National Research Center for Parents with Disabilities


Our investigators are a team of seasoned researchers and disability professionals who combine their research and passion for working with the disability community to create resources that are evidence-based, culturally competent and rooted in principles of self-determination and civil rights for people with disabilities. 

Monika Mitra, Lure Institute Director

Monika Mitra

Principal Investigator

Monika Mitra, PhD, is Director and Professor at the Lurie Institute for Disability Policy, Brandeis University. For the past two decades she has been conducting research on the health care experiences and health outcomes of people with disabilities across the lifespan, with a particular focus on the perinatal health of women with disabilities and disability-related disparities in health and access to care. As principal investigator of the National Research Center for Parents with Disabilities, Dr. Mitra oversees the development of culturally competent and evidence-based research, training, and technical assistance to improve the lives of parents with disabilities and their families.
Linda Long-Bellil, Co-Investigator

Linda Long-Bellil, PhD'07

Co-Principal Investigator and Director of Stakeholder Engagement

Linda Long-Bellil, PhD'07, JD, is an Assistant Professor in Family Medicine and Community Health at University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School/Commonwealth Medicine.  She conducts research and policy analysis on issues related to health care, including reproductive health care of women with disabilities, employment and long-term services and supports. She also teaches in the Shriver Center’s Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) program and educates current and future health professionals about providing quality care to people with disabilities. 
Kara Ayers, Consultant

Kara Ayers

Co-Investigator and Associate Director of the University of Cincinnati Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities

Kara Ayers, PhD, is  co-founder of the Disabled Parenting Project, and Associate Director of the University of Cincinnati Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities. Trained as a psychologist, Kara is an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics in the College of Medicine at the University of Cincinnati and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. She works on numerous disability policy issues, including health equity, home and community-based services, and bioethics. Her research interests include protecting the rights of parents with disabilities, improving adoption access for parents with disabilities, and increasing peer support for women with disabilities during pregnancy. Kara is a disabled mother of three.

Peter C. Hauser


Peter C. Hauser, PhD, is a Professor and Director of the NTID Research Center on Culture and Language at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf at Rochester Institute of Technology where he is also the Assistant Dean for Faculty Research Mentoring. He is a clinical neuropsychologist by training and has over 50 publications about deaf children's and adults' cognition, learning, and health. He is deaf himself and a father.

Elizabeth Lightfoot

Co-Investigator and Director and Foundation Professor at the Arizona State University School of Social Work

Elizabeth Lightfoot, PhD, MSW, is the Director and Foundation Professor at the Arizona State University School of Social Work. She has published widely on the topic of parenting by individuals with disabilities and is a leading expert on parents with disabilities and the child welfare system. Her research has been used as evidence in efforts to remove parental disability language from state statutes in the United States and she has developed promising practices to support parents with disabilities. 

Michael McKee, Co-Investigator

Michael McKee

Co-Investigator and Co-Director of Virtual Deaf Parents Peer Support

Michael McKee, MD, MPH, is an Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan Medical School. As a family medicine physician with a hearing impairment, he has focused his clinical and research energy to address health care access, health literacy, and health communication for people who are Deaf and hard of hearing. This research includes a study on the attitudes, knowledge, and skills related to health information in this population, in addition to four other projects that aim to address address health care issues for Deaf and hard of hearing people, as well as other people with disabilities.

Joanne Nicholson

Co-Investigator and Professor in the Institute for Behavioral Health at Brandeis University

Joanne Nicholson, Ph.D., is Professor in the Institute for Behavioral Health and a clinical and research psychologist with over 30 years of experience working with parents with serious mental illnesses and their families. She is Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Nicholson has an active program of research on parents and their children, in partnership with people in recovery. She and her collaborators have developed rehabilitation education and training programs and materials for parents, integrating the current knowledge on parents with serious mental illnesses and evaluating interventions for families, including the pilot Family Options intervention and, more recently, the ParentingWell initiative in Massachusetts, USA. Nicholson and colleagues are exploiting emerging technologies on behalf of individuals with serious mental illnesses, developing and testing the WorkingWell mobile app to provide support for individuals in the workplace.

Robyn Powell, PhD'20

Co-Investigator and Director of State Policy Analyses and Family Legal Supports

Robyn Powell, MA, JD, PhD'20, is a Research Associate at the Lurie Institute. As a disabled woman, her research interests include disability law and policy, particularly the needs, experiences, and rights of parents with disabilities and their families. She is one of the country’s foremost authorities on the rights of parents with disabilities and she was principal author of the National Council on Disability’s Rocking the Cradle report. She has written extensively on the needs and experiences of parents with disabilities and their families and has given dozens of presentations to attorneys, social workers, policymakers, advocates, and researchers.