisbon where she also coordinates the Observatory on Disability and Human rights. She holds a PhD in Sociology from York University, Canada, and a Master’s degree  in Family Studies from University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA.

Paula Pinto has been working in the disability field for over 25 years, as an activist, a researcher and an academic, both in Portugal and internationally. She joined the DRPI team in 2004 as a research associate, having contributed to the development and field-testing of  DRPI monitoring tools and methodologies, and acting as support person to local monitoring teams in data collection and analyses. She is the author of a number of articles and book chapters on disability, inclusion, citizenship and human rights, published in Portugal and  abroad.

Rachael Dempsey

Research Assistant Rachael Dempsey

Rachael Dempsey is a Research Assistant with DRPI. She holds a Master’s degree in International Relations from the University of Toronto and a Bachelor’s degree in International Studies from Glendon College, York University. As a Project Officer with the Colombia Campaign to Ban Landmines, Rachael contributed to advocacy and landmine survivor support initiatives. As the Program Associate, Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRD) at the Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID), she coordinated communications, urgent responses and the monitoring of WHRDs’ rights violations, as well as supported research on the protection of women defenders’ rights.

Regional Officers

Regional Officers plan and supervise disability rights monitoring projects, coordinate regional disability rights monitoring training, seek funding opportunities, foster partnerships, and assist national and local organizations of people with disabilities. Here is a list of DRPI’s regional officers:

Europe – Radoš Keravica

Europe regional officer Rados Keravica

Radoš Keravica is a person with a disability who studied economics at the University of Novi Sad, Faculty of economics, Department for European Economics and Business where he was awarded a BSc degree in 2009. At the moment he is wrapping up his MSc degree course within the same department. Mr. Keravica has been actively involved in the NGO sector since 2006 as a member and volunteer of the South Backa district association of dystrophy. In 2008, he became a member of the Supervising Board in this organization with the task to control organization functioning, its finances and to create financial reports. In 2007, Mr. Keravica began volunteering in the Center for Youth and Social Development RES POLIS and after 3 years of volunteer work he became Main Board President of CYSD RES POLIS in 2010. He began working for DRPI as Regional Officer in 2011.

Latin America – José Viera

Latin America regional officer Jose Viera

José Viera was born in Argentina. Blind since he was 8 years old, José says that My disability has never stopped me in developing all of my activities, it has only made me achieve my goals from a different view with the permanent support of my family and closest friends.

José has a Bachelor degree in International Studies and a Masters Degree in Management of Development. Currently, José holds a post as a professor at a local Argentinean university in the Department of International Studies. He has recently completed a research project related to Strategies for Local Development and is now writing his PhD thesis on development. Since last March José has been President of the Blind Federation of Argentina. José began working for DRPI as Regional Officer in September 2011.

Africa – Dagnachew Wakene

Africa regional officer Dagnachew Wakene

Based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Dagnachew (‘Dag’) B. Wakene has his first degree in Law (LL.B) from the Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia; and his second degree is a Master of Philosophy (M.Phil) majoring in Rehabilitation, Disability and Development, which he completed at Stellenbosch University in the Western Cape, South Africa.

Dagnachew has been working for the past ten years as a researcher, educator, projects coordinator and advocate locally, regionally and internationally with a particular focus on Inclusive Development, Human Rights and Law. While doing his Masters studies, he severed as a Research Assistant in an inter-regional, multi-partnership research initiative known as the African Policy on Disability and Development (APODD) – jointly led by the Centre for Rehabilitation Studies (CRS) at Stellenbosch University, South Africa, and the Trinity College Dublin (TCD) of Ireland. Since 2011, he has been working as a Research Associate at World ENABLED – a non-profit initiative created by persons with disabilities based in Berkeley, California. Over the past two years, Dagnachew has actively been involved as a Campaign Associate in the ‘Post-2015 Development Agenda’ deliberations representing the disability cause and his continent at various regional and global fora, including the Conference of State Parties (CoSP) to the UNCRPD and the High Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, among others. He is also serving as a Board Member at the African Disability Alliance, formerly known as the Secretariat of African Decade of Persons with Disabilities.  Dagnachew is a Polio survivor.  His writings and other contributions on different topics related to disability can be accessed online.

Asia Pacific – Rajive Raturi

Asia Pacific regional officer Rajive Raturi

Rajive Raturi is a post graduate in Business Management with over 17 years of corporate work experience in senior managerial positions in India and Kenya. An accident whilst working in Kenya left him with a visual disability leading him to make a conscious decision to work in the social and developmental sector. He now has over 11 years of work experience in the social sector with disability rights as his core area of work.

In this period he has worked towards building skills of persons with disabilities through facilitation of training in techno enabled employment opportunity areas and their employment in the IT and BPO sector. He has worked with national and emerging grassroots DPOs across the country in capacitating them and providing them access to legal services to strengthen their advocacy efforts in furthering the UNCRPD, has initiated national level advocacy campaigns and supported DPOs in filing Public Interest Litigations to influence policy level changes to further rights of persons with disabilities. He has been a member of the expert committee to draft a new disability law in harmony with the UNCRPD and in drafting guidelines for prevention of ill treatment and abuse of children with disabilities in institutional care and has also supported the development of a resource pack for guiding civil society organizations and duty bearers in combating violence and torture against persons with disabilities.

Rajive has co-authored a 1000 page compendium titled Disability and the Law which serves as a resource material for Judges, Advocates and activists and published a report titled Harmonizing laws with the CRPD and has also scripted an educational documentary titled Access to Rights and developed training modules on Indian and International laws on disability.

DRPI Affiliate Project Coordinators


Consultants have been key in shaping DRPI’s direction and vision. The following is a list of consultants that have and continue to work with the DRPI project.

  • Normand BoucherCentre interdiscipinaire de recherche en réadaptation et  intégration sociale (CIRRIS), Laval University (Quebec City, Canada)
  • Cameron Crawford, Roeher Institute (Toronto, Canada)
  • Christo El Morr, Faculty of Health, York University (Toronto, Canada)
  • Steven Estey, Disabled Peoples International, Canada
  • Beth Haller, Associate Professor in Journalism / New Media, Towson University (Baltimore, U.S.A.)
  • Jon Johnson, Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies, York University, (Toronto, Canada)
  • Vinod Pavarala, Professor of Communication and Dean, Sarojini Naidu School of Performing Arts, Fine Arts & Communication, University of Hyderabad (Hyderabad, India)
  • Yvonne Peters, Lawyer, Winnipeg, Canada
  • Paula Pinto, PhD (Sociology) Candidate, York University (Toronto, Canada)
  • Michael Prince, Faculty of University of Victoria (Victoria, Canada)


Student support has been a major component within DRPI. A number of students have participated and supported the project in various capacities. The following is a list of past and present student collaborators:

  • Alexis Buettgen, PhD Candidate (Critical Disability Studies), York University
  • Cameron Crawford, PhD Candidate (Critical Disability Studies), York University
  • Laura Vukson, BA Candidate (International Development), York University
  • Natalie Spagnuolo, PhD Candidate (Critical Disability Studies), York University
  • Nadia Chowdhury, MA Candidate (Critical Disability Studies), York University
  • Dana Corfield, PhD Student (Critical Disability Studies) York University
  • Tammy Bernasky, PhD Student (Critical Disability Studies) York University