Sharon daVanport is a disability justice advocate, speaker, and educator who serves as the founding executive director of the Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network (AWN). Sharon’s work encompasses several aspects of the wider and cross-disability justice movement, including a focus on restorative and transformative justice, and strengthening leadership and partnerships through collective capacity and horizontal organizing practices. Sharon is passionate about access to sexual and reproductive health care, support and advocacy for victims and survivors of intimate partner violence, gender diversity and racial equity in disability rights organizations.
Under Sharon’s leadership, AWN has taken an active role in a variety of academic-community partnerships with various institutions of higher education including Lurie Institute for Disability Policy, Brandeis University, Rice University, Duke University, University of Michigan, Georgia State University, Brooklyn Law School, Bellevue College, University of Houston, University of Kansas, and University of Texas.
In addition to these partnerships, AWN joined a critical collaboration with researchers at George Washington University and Children’s National Health System, expanded to hire its first staff, launched its own publication imprint as DragonBee Press, collaborated on the annual Autistics Present Symposium on autistic culture and community, and developed a robust fiscal sponsorship program that supports the work of grassroots organizations, as well as projects and events in the greater disability community. Some of these fiscal partners include the Disability Intersectionality Summit (DIS), DC Teens, DYNAMIC, and the Autistic People of Color Fund (APOC). APOC is a fund for community reparations for Autistic People of Color’s interdependence, survival, and empowerment. In addition to these initiatives, AWN’s website was selected by the Library of Congress to be archived for AWN’s contribution to women and gender studies.
Sharon serves on the steering committee of the National Disability Leadership Alliance (NDLA); represents AWN as part of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD); serves as Board Treasurer for Crushing Colonialism, a multimedia Native-led project; and serves as a self-advocate advisory board member for Felicity House, a social support and community outreach center for autistic women in New York City. Over the past decade, Sharon has advocated for autistic women, girls, and nonbinary people through forging critical research collaborations and providing consultations to White House and U.S. Government Accountability Office staff. In connection to their role as Felicity House advisory board member, Sharon was interviewed on the Today Show during the morning program’s Sisterhood Series in January 2020.
Sharon co-edited the anthology, “Sincerely, Your Autistic Child” (a Beacon Press publication) and also contributed a chapter on AWN’s founding and early work to the collection Autistic Advocacy and the Neurodiversity Movement: Stories from the Frontline.
In recognition of their dedication to mentoring and self-advocacy, Sharon was inducted into the 2020 Susan Daniels Disability Mentoring Hall of Fame, and received the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network’s Award for Service to the Self-Advocacy Movement in 2014.
Previously, Sharon served as Treasurer for the Nebraska Statewide Independent Living Council, where they had been appointed as a representative of the Nebraska Department of Education. Sharon’s professional work history includes case management for a state employment service and workforce development agency; a family support worker at a human services agency responsible for promoting family reunification for children and youth in the foster system; and an advisor for a court watch program assessing outcomes for a statewide intimate partner violence coalition.
Sharon’s educational pursuits include women & gender studies, as well as entrepreneurship & business administration, and is a certified peer support and wellness specialist. In Sharon’s spare time, they enjoy traveling, research, reading, music, and spending time with family and close friends.