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Anjali Forber-Pratt

Anjali Forber-Pratt

2-time Paralympian | Director, National Institute on Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research | Class of 2006

You name it, Anjali Forber-Pratt did it at 1207 South Oak Street.

That’s home to the Disability Resources & Educational Services building — and favorite hangout of many of the most accomplished athletes on the UI campus.

“I have many fond memories of the majority of my time spent in that building for everything from working out to lounging around to writing papers in the hallways to stopping in for wheelchair repairs,” Forber-Pratt says, “but always with a warm reception from all of the staff and coaches there who have continued to stay in touch all these years later.”

The India-born, Massachusetts-raised wheelchair racer competed in two Paralympic Games — in 2008 in Beijing, where she took bronze in both the 400-meter T53 event the 4×100-meter relay T53–T54, and in 2012 in London.

After earning three degrees from Illinois — a bachelor’s and master’s in speech language pathology and a Ph.D. in human resource education — she joined the faculty at Vanderbilt University, as an assistant professor in the Department of Human & Organizational Development.

Since 2021, she’s served as director of the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research, a position she was appointed to by President Joe Biden.

“From my U of I days, I distinctly remember being explicitly taught that we had an obligation as alums to make the world a better place and to be ambassadors, especially for the broader disability community,” she said in a 2021 story announcement by the UI College of Education. “Dr. Timothy Nugent taught us that, and my coach, Adam Bleakney, and others reinforced it every day — it was always more than just our athletic journey or just our academic journey.

"Many of us have found our own unique ways to embody this, and I believe serving as director of the National Institute of Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research is one way that I will continue to try to serve the broader disability community and educate others.

“I believe my collective training — with two degrees in speech and hearing sciences as well as my Ph.D. in education that taught me the analytic research skills — it is truly the combination of these degrees, my U of I experiences, and my own lived experiences as a proud disabled alum that position me well to transition into this role.”

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