OSERS Welcomes Danté Q. Allen as Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration

Dante Allen

In December, the U.S. Department of Education welcomed Danté Q. Allen after the U.S. Senate confirmed him as the commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) in the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS).

In his role as RSA commissioner, Allen will oversee an administration that provides leadership and resources to assist state and other agencies in providing vocational rehabilitation and other services to individuals with disabilities to maximize their employment, independence, and integration into the community and the competitive labor market.

Prior to his role as RSA Commissioner, Allen served as the executive director for CalABLE, California’s qualified federal ABLE Act savings and investment program for people with disabilities. Prior to joining CalABLE, Allen served as a communications leader in the public and private sectors, including roles as a senior communications officer in the California Department of Public Health’s Office of Health Equity and at Kaiser Permanente as the communications director for the organization’s senior operations executive.

Born with spina bifida, Allen is a fulltime wheelchair user. Allen is a staunch proponent of disability rights and equity. He has been a champion in advocating for the awareness of the reduction of healthcare and financial disparities especially among people of color and people with disabilities.

Learn more about Danté Allen

What led you to a career in helping improve the lives of individuals with disabilities?

Helping to improve the lives of people with disabilities is deeply important to me on a personal level. As an individual who identifies as having a physical disability, I have had to serve as my own advocate, cheerleader and supporter throughout a career that has always been dedicated to improving lives, just not necessarily focused on people with disabilities.

Somewhere along the way it occurred to me that there were too few people who looked like me or shared my lived experiences in the types of positions I was working in. This realization fueled my desire to focus my work to serve people with disabilities. From then on, I specifically targeted career opportunities that enabled me to identify, encourage and support others like me.

What’s your vision for individuals with disabilities?

My greatest vision for people with disabilities is that we all have access to (and through) the doors of possibility where we work and in our communities. This prospect may require as much internal change as it does externally.

We must address the limitations we place on ourselves as individuals with disabilities. We can dream as big as our imaginations will allow. With hard work and dedication, those dreams can become reality.

Systemically, we also need to address the limitations that others place on those with disabilities. For too long, we have underestimated what individuals can contribute based on perceived lack of abilities that often have little to do with the opportunities at hand.

I truly see a day when people with disabilities can envision any possibility and also be fully prepared and accepted to embrace those possibilities when the moment arises. The programs RSA administers are primed to help people with disabilities realize their goals.

What are you looking forward to most in your new role?

The thing that really excites me about this role is the opportunity to impact change on such a large scale as we advance high-quality competitive integrated employment for individuals with disabilities. I know that working in the federal government has its challenges, but the opportunity to make a positive change in the lives of many is the selling point that made this too great of an opportunity for me to pass up.

Is there anything else you would like to add that may be of interest to those impacted by RSA’s work?

Stakeholder engagement will be one of my top priorities as Commissioner. I want to ensure that we are hearing from and communicating with the full spectrum of RSA stakeholders as much as possible to improve the work we do and the impact we are able to have on the lives of the people we serve.

Blog articles provide insights on the activities of schools, programs, grantees, and other education stakeholders to promote continuing discussion of educational innovation and reform. Articles do not endorse any educational product, service, curriculum or pedagogy.

1 Comment

  1. What About People With Disabilities who want to innovate. How are their chances improved on top of having a disability; let alone having someone believe in their new invention and on top of that having a disability? Especially for women in this day and age? And for minorities on top of that? How can OSERS or the RSA help with that?

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