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Deb Russell

Leader in Bridging Disability Inclusion

Deb Russell earned a BS in Psychology in 1989 and MS in Rehabilitation Counseling in 1992 from the University of Illinois.


Her experience started in teaching special education and providing employment services to people with disabilities.  She has worked on three federal systems change grants (directing two of them) to improve employment for people with disabilities.  During the first 15 years of her career, she improved access for people with disabilities in Medicaid, Social Security, Vocational Rehabilitation and Workforce Investment systems.


During the past 11 years, she has focused her career on helping businesses leverage the value proposition of employing people with disabilities. From 2006-2012, she shepherded Walgreens efforts to employ and include people with disabilities, first in the distribution centers, second in retail, and lastly in the corporate environment.  Walgreens has been viewed as the leader in sustainable corporate disability inclusion for the past decade.  By the end of her tenure at Walgreens, more than 10% of the workforce in the distribution division (hourly workers through upper management) comprised of people with disabilities and the retail division had created training programs to fill their pipeline of talent with disabilities and set their goal for 10% hiring (achieved in the pilot sites through 2012).  Through her work at Walgreens and her current consulting business, Deb has helped over 100 companies follow the business case and implement their success in employing people with disabilities. 


Deb has served on multiple workgroups and advisory boards through her career, most notably she served on SSA’s Region V Commissioner’s Work Incentives Advisory Group for 9 years, receiving the Skip Kruse Memorial Award and served six years on the Board of Directors for the US Business Leadership Network, two as Chair.  During her career in non-profit and government, she presented nationally on topics related to Work Incentives in Public Benefit Systems and Job Development for People with Disabilities.  Since then, she has presented internationally on Successful Corporate Models for Employing People with Disabilities.


She testified to the US House of Representatives in 2011 regarding Walgreen's success in disability employment inclusion.

Building Bridges and Breaking Down Barriers - Program Agenda 2018.PDF

Program Agenda Flyer - Cover 2018.jpg
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