Board of Commissioners

RICDHH Board of Commissioners

(March 2018) Standing L to R: Brett Hayes, Catherine Obrecht, Gina Donofrio, Elizabeth Shealy, Elizabeth Beach (Vice-Chair), Nico Sedivy, Todd Murano, Tim Riker (Chair).

Following a Tri-Vision philosophy, the RICDHH Board of Commissioners brings together the varied perspectives of deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing individuals. The Board addresses issues that pertain to employment, healthcare, technology, and education, in addition to many other areas. Together, Commissioners aim to improve the overall quality of life for deaf, hard of hearing, late-deafened, and deaf-blind individuals in Rhode Island.

Roles and Responsibilities

Commissioners shall be responsible for the establishment of agency 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. 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.

The Commissioners shall serve staggered two (2) year terms, each member serving until his or her successor is appointed. 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.

Download the CDHH Board Manual

Current Commissioners

Timothy Riker

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 communicated through ASL in the home. Tim attended the Maryland School for the Deaf where he received an ASL/English bilingual 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 earned his Masters in Sign Language Education (MA-SLED) at Gallaudet University.

Tim is currently a Lecturer of Language Studies at the Brown University Center for Language Studies, where he teaches a series of American Sign Language courses and independent studies. He is also a freelance Certified Deaf Interpreter (CDI) and provides mentoring and training.

Elizabeth Beach

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

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

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

Gina Donofrio

Gina Donofrio (Deaf)

BIO: Gina Donofrio is a recent retiree from the Federal Government and private industry for forty years in the information technology field.  She holds a bachelor of science degree in Computer Information Systems from Gallaudet University.  

Gina participated in several civic organizations serving the deaf and hard of hearing community such as Community Service for the Deaf in Toledo, Ohio where she was born and raised, Rhode Island Association for the Deaf, and the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Catholic advisory board for Providence Diocese.  

Gina currently volunteers her time to advocate for deaf and hard of hearing people in need.   During her free time, she enjoys traveling, gardening, and taking care of dogs for friends. 

Brett Hayes

Brett Hayes (Hard of Hearing)

BIO:Brett Hayes is an Operations Finance Analyst for a global medical manufacturing organization. He graduated from Providence College in 2009 with a B.S. in Accountancy and continued on to earn his Masters in Business Administration in 2010. Brett is severe to profoundly Deaf. He attended the Rhode Island School for the Deaf at the age of two, and then transitioned at the age of 6, and utilized American Sign Language Interpreters until he completed his postgraduate studies. 

Brett lipreads and uses a hearing aid to function. He is a lifelong resident of Rhode Island, now residing in Cumberland. In his spare time, he enjoys playing golf and following the local sports teams. He also serves as a board member for another non-profit organization and enjoys getting involved with the community. Brett wants to focus on Advocacy and continue the dialogue on public policy that impacts the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community in his time as a Commissioner.

Caroline Obrecht

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

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.

Present and Former Chairpersons

  • Tim Riker 2015-present
  • Heather Niedbala 2015
  • Jordan Sack 2012-2014
  • Christine Thompson 2011-2012
  • Travis Zellner 2004-2011
  • Wayne Cook, Jr. 2002-2004
  • Jan Luby (Acting) 2001-2002
  • Beth Wilson 2000-2001
  • Dinaz Adenwalla 1993-2000
  • Bruce Bucci 1991-1993
  • Jeanne Panarace (Acting) 1991
  • Aristotle Ogoke 1990-1991
  • Ray Filippo (Acting) 1990
  • Beth Wilson 1984-1990
  • Jodi Glass 1984-1985
  • Helen Novsam 1982-1984
  • Peter Blackwell (Temporary) 1981

Become a Commissioner

If you are interested in becoming a Commissioner on the RICDHH Board, please see the list of vacant seats below. The first step in the process requires completion of an application, which can be found by clicking on the link below. After your application has been received and reviewed by the RICDHH office, staff will contact you to schedule an interview. If you are selected by the Board to fill the vacancy after the interview has been conducted, a recommendation will be made to the Governor’s Office to finalize the appointment. Please note that the Governor’s Office also has the authority to appoint Commissioners to the RICDHH Board without a recommendation from the Board. For additional questions regarding the process on becoming a Commissioner, please contact RICDHH staff at (401) 256-5511 (TEL/VP) or at

Current Vacancies

  • Two Hearing (2)
  • Two Hard of Hearing (2)
  • Three Deaf (3)
To watch ASL vlog - please click here

Application Form

Vacancy on RICDHH Board of Commissioners