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María Palacios – Bio

María Palacios, a smiling Latina woman seated in her wheelchair with her back to the camera. She is looking at the viewer over her shoulder.

María Palacios (she/her)
Board Secretary

María R. Palacios is a poet, author, spoken word performer, motivational speaker, social change advocate, disability rights activist, mentor, and workshop facilitator whose work has appeared on numerous multi-media publications, conferences, and live events over the last three decades. María’s work centers around illustrating the power and beauty of disabled people without negating the truths surrounding the ableism and oppression faced by the disabled community.

María served as Hotline Case Manager for the Houston Area Women’s Center (HAWC) from 1993 to 1997. During her time with HAWC, María not only trained and supervised hotline volunteers but also implemented disability awareness trainings for staff and volunteers, enforcing the ADA during its early years as a law, and educating the Center about the need for a TTY line and ASL interpreters to serve the domestic violence needs of the Deaf community. María also created the Power and Control Wheel for people with disabilities and has facilitated trainings and educational opportunities about the unique issues faced by women with disabilities in domestic violence and sexual assault situations. In addition, María was also responsible for overseeing the Safe Harbor Project, which offered services to male survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence.

María also served as Community Outreach/Information Coordinator for the Houston Center for Independent Living (HCIL) from December, 2011 to January 2016. Representing HCIL, María has served on the Houston-Galveston Area Council’s Transportation Committee; served as panelist/presenter for the ADRC conference, during which she presented on the importance of community-based living and the Olmstead Supreme Court decision; advocated for street accessibility; and implemented a consumer-based Advocacy Taskforce, numerous empowerment workshops, creative writing classes, and more.

Some of María’s most cherished accomplishments and positions include her participation in efforts that led to the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 as she was one of the Capitol Crawlers from the now iconic ADA March; being inducted into the Hispanic Women in Leadership Hall of Fame in 1996 and receiving the Hispanic Excellence Award in 1997; exploring her personal connection to Frida Kahlo through live performances of her poetry at Houston’s annual Frida Fest celebration for seven straight years; participating in the Gulf Coast Poetry Tour (2009); and founding Houston’s Annual Women with Disabilities Empowerment Forum.

Of particular passion to María is Sins Invalid, a performance project of artists with disabilities. With this group, she has performed since 2007, co-facilitated their Tongue Rhythm Multi-Disciplinary Poetry Workshop in 2008, and is featured in the 2013 documentary, “Sins Invalid: An Unashamed Claim to Beauty in the Face of Invisibility.”

In the artistic world, María is known as “The Goddess on Wheels.”

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