- Rachel Arfa
Rachel Arfa serves as the Commissioner of the City of Chicago Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities (MOPD). Commissioner Arfa is a visionary and transformative leader, and was the first deaf person to serve as a member of a Mayor’s Cabinet nationwide. Under her leadership, Commissioner Arfa has modernized MOPD to increase services to Chicago's disability community and leads inter-agency collaboration with fellow City departments and sister agencies to advance accessibility.
Recognizing the need for advances in disability employment, Commissioner Arfa launched the MOPD Career Center, which serves job seekers with disabilities and also partners with businesses on increasing inclusive hiring practices. With MOPD support, job seekers with disabilities obtain employment on an average of 81 days, far ahead of the national rate of six months. Commissioner Arfa also launched the Access Officer program, an inter-agency collaboration that designates a member of each Commissioner/Department Head’s leadership team as a point person on accessibility for their department, and provides subject matter trainings and individual consultation on best practices. As another important step towards increasing accessibility of City services, MOPD hired four American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters on staff, who provide communication access at Mayoral events, press conferences and for City services. MOPD also works with departments to increase digital accessibility, use of social stories and other access needs.
Commissioner Arfa utilizes an equity framework in evaluating MOPD services and removes barriers to services. She eliminated the hourly rate that participants in MOPD’s Personal Assistance program were previously required to pay in order to obtain services. MOPD's Home Modification program previously only served individuals with disabilities up to age 59; due to consolidation of services from Department of Housing to MOPD, individuals of any age with disabilities can now apply for Home Modification services. The Accessibility Compliance Unit has also expanded its capacity and resources, which allows for increased ability to survey accessibility of city-wide buildings, conduct pre-permit and permit reviews, and provide technical assistance to stakeholders.
Arfa comes to this role with over 15 years as a disability and civil rights attorney, and has held numerous civic and leadership roles advocating for meaningful disability access. Arfa is a 2016 Leadership Greater Chicago Fellow and a 2013 New Leaders Council Fellow. Arfa is a graduate of the University of Michigan (B.A. American Culture) and the University of Wisconsin School of Law (J.D.)