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2023 Gatzert Child Welfare Awardees Support Disability Justice and Mobility

The Gatzert Child Welfare Fellowship is a one-quarter fellowship awarded to UW Ph.D. candidates writing dissertations that contribute to the lives of children with disabilities. The 2023 awardees support disability justice and mobility through their dissertation research and professional activities.

Maddie N. Zdeblick

Learning Sciences

“Transforming Educational Theater Towards Disability Justice”

Maddie Zdeblick

Maddie N. Zdeblick (she/her) is a Seattle-based teaching artist, theater director, and PhD candidate in education at the University of Washington Seattle. In research and practice, Maddie is passionate about Disability Justice, educational equity, and innovating new theatrical forms in partnership with learners of all ages and abilities. She is also founding Artistic Director of Parachute Players, a multisensory, immersive theatre company, and program manager of Dandylyon Drama’s Creative Adaptive Performance Ensemble (CAPE). Maddie holds a master’s degree in education from the University of Washington Seattle and a bachelor’s degree in Theatre and Sociology from Northwestern University, with a focus in Theatre for Young Audiences. She is a 2019 graduate of the Washington State Teaching Artist Training Lab.

In preliminary research with disabled student actors in a performance group, Maddie explored how creative spaces can afford students access to diverse expressions of individual and collective agency. Maddie’s dissertation, Transforming Educational Theater Towards Disability Justice, will explore how a neurodiverse group of theater teaching artists and high school students might co-design inclusive theater learning experiences grounded in Disability Justice, how and what students with disabilities might learn through such experiences, and what tensions might arise. This research will occur in partnership with three community organizations: a non-profit theater, an inclusive year-round pK-12 school, and a day program for adults with disabilities.

Honorable Mention: Charlotte Caskey

Mechanical Engineering

Effects of Spinal Stimulation on Neuromechanics in Cerebral Palsy

Charlotte Caskey

Charlotte Caskey’s research is focused on implementing and understanding promising interventions designed to enhance mobility and function for children with cerebral palsy (CP). Current therapy and treatments for children with CP are highly variable across individuals and often require continued training to maintain improvements, leaving many parents and children desiring improved treatment options. Charlotte is interested in how transcutaneous spinal cord stimulation (tSCS) might be paired with physical therapy to maximize improvements in response to an intervention. She has led extensive experimental work to understand how tSCS affects the movement of children with CP ages 4-14. This includes a highly individualized training program to understand the long-term effects of tSCS when paired with interval treadmill training and an acute study focused on understanding of the underlying physiological mechanisms driving functional changes. Charlotte’s dissertation bridges the fields of neuroscience, rehabilitation, and engineering to better quantify responses to novel interventions to promote improved function and increased mobility for children with CP. She is a recipient of the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship and Ron and Wanda Crockett Endowed Fellowship.

Charlotte received her BS in Biomedical Engineering with a concentration in Biomechanics and a minor in Ethics from North Carolina State University in 2019. She then completed her MS in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Washington in 2022. After completing her PhD, she intends to pursue a career as an assistant professor, continuing research that bridges the gap between engineering design and rehabilitation implementation.

Announcing the 2022 Gatzert Child Welfare Fellows

How can learning and identity development combat spatial oppression?

How can we improve mobility for children with cerebral palsy?

How can we center disabled experiences to take up Disability Justice in school curricula?

The 2022 Gatzert Child Welfare Fellows are seeking answers to these questions through their dissertation research. The Gatzert Child Welfare Fellowship is a one-quarter fellowship awarded to UW Ph.D. candidates writing dissertations that contribute to the lives of children with disabilities.

Meet the 2022 fellows…

Kaleb Germinaro

Learning Sciences

“Holding and Making Space Through Learning and Identity Development”

Kaleb Germinaro

Kaleb Germinaro (he/him) explores healing through geography via learning and identity development as a process of combatting geographic and spatial oppression. He focuses on relational approaches to community-based research to devise opportunity for co-design and the co-creation of actionable systems change and experiences. He currently interacts with Seattle as a high school football coach, community educator, and member of Estelita’s Library. He also serves on the Equitable Development Initiatives Advisory Board in Seattle’s Office of Planning and Community Development. In these interactions he engages in conversations about space and power with the same focus on community and care.

Kaleb’s dissertation looks at how youth leverage learning and identity development as mechanisms to both design and build a physical structure for another group of people, invoking belonging, advocacy, civic engagement and spatial justice. His dissertation project will support work with Sawhorse Revolution and highlights the various ways learning and education facilitate the social production of space in red- and yellow-lined areas and how youth can/should be involved in the civic process of city-making and development. Specifically, youth are designing a physical space guided by disability justice and Deaf Space, building a physical structure for the organization Deaf Spotlight. The project will provide a framework for youth to get involved with civic process and engagement with regards to spatial justice and development for youth, communities of color and those with disabilities.

Sarah Tov

Special Education

“Cripping Culturally Sustaining Pedagogies: Transformative Curriculum for Disability Justice in Schools”

Sarah Tov

Sarah Arvey Tov’s research explores youth development of disability identity, community and culture in school settings. Disrupting historical notions of disability as a deficit, Sarah believes in creating educational spaces that recognize and affirm disability as an important component of students’ intersectional identities. Specifically she is interested in designing learning opportunities that center disabled experiences and perspectives as curricular insight and innovation. As a disabled graduate student and previously a special education teacher, her first disability curriculum project was in collaboration with a team of youth, educators, media makers, and activists, all of whom have disabilities. The team created the One Out of Five: Disability History and Pride Project (, a free resource with student voice videos, discussion guides, lesson plans, and book lists. In addition to One Out of Five, she also works with South End Stories (, a local anti-racist arts education program, supporting curriculum and programming that promote accessibility and inclusion.

Her current project, Cripping Culturally Sustaining Pedagogies (CSP, Django, 2012) further explores the development of curriculum focused on disability, intersectionality, and youth expressions of identity.  The term “cripping” comes directly from the Disability Rights and Disability Justice movement to reclaim derogatory language as an activist stance towards positive disability identity.  Both through theory and practice, Sarah focuses on Disability Justice, which was originally theorized by Sins Invalid, an artist collective of of queer disabled people of color. She engages disabled youth in arts-based learning to express disability identity, community, and culture and to envision applications of Disability Justice in schools. Cripping CSP is also a way to disrupt research done on disabled students and communities, and instead transform curriculum and educational research as projects done for and by the disability community.

Nicole Zaino

Mechanical Engineering

“Evaluating the Efficacy of Mobility Aids for Children with Cerebral Palsy”

Nicole Zaino’s research aims to optimize mobility aid prescription to improve mobility for children with physical disabilities, specifically cerebral palsy (CP). Nicole has used innovative, multidisciplinary methods to critically analyze mobility aid provision, access, and use for children with disabilities. More specifically she has used qualitative interviews and focus groups to capture key stakeholder perspectives on the provision, design, and use of orthoses and walkers. Additionally, her work quantifies the navigation and neuromechanical impacts of using power mobility for young children with CP. Nicole’s dissertation research bridges the fields of engineering and rehabilitation medicine to optimize mobility, in all forms, for children with CP. She is a recipient of the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship. Nicole received her BS in Mechanical Engineering with a minor in Biomedical Engineering from Clarkson University in 2018 and an MS in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Washington in 2021. She intends to pursue a career in clinical research, focused on mobility aids and intervention impact on gait and mobility to enhance mobility and quality of life for individuals with disabilities.

2021 Gatzert Fellows Contribute to the Lives of Children with Disabilities

How can we make ankle-foot orthoses that do more to improve mobility?

How are parents of children with intellectual and developmental disabilities in China working to enhance their children’s quality of life?

These are some of the questions that drive this year’s Gatzert Child Welfare Fellows. The Gatzert Child Welfare Fellowship is a one-quarter fellowship awarded to UW Ph.D. candidates writing dissertations that contribute to the lives of children with disabilities.

Meet the 2021 fellows…

Shixin Huang

Jackson School of International Studies

Dissertation: “Disability Rights in (Trans)formation: Negotiating Between International Discourses, Authoritarian Politics and Family Life in China”

Shixin Huang profile picture

Shixin Huang’s doctoral research examines the evolution and development of the disability rights movement in China, with a particular focus on the activism of parents of children with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). More specifically, she studies how parents of children with I/DD translate and deploy the international discourses of disability rights to initiate service programs and policy advocacy campaigns to enhance their and their children’s quality of life and inclusion in the community. With China’s ratification of the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD) in 2008, a significant number of international funding, programs, and rights discourses have come into China, transforming the agenda of parents’ organizations on the ground. Shixin’s research pays particular attention to parents’ organizations’ perception and translation of international models of disability rights to initiate policy advocacy campaigns that advance inclusive education, supportive employment, and community/independent living. She investigates how these Anglo-American-originated visions manifest in the circumstances of China that are characterized by authoritarian politics and a paternalistic culture of filial piety defining the parents-children relationship.

Shixin worked in the field of disability rights advocacy in China and served as the principal manager of an EU-funded campaign to promote community empowerment and the education, employment, legal capacity, and cultural identity rights of persons with disabilities. In addition to her research, Shixin continues to work closely with grassroots NGOs promoting advocacy campaigns and facilitating disability equality training for the disability community, lawyers, NGO workers, journalists and others. She has written popular articles in newspapers and social media on disability rights in China.

Shixin holds a Master of Social Work from the University of Hong Kong and Master of Political Sociology from the London School of Economics.

Michael Rosenberg

Mechanical Engineering

Dissertation: “Modeling and Predicting Subject-specific Responses to Ankle Exoskeletons”

Michael Rosenberg’s research aims to improve mobility by modeling and predicting diverse responses to ankle-foot orthoses (AFOs)—a common non-surgical clinical intervention that is often prescribed during childhood to assist locomotion for individuals with cerebral palsy. Michael has applied and developed physics-based and data-driven models to predict change gait with AFOs and uncover how individualized mechanisms of walking change when AFO mechanical properties are varied. During his MS and PhD, Michael has mentored ten undergraduate students on independent research projects including quantifying motor control during acceleration from standing to walking and determining the effect of impaired motor control on optimal AFO design during walking. He is a recipient of the University of Washington College of Engineering Dean’s Fellowship and an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship. Michael received his BS in Mechanical Engineering from North Carolina State University in 2015 and his MS in Mechanical Engineering in from the University of Washington in 2018. He intends to pursue a career in academic research, focusing on quantifying assistive device and intervention impacts on gait across daily activities, developing techniques to increase access to quantitative gait analysis for children and families living in resource-limited settings or far from clinical gait labs, and developing principles for systematically individualizing rehabilitation planning and assistive device design to enhance mobility.