Ryan Croke with INCIL founding director Ann Ford. Photo courtesy of INCIL.

By Patrick Yeagle

Growing up the son of deaf parents, Ryan Croke knew well the challenges faced by people with disabilities.

Now, Croke brings that understanding to his new role as executive director of the  Illinois Network of Centers for Independent Living (INCIL). Croke’s appointment follows the retirement of founding executive director Ann Ford earlier this year.

“Ryan Croke has the background and experience needed to make real progress on issues important to people with disabilities,” Ford said. “He has the vision and leadership skills that can make a significant, positive difference – to continue the important work of maximizing independence for all people.”

Since 2015, Croke has served as associate chancellor for Public Affairs at the University of Illinois Springfield. Prior to that, he was chief of staff for former Gov. Pat Quinn. While working for Quinn, Croke also served as co-chair of the Illinois Employment and Economic Opportunity for People with Disabilities task force, spearheading efforts to promote community-based, integrated employment as the first option for people with disabilities.

“As the son of deaf parents, this work is personal,” Croke said. “INCIL stands for equal opportunity, dignity and inclusion for people with disabilities and I cannot wait to devote my full energy to its mission. It will take a relentless effort to confront and overcome today’s obstacles to decent healthcare, housing, education and employment, but our association has the right tools to help lead the charge, and I’m honored to be a part of it.”

Croke, a Springfield resident, also serves on the board of directors for the Springfield Center for Independent Living and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Illinois.

“We are thrilled to have found a new executive director with Ryan’s leadership, poise, and commitment to disability advocacy,” said Daisy Feidt, INCIL’s board president. “This is a pivotal time for the disability rights movement in America, and we are confident that Ryan can build on our past victories, in order to protect and advance the goals of centers for independent living throughout Illinois.”

Contact Patrick Yeagle at patrick@springfieldbusinessjournal.com.