Past IDA Chairs

Ana Lucia Arellano, 2018-2021

Ana Lucía Arellano Barba is originally from Quito, Ecuador, and is a Latin American human rights activist and advocate for the rights of Persons with Disabilities for almost 23 years, inspired by her son José Miguel, a self-advocate youth with Down syndrome. Ms. Arellano was also the President of the Latin American Network of Non-Governmental Organizations of Persons with Disabilities and their Families (RIADIS), an umbrella organization from the Global South that represents 56 national OPDs in 19 countries in the Latin American and the Caribbean Region, a post she held starting November 2012. She represented the diverse voice of civil society and OPDs at the national, regional and global level.

Colin Allen

Colin Allen 2016-2018
Colin Allen was responsible for guiding and representing IDA's engagement with the UN System and other international human rights and international development organizations. Mr. Allen was closely engaged with the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for persons with disabilities worldwide: he is leading IDA's strategic planning to ensure awareness raising, capacity building, and participation of persons with disabilities in the preparatory processes towards national reviews. Under Mr. Allen's leadership, IDA's mission was to ensure that the UN upholds the essential, unifying principle of the disability movement: 'nothing about us without us'. This included implementing standards on full inclusion and participation of persons with disabilities, notably ensuring accessibility of decision-making spaces and documentation, meaningful participation in follow-up and review processes, and universal design throughout programme implementation.

Yannis Vardakastanis 2012-2014 and 2022-2024

Mr. Vardakastanis has more than 30 years of disability advocacy experience, holding a variety of international posts through which he has actively promoted the rights of persons with disability. Originally from Zakynthos, Greece, Mr. Vardakastanis served as Special Advisor for the education of students with disabilities to the Minister of Education; Delegate at the Greek Ministry of Labour on disability issues; and Managing Director of the National Institute for the Protection of Deaf and Hard of Hearing People, among other posts. For the last 15 years, Mr. Vardakastanis has served as President of the European Disability Forum (EDF), and chairs different commissions and committees in several European and international disability NGOs. Concurrently, he also serves as Chair of International Disability Alliance (IDA), a post he has held since 2012. Mr. Vardakastanis earned a degree in political science from University of California, Berkeley and has been active in the National Confederation of Disabled People in Greece (N.C.D.P.), serving as its President since 1993.

Maryanne Diamond 2014-2016

Maryanne Diamond was the Chair of the International Disability Alliance from 2014 to 2016. Additionally, Ms. Diamond has held a range of positions at community, local, state, national and international boards and committees for more than 30 years. Ms. Diamond is a board member and immediate Past President of the World Blind Union (WBU), and has written, presented, and published papers at national and international conferences covering a range of topics and for a diverse audience.

Ms. Diamond has spoken on behalf of civil society at a number of UN Conferences and Forums. Most recently, she presented at the DRR conference in Sendai, both on the Ignite Stage and in the Ministerial Panel. She has presented and moderated sessions at United Nations events such as the Commission on the Status of Women, CRPD Committee, and UN NGO-DPI conference. Ms. Diamond led the WBU delegation throughout negotiations of the Marrakesh Treaty, which facilitates access to published works for persons who are blind, visually impaired or otherwise print disabled. 

Diane Richler 2010-2012

Diane Richler was president of Inclusion International before becoming chair of the International Disability Alliance.  She is a Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation International Fellow and was one of the civil society leaders in the negotiation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Diane has played a leadership role in strategies to promote inclusive education, close institutions and develop inclusive social policies. She has been an invited speaker in over 50 countries and served as a consultant to governments and the World Bank, UNICEF, UNESCO, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).  During her tenure as chair of the IDA she was instrumental in ensuring a continued focus on the Treaty Body processes in Geneva while developing a capacity to work with DESA and UN agencies based in New York. Together with former IDA Executive Director Stefan Tromel Diane helped bring about the creation of The UN Partnership to Promote the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNPRPD), a unique collaborative effort that brings together UN entities, governments, Disabled People’s Organizations (DPOs) and civil society to advance disability rights around the world. Diane is a member of the Order of Canada and the Order of Manuel Guerrero of Panama.

Jan-Peter Stromgren 2009-2010

Jan-Peter Strömgren served as President of the International Federation of Hard of Hearing People, and represented the federation on the IDA Board, from 2006 to 2010. Jan-Peter chaired the IDA Board from 2009 to 2010, served as President of the Swedish Hard Of Hearing organization, HRF, for 16 years, as well as President for the Nordic Hearing Cooperation Committee (Nordiska Hörselskadades Samarbetskommitté) for around six years.

Dr William Rowland 2008-2009

William Rowland started working for the South Africa National Council for the Blind in 1966, later becoming National Executive Director for 29‑years. William founded Optima College for the blind, a tertiary institution still in operation where many blind leaders from Africa were also trained. He introduced local manufacture of assistive devices and played a role in removing Apartheid barriers previously existing in blindness work. He obtained three academic degrees from University of South Africa, a doctorate from University of Cape Town, and qualified as physiotherapist at the RNIB in London. William was the elected leader of Disabled People South Africa, the organization spearheading the disability rights movement in Southern Africa in the liberation years.  In 1998, William founded the Disability Empowerment Concerns Trust, a vehicle of economic empowerment.  William Rowland was involved with World Blind Union from its founding in 1984 and served as President from 2004 to 2008, and the International Disability Alliance from its creation until 2012, and which he also chaired.

Lex Grandia 2007-2008

Gidion Mandesi 2005-2007

Dr Liisa Kauppinen 1999-2000

Dr Kauppinen was Executive Director of the Finnish Association of the Deaf from 1976-1987 and from 1991-2006. She has worked actively with leaders of international organizations of persons with disabilities both as a member, and as Chair the International Disability Alliance.  As WFD Emeritus President since 2003 and WFD Honorary President since 2011, she has been an inspiration to Deaf Communities internationally, an articulate and intelligent ‘voice’ on the need to explicitly uphold the human rights of deaf people at local, national, and international levels. Dr Kauppinen received the 2013 United Nations Human Rights Award Prize from the United Nations on Human Rights Day on 10 December 2013. Though she is now retired, she continues to involve herself in WFD work as a voluntary advisor at the WFD Secretariat in Helsinki, Finland, the country where she was born and raised.