The commissioners shall serve staggered two (2) year terms, each member serving until his or her successor is appointed. These commissioners shall be responsible for the establishment of policies and the appointment of an executive director who shall be in the unclassified service and other staff as needed and for whom appropriations are available. They shall meet not less than four (4) times per year, and shall not be paid for their services, except for reimbursement of expenses incurred by their service. The commissioners may elect their own officers.
The members appointed by the governor shall include five (5) individuals who are deaf who use American Sign Language, one individual who is deaf who does not use American Sign Language, three (3) who are hard-of-hearing, and two (2) who are hearing. Commission members shall select their own chairperson. Five (5) members shall constitute a quorum.
Timothy Riker, Chair (Deaf)
BIO: Tim is Deaf and fluent in American Sign Language (ASL) and English. He was born in Maryland, where he and his brother were raised by Deaf parents who used ASL in the home. Tim attended the Maryland School for the Deaf where he received an ASL/English bilingual bicultural education. He went on to earn a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and Executive Financial Planning Certificate from Georgetown University. In addition to completing more than a year of graduate public policy coursework at California State University, Northridge (CSUN), Tim is earning his Masters in Sign Language Education (MA-SLED) at Gallaudet University during 2014-2015 and hopes to continue with a Ph.D. in a related field.
Tim is currently a Visiting Lecturer of the American Sign Language and Deaf Studies program at the Brown University Center for Language Studies. He is also a freelance Certified Deaf Interpreter (CDI) and provides mentoring and training. Tim volunteers as a board of director for the Deafhood Foundation and a national kindergarten readiness committee.
Elizabeth Beach, Vice Chair (Hard of Hearing)
BIO: Betsy has a Bachelor of Arts in Urban Education from Brown University. She has taught adult education with an emphasis on mathematics teaching for the past fifteen years, working at: Dorcas Place, Career Tracks Youth, Westbay CAP, and the RI Indian Council. Betsy has also managed assessment, outreach, enrollment, and student services for these adult education programs.
Betsy was a member of the working group to write RI Adult Education Standards in Mathematics. She participated in the TIAN math research project and also designed the adult secondary to college math curriculum with the RI Adult Education Professional Development Center.
Betsy has presented and taught at the yearly RI Adult Education Conference and at the RI Women’s Institute for Leadership Development. IN 1995 she was a representative to the UN NGO Conference on the Status of Women in Beijing, China.
Nico Sedivy, Secretary (Hard of Hearing)
BIO: Nico Sedivy is an undergraduate student at Brown University, concentrating in ethnomusicology and Africana studies. Ze has severe hearing loss due to early onset otosclerosis that began in zer early teens and proved resistant to surgical correction. With hearing aids, ze functions basically as a hearing person, but benefits from an FM loop system in classroom settings and captioning for movies and performances. Ze began acquiring ASL at 17 and has now been studying ASL at Brown University for two years. In Deaf settings, ze prefers to turn off amplification and use ASL exclusively. Ze places priority on questions of access to language, education, and services. This means advocating for accurate information about and reliable access to ASL for deaf children and their families as well as the availability and affordability of assistive technology for the hard of hearing, late-deafened, and others who wish to and can benefit from these resources. Promoting the use of captioning, interpreting, and other accommodations is also important in making public events, spaces, and services more accessible. As a genderqueer person, ze also has a vested interest in the rights and well-being of LGBTQ people.
In addition to serving on the commission, Nico is also involved in anti-racist social justice work and sexual assault prevention and advocacy education. Ze is an enthusiastic musician, active in various performance groups.
Todd Murano, Treasurer (Deaf)
BIO:Todd is a Physical Education and Health teacher at the Rhode Island School for the Deaf. He also runs the Athletic program at the RI School for the Deaf and coaches the boys' basketball team. Todd graduated from Gallaudet University in 2001 with a bachelor degree in Physical Education/Health and then from Western Oregon University in 2004 with a Master's Degree in Deaf Education.
Todd has enjoyed being involved in community organizations such as the Rhode Island Association of the Deaf as the Vice President and then President. He also enjoys keeping healthy by exercising at the gym and going for hikes. He has lived in Rhode Island most of his life after living in Washington DC, Oregon, Washington State and Virginia.
Monica Bradley (Deaf)
BIO: coming soon
PHOTO: coming soon
George "Herk" Herchenroether (Hard of Hearing)
BIO: George, aka, "Herk" is retired from a successful career in Information Technology, Strategic Planning and Marketing. George was a partner in a major NYC actuarial firm and owned two businesses in Ct and RI. George has been active in politics, civic affairs and many volunteer programs all his adult life. He is the founding chair of the Alliance for a Livable Newport. He is now the coordinator of the Rhode Island Chapter of the Hearing Loss Assn. of America. He lives in Middletown, has two sons, is an active cyclist, sailor and woodworker. George is late-deafened and uses various assistive technology.
Heather Niedbala (Deaf)
BIO: Heather is a native ASL user & lifelong Rhode Island resident, Heather graduated from Rhode Island School for the Deaf with a part-time mainstream experience. Heather is the Program Manager of a Deaf/Hard of Hearing Home Based Therapeutic Services, working with Deaf and Hard of Hearing children and their families. A dedicated advocate for the Deaf, Heather is an American Sign Language Instructor, Deaf Self-Advocacy Trainer and is involved with the Rhode Island Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf. She also contributes to the local community as a Commissioner with the Rhode Island Commission on the Deaf & Hard of Hearing and is on the Board of Trustees for the Rhode Island School of the Deaf. She lives in North Kingstown with her husband and son, and enjoys spending time with her family and friends.
Caroline Obrecht (Hearing)
BIO: Caroline Obrecht is a graduate of the Johns Hopkins University with a major in Romance Languages. She went on to earn her master’s degree in Deafness from New York University. She worked for Mass Rehab Commission as a rehab counselor with Deaf and hard of hearing clients. During that time, she studied ASL and sign language interpreting at Northeastern University and Gallaudet University. She was approved as a state screened interpreter (entry level) by the Mass Commission on the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.
A Rhode Island resident since 1984, her work life returned here in 1990. She freelance interpreted for a brief time and then attained her MSW with a clinical focus from Boston University. She worked in different areas of Butler Hospital and earned a certificate in marriage and family therapy. She completed her time there in the Cultural Psychiatry outpatient program working exclusively with Deaf and hard of hearing clients. She left Butler to open her own office where she has a general practice including hearing, Deaf and hard of hearing people.
Elizabeth Shealy (Hearing)
BIO: Betsy is a consumer rights attorney licensed in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. She graduated from the University of South Carolina in 2000 with a B.A. in history, and earned her J.D. from Roger Williams Law School in 2003.
Betsy and her husband live in Cranston with their four young children, one of whom is Deaf. She is active member of the Rhode Island School for the Deaf Parent Teacher Organization and a founding member of the Rhode Island chapter of Hands and Voices.