The ACLU of Southern California's board of directors has elected actor and activist Alan Toy as its next president. He is the first disabled person to lead the ACLU/SC's board of directors, and he has been a strong advocate for disability rights within the ACLU as a member of its national board of directors.

Toy, who contracted polio when he was three, is a longtime leader in changing media images of people with disabilities. As an activist in the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists and as the president of the Media Access Office in Hollywood from 1984 to 1989, he pushed entertainment industry leaders to create characters, storylines and images that resisted age-old negative stereotypes of people with disabilities.

"Alan has faced great challenges in his life, and he shares the ACLU's vision of fair play and equal rights for all," said ACLU of Southern California Executive Director Ramona Ripston. "His creativity, energy, and vision display the best of what Southern California represents to the world, and he is a fantastic choice to lead our board of directors."

As an actor, Alan has worked in dozens television shows and major motion pictures, including "In the Line of Fire," "Born on the Fourth of July," Martin Scorsese's "The Aviator," "Beverly Hills: 90210" and most recently a small role on the ABC hit "Brothers and Sisters."

His advocacy in mass media not only paved the way for many other disabled performers to have successful careers, but also gave viewers around the world a new way of seeing people with disabilities on television and in films. Toy is currently associate director of the UCLA Center for Neighborhood Knowledge.

Toy, a member of the ACLU's board of directors since 1995, takes over for Isabelle Gunning, a professor at Southwestern Law School who has been president of the board of directors since 2005. Gunning will remain on the board of directors.

"Isabelle has championed our constitutional values through an extremely difficult period for our nation and region, and we have been lucky to have her leadership," said Ripston.

Also elected at the board of directors' Jan. 16 meeting:

- Shelan Joseph, a Los Angeles County Public Defender for more than 10 years, will be Vice President.

- Anne Richardson, a partner at the law firm of Hadsell & Stormer focusing on civil rights litigation, will be Secretary.

- Carrie Hempel, a clinical professor at USC Law School's Post Conviction Project, will be Treasurer.

- James Gilliam, Jr., a longtime activist for gay and lesbian rights and an associate at Paul, Hastings, Janofskly & Walker, will be affirmative action officer.

- David Cruz, a USC Law School professor who teaches constitutional law, will be the affiliate representative on the ACLU's national board of directors.

The ACLU of Southern California is one of the nation's largest ACLU affiliates, with more than 50,000 members. The ACLU board of directors guides the ACLU's work to safeguard civil liberties and civil rights for residents in the seven-county Southern California area.

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