Deaf VISA

Deaf Visitors & Immigrants for Self Advocacy

Bios 

Luisa Ramirez, Interim Chair

Luisa is deaf and is from Colombia. She has been in the U.S. since 1999 and is a student at UMBC. For the past 4 years, she has worked at CSSD, Inc., an organization that provides services and group homes to the deaf and blind. She has been involved with Deaf VISA for several years and has also served as Member at Large. Luisa, with her organizational skills and self-starter work ethic, has been an essential part of the success of Deaf VISA.


Kate Breen, Vice Chair

The newest addition as an assistant to Deaf VISA Board, Kate Breen was mainstreamed as a child in upstate New York where Breen was first exposed to a form of international relations – a deaf refugee girl who was relocated to the United States with her family from Soviet-occupied Afghanistan in early 1980’s.

Inspired by the good of the US to accept refugees, Breen became interested in government courses while studying at Gallaudet University. She also wrote her graduate school thesis to analyze how a deaf/hard of hearing refugee or asylum seeker is processed in the United Kingdom and the United States. Both countries are signatories to United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its Protocols.

Breen began her career as a case manager working with deaf people and people with disabilities to achieve their immediate and long-term goals to optimize their living situation in New York, NY and later in Washington, D.C. In brief intervals, Breen worked in Blantyre, Malawi, Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and Bangkok, Thailand to assess living conditions the deaf and hard of hearing people experience. Breen currently works as an adjunct faculty for international relations at Gallaudet University.

Zainab Alkebsi, Secretary

Zainab is a deaf attorney and serves as Policy Counsel at the National Association of the Deaf (NAD). Licensed to practice law in Maryland, she is also a member of the American Bar Association and the Maryland State Bar Association. She received her J.D. from the University of Baltimore School of Law. She also has a B.A. in Political Science from University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC).  She has been involved with the organization since 2012.

Laura Wickless, Treasurer

Laura, an RID-NAD NIC Certified interpreter, began interpreting professionally in 1999 after being introduced to the Deaf Community in college. She has worked extensively with Deaf Internationals and in 2011 organized meetings where Deaf Internationals and others addressed unmet needs of foreign-born Deaf in America. Deaf VISA soon emerged. Community members urged Laura to adopt various roles in the organization due to her passion, experience, and background in advocacy. As a Master’s student in Teaching English To Speakers of Other Languages at UMBC, she is also developing innovative interpreting techniques to improve consumer access to language and content in instructional settings.

Matt Rappaport,  Assistant

Matt Rappaport is a hearing IT specialist with a background in education and art, and is currently an Interpreting student at Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC).  He has a BFA in Art from University of Texas (UT) and an MA in Education from University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC).  He has been the volunteer coordinator for the Jewish Deaf Congress and has volunteered with a variety of organizations including: PCRID, Black Deaf Advocates and NAOBI-DC.  Matt became involved with Deaf VISA in 2016 when he was planning and coordinating events as president of the CCBC ASL Club.