Immigrant Strives to Improve Lives of Americans with Disabilities

Elver Ariza-Silva
Tuesday, June 17, 2014 - 10:00am
Jim Alexander, Managing Shareholder

June is Immigrant Heritage Month. This month is a time to reflect upon the stories of immigrants who have inspired us and remind us that America has been, and continues to be, a land of opportunity that is fueled by the hopes, dreams, ingenuity, tenacity and work ethic of those who have overcome amazing obstacles in their pursuit of a better life in America, and in doing so, have improved the lives of others. Managing Shareholder, Jim Alexander, shares one such story below:

Like it was yesterday, I remember Michael Maggio talking about a consultation that he had with a young man named Elver. A citizen of Colombia, Elver was attending school at the American University. Michael was drawn to Elver, I believe, because of Elver's spirit and energy. This is a man of resilience, everlasting optimism and the ability to find joy in every day. He is a universal man with a strong intellect and passion to help others and society in general, through compassionate deeds and eloquent advocacy.

Elver is an accomplished advocate for the rights of people with disabilities. He advocates on both the local and national stage, to bring attention to the issues that Americans with disabilities encounter. When he was earning his master's degree at American University, he successfully advocated for the "right" accommodations while getting access to "transportation shuttles" for students with disabilities from the DC Metro Tenleytown Station to school - more than a mile away. He has since become an advisor to the Washington DC Metropolitan Transportation Authority and to the District of Columbia City Council. In 2012, he attracted the attention and support of the Obama presidential campaign because of his commitment to disability rights. In addition, he has served on advisory committees for national and international conferences regarding issues that impact Americans with disabilities.

Elver has also been featured in The Washington Post for theatrical performances and he recently returned from Boston where he performed with Nino de Los Reyes, an internationally renowned flamenco dancer from Spain. I believe that nothing can stand in the way of Elver. Childhood polio could not defeat Elver. The disease may have imposed physical challenges on him but it could not take away his resolve to make a difference.

I wanted to share Elver's story because I truly believe that anyone who knows Elver’s story is a better person for the experience. We, as Americans, are all better off with him in our community.