About Us

Our Mission

To empower people with disabilities with opportunities for choice, inclusion, and independence. 

Our Vision

To cultivate a barrier-free community where people with disabilities are valued equally and participate fully.

Our Values

Empowerment; Partnership; Fairness; Accountability; Sustainability; Knowledge

Our Story

  • 1972

    The first Center for Independent Living (CIL) is founded in Berkeley, CA.

  • 1979

    Funding of the first ten independent living centers funded through the Rehabilitation Act.

  • 1982

    The National Council on Independent Living is formed to advocate on behalf of independent living centers and the independent living movement.

  • 1990

    The Americans with Disabilities Act is signed by President George H. W. Bush and witnessed by thousands of disability rights activists on July 26th.

  • 1992

    1992: Still in its infancy, The Center for Independent Living of Middle Tennessee opened its doors in Nashville on July 1st.

  • 1995

    The Center for Independent Living of Middle Tennessee obtained its 501(c)(3) status and collaborated with sister agencies to form the Disability Cooperative.

  • 2007

    Moved into a more accessible location in East Nashville and became co-housed with our long-time partner, The Tennessee Disability Coalition.

  • 2014 – 2015

    Introduced new programs to increase independence within the community, such as Access Music City and Pet Therapy.

  • 2015

    Launched a stronger mission under a new name. When we first opened our doors our vision was “To empower persons with disabilities to achieve their vision of independence.” Twenty-three years later, we will continue this purpose and unite our community under our new banner, Empower TN.

Our Team

Brandon Brown

Executive Director

Brandon Brown has served as the Executive Director of Empower TN since August 2015. Previously, he served for ten years at Nashville CARES where he directed various client services for people living…

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Paul Choquette

Programs Director

Paul Choquette became Programs Director at Empower Tennessee in December of 2017. Paul has spent his entire career in Human Services working to further the independence of people with disabilities. He has spent the last ten years working for  …

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Tria Bridgeman

Independent Living & Benefits Specialist

Tria Bridgeman is a Community Work Incentives Coordinator (CWIC) with Empower TN. Her educational background is in Family and Consumer Sciences. For over 19 years, Tria has been instrumental in …

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Hope Johnson

Senior Independent Living & Benefits Specialist

Hope Johnson is a Community Work Incentives Coordinator at Empower TN.  She has been working in this capacity since 2001, and currently serves the West TN area.  In addition to benefits planning…

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Marquisia Maxie

Independent Living & Benefits Specialist

Marquisia has been employed as a Community Work Incentives Coordinator with Empower TN since October 2013. She brings an educational background in psychology and professional counseling…

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April Meredith

Independent Living & Advocacy Specialist

April Meredith has been the Independent Living and Advocacy Specialist for Empower TN since July 2016. Previously, she served over two years as an executive board and advisory committee member with …

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Paula Ryan

Independent Living & Benefits Specialist

Paula Ryan is a Community Work Incentives Coordinator (CWIC) with the Social Security Work Incentives and Planning Assistance (WIPA) program at Empower TN. Paula has worked as a benefits counselor…

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Marissa Smith-Fletcher

Independent Living & Referral Specialist

Marissa Smith Fletcher is an Independent Living and Referral Specialist with Empower Tennessee since August 2017. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts from Watkins College of Art & Design. Marissa is a Nashville native who has committed herself to …

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Birtha M. Street

Independent Living & Employment Specialist

Birtha has been Empower Tennessee’s IL & Employment Specialist since July 2016. She holds a Bachelor Science degree in Social Work (BSSW) from Tennessee State University. Birtha, and her career of service toward others, began over ten years ago volunteering at …

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Ebony Cole

Independent Living Specialist

Ebony became an Independent Living Specialist for Empower Tennessee in October 2018.  She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Western Kentucky University and Master’s degrees from Tennessee State University and Trevecca Nazarene University. As a native Nashvillian…

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2018-2019 Board of Directors

Robbin Sinatra, President

Lisa Davis, Vice-President

Lance Alexis, Secretary

Jennifer Abernathy, Treasurer

David Griffin

John Harris

Lorri Mabry

Jama Mohamed

Sarah Rayman

Shalini Rose

Brandon Brown, ex officio