(Washington, D.C.) — The Century Foundation (TCF), a leading progressive think tank, announced today the addition of two nationally renowned disability leaders to its new Disability Economic Justice Team.  

Kimberly Knackstedt joined the team this week as a senior fellow based in Washington, D.C., after a stint in the Biden-Harris Administration as the first-ever Director of Disability Policy on the White House Domestic Policy Council. Vilissa Thompson, LMSW, founder of advocacy organization Ramp Your Voice! and one of the preeminent thought leaders within the disability community focusing on race and gender, joins the team as a fellow, working primarily at the intersection of race, gender, and disability. Both hires will play important roles in shaping TCF’s fast-growing disability economic justice team.

“The TCF team has grown immensely over the past few years, allowing us to expand our policy work in new and important areas,” said Mark Zuckerman, President of The Century Foundation and a former senior official in Congress and the Obama White House. “The goal of this new effort is to secure equal opportunities and equal rights for all people with disabilities. Our disability work is critical to TCF’s mission to pursue policy change that truly improves the lives of all people.”

TCF’s Disability Economic Justice Team is led by Rebecca Vallas, a senior fellow at TCF and a well-known leader in the sector who previously helped establish CAP’s Disability Justice Initiative, the first disability policy project at a U.S. think tank. The hiring of Knackstedt and Thompson further cements TCF’s strong and growing commitment to disability rights and justice—both as a specific policy area, and as a lens across TCF’s domestic policy work in education, health care, and economic equity. 

“It is simply unconscionable that more than 30 years after the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act, disability remains both a cause and a consequence of poverty in the U.S.,” said Vallas. “We’ll never achieve true economic justice if we fail to recognize the link to disability justice—which requires centering the perspectives and expertise of disabled people in policymaking. Kim Knackstedt and Vilissa Thompson are brilliant leaders in this work whose extensive policy, advocacy, and lived experience will position TCF’s Disability Economic Justice Team to play a leading role in ensuring the disability community is at the table when it comes to building an economy that works for all of us—including the 61 million Americans with disabilities and our families.”

Kimberly Knackstedt joins TCF from the White House, where she served as the first-ever director of disability policy for the Domestic Policy Council in the Biden-Harris administration. She previously served as the senior disability policy advisor for Senator Patty Murray on the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee in the U.S. Senate, as well as disability policy advisor for Chairman Bobby Scott on the Committee on Education and Labor in the U.S. House of Representatives. In addition to her extensive government, policy, and lived experience on disability issues, Knackstedt also brings experience as a special education teacher of students with disabilities.

Vilissa Thompson, LMSW is the founder and CEO of Ramp Your Voice!, an organization focused on promoting self-advocacy and strengthening empowerment among disabled people. As a nationally recognized disability rights consultant, writer, and activist whose work focuses on the intersection of race, gender, and disability, Thompson brings a wealth of experience to her role at TCF, including as the creator of the Black Disabled Woman Syllabus; as a consultant on disability rights and equality policy for Senator Elizabeth Warren’s 2020 presidential campaign; and as a macro social worker who continues to educate her peers in the social work field to look beyond the medical model of disability.

Full bios for Knackstedt and Thompson are available here

In the coming weeks, TCF’s Disability Economic Justice Team will launch the Disability Economic Justice Collaborative—a first-of-its-kind initiative that brings together nearly two-dozen leading disability advocacy organizations and Washington, D.C.-based think tanks and research organizations, enabling the groups to work in partnership, learn, and benefit from each other, and drive a disability economic justice agenda. Stay tuned for further details, including a virtual launch event on April 21.