Marion Gwizdala is the President/CEO of Advocates for Service Animal Partners (ASAP). Marion possesses a Master of Science degree in mental Health Counseling with additional graduate study in Rehabilitation Counseling and spent 15 years in private practice as a Hypnotherapist. Marion is a published author, accomplished public speaker and experienced workshop facilitator in the areas of psycho-social aspects of disability, service animal advocacy and policy, and legal issues related to the use of service animals.
Marion has been blind since 1983 as the result of retinitis pigmentosa and has been a guide dog handler since 1987. He is currently working his fifth guide dog, a Blue Merle Smooth Coat Collie from Freedom Guide Dogs for the Blind. Marion has been involved in several high profile cases both as a complainant and an advocate. He has been instrumental in creating civil rights legislation in several states and is a recognized leader in the blindness and service dog handler’s movements.
Marion blends his knowledge and real-life experience with a touch of humor to help others overcome their perceived limitations, as well as underscore the need for increased awareness and more effective enforcement of the laws designed to allow all citizens - including those who are disabled - to more fully participate in society on terms of equality. His clients have included Hillsborough County, Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority, Miami-Dade County, St. Petersburg College, the University of South Florida, the Center for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR), Johns-Hopkins University Hospital, the Illinois Attorney General’s Office, the Wichita Transit Authority, and ZooTampa at Lowry Park.
For more information, you may contact:
Marion Gwizdala, M.S
Advocates for Service Animal Partners (ASAP)
Michael Hingson, blind since birth, was born in Chicago to sighted parents who believed in raising their son with a can-do attitude. Treated like all other children in his family, Michael rode a bike did advanced math in his head and learn to read and write – Braille that is! Michael’s family relocated to the warm Palmdale area of California when he was five years old. It is here that Hingson had his first adventure with Guide Dogs for the Blind and received his first guide dog. He later went to college receiving a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Physics along with a secondary teaching credential from the University of California at Irvine. Michael then enjoyed a nearly-30-year career working for high tech companies spending most of his time in management roles.
Michael Hingson’s life changed dramatically on September 11, 2001 when he and his guide dog, Roselle, escaped from the 78th floor of Tower One in the World Trade Center moments before it collapsed. Soon after, Michael and Roselle were thrust into the international limelight where Michael began to share his unique survival story and 9-11 lessons of trust, courage, heroism, and teamwork.
Mike is currently the Vice President of Advocates for Service Animal Partners, Inc. and has served as The National Public Affairs Director for one of the largest nonprofit organizations in the nation: Guide Dogs for the Blind. He serves as the vice president of the National Association of Guide Dog Users, holds seats on other agency boards including the Fort Worth Lighthouse for the Blind, the Earle Baum Center for the Blind and the Colorado Center for the Blind. Michael is The National Ambassador for the Braille Literacy Campaign of the National Federation of the Blind. He is the Founder of the Roselle’s Dream Foundation - helping the blind obtain the technology they need to not only excel in school and at work, but to live out their dreams!
Until October 2019 he worked as the CEO of the Do More Foundation, the non-profit arm of Aira Tech Corp, a manufacturer of assistive technology which makes a revolutionary visual interpreter for blind people. In January 2021 Mike joined accessiBe as its Chief Vision Officer to help advance the company goal of making the entire internet fully inclusive by 2025. accessiBe provides an artificial intelligence-based product that makes web sites accessible to all persons with disabilities.
He is the author of the #1 New York Times Best Seller: “Thunder dog –The True Story of a Blind Man, a Guide Dog & the Triumph of Trust” – selling over 2.5 million copies Worldwide. In 2014, Mr. Hingson published his 2nd book “Running with Roselle”- which Is the first of its kind- A story for our youth shedding light on one of America’s Darkest Days.
Aside from his talents and advocacies, Mr. Hingson has traveled the Globe from Japan to New Zealand, the Netherlands to his hometown, Chicago. He has spoken to some of the world’s most elite: from former President George W. Bush to Larry King, to Fortune 500 companies and colleges and universities nationwide. After sharing his story of survival on hundreds of TV and radio programs, Michael is now an expert hired by many of today’s major corporations and organizations. Speaking and consulting on the
importance of Teamwork and Trust, Moving from Diversity to Inclusion, as well as offering Adaptive Technology Training – spearheading innovation for ALL! - Thus, bringing organizations to the forefront of the ever-changing competitive modern world.
Currently Michael lives in Victorville, California with his wife, Karen, a professional quilter, Alamo, Michael’s eighth guide dog and their rescue feline, Stitch. More information on Mr. Hingson is available on his website. Here also is a link to Mr. Hingson’s press kit, https://www.dropbox.com/sh/fvkvohx3apuulvg/mbtx-ADJSJ
Marilyn Shafer currently serves as the Secretary/Treasurer for the past three years on the board of Advocates for Service Animal Partners. She is an alum of St. Leo University with a B.A. in Music Education K-12 and a graduate of the University of South Florida with her Masters in School Library Science. She retired from Hillsborough County Schools with 28+ years of teaching. She earned the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, has written articles for School Library Media Activities Monthly and The 99s Magazine for women pilots, received the Library Service Award from the Pasco County School Media/Technology Association, and was voted Teacher of the Year while at Gulf Middle School in New Port Richey, FL.
Marilyn was and is an advocate for children through her librarianship in selecting books for the collection which highlight many diversities. She organized the annual Teach-In where professionals come into the school to share their careers and passions, and she taught students real-life experiences of running a daily morning news show and creating a school yearbook. As a pilot, Marilyn set up and taught the intricacies of a flight simulator in her media center to give students the experience of flight.
As the sister of a brother with a guide dog, Marilyn understands and has witnessed the many obstacles the general public continues to place in the way of service animal users to live their best life.
Mr. Baker is currently serving as a Director on the board of Advocates for Service Animals Partners. He served as a Chemical, Biological and Radiological Weapons Specialist and Russian interpreter-translator in the U.S. Army in the early 1960s and received his Bachelor of Philosophy degree from Monteith College at Wayne State University in Detroit in 1966.
David taught English in Petoskey Michigan, was a welfare case worker in Detroit and a vocational rehabilitation counselor at Detroit League for the Handicapped where he organized the employees to join AFSCME Local 1632, a union for United Way agency workers.
He received his Juris Doctor from Ohio State University College of Law in 1975 and served as the assistant director of the Ohio State Legal Services Association, a back-up center for Ohio’s legal aid programs.
In 1979, he became the administrator of the Ohio State Bar Association’s Ohio Legal Services Fund which administered legal services plans provided as an employee benefit. Active in American Bar Association committees, he became a member of its Prepaid Legal Services Institute’s board of directors.
In 1989, he created ARAG Legal Insurance Company in Des Moines, Iowa on behalf of the German legal expense insurance company, ARAG. Serving as treasurer, then general counsel of its U.S. subsidiary. Mr. Baker also directed ARAG’s German life insurance investment subsidiaries in managing their U.S. investments. He retired in 2006 but remained on ARAG’s board of directors through 2016.
Mr. Baker has been legally blind since the early 1990s. He has had a guide dog since 2015 and now lives in Clearwater, Florida.
Veronica Morris serves as a Director on the Board for Advocates for Service Animal Partners (ASAP) where she works to continue the mission of equal access for service animal users. Veronica created the law cards for various states on the ASAP website serviceanimals.info and will continue to expand on this endeavor to assist service animal users throughout the United States to self-advocate for their rights.
Veronica also serves as President of Psychiatric Service Dog Partners (PSDP), a nonprofit dedicated to education, advocacy, and support to improve the lives of people with psychiatric service dogs. She has written a myriad of articles for PSDP's website, as well as in other publications. With PSDP, she continues to be involved with the Department of Transportation's updates to the Air Carrier Access Act, has consulted with attorneys at the Department of Justice (DOJ) about service animal cases and regulations, is an expert witness, and has been on multiple amicus briefs for cases with the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS).
At the annual convention of Psychiatric Service Dog Partners, Veronica provides public access testing to teams, and continues to meet with and advise people locally who are training their own service dogs.
Veronica has volunteered in various capacities for her local chapter of NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness. She is a board member, a support group facilitator, and a member of the NAMI South Carolina Peer Leadership Council. Veronica also maintains a YouTube channel and posts regularly on Facebook concerning service dogs and disability rights.
Veronica earned a master's in Genetics and Molecular Biology in 2004 from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and her PhD in Environmental Science, Policy, and Management in 2009 from the University of California at Berkeley. As a volunteer at an animal shelter, Veronica adopted a Weimaraner and Pit Bull mix named Sabrina as a beloved pet. Since Sabrina naturally alerted to her mood swings and anxiety attacks, she decided, with her doctors, to train Sabrina as her first service dog. When it came time for Sabrina to retire, owner-trained Ollie, a Standard Poodle, took her place. Veronica has successfully trained a Japanese Chin named Hestia as her third service dog, and after washing out one puppy, is training another Japanese Chin named Felix as her fourth service dog.
Veronica says, “So often, leaders in the service dog world seem to have missed out on disability history or concerns about human rights. I believe it's paramount for us to spread the word so that in access laws and elsewhere, our fellow disabled people are treated with respect for their dignity and humanity, rather than in ways that prioritize others' convenience or even prejudice. There should be 'nothing about us without us,' and solidarity is the way forward.”