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Getting to know us....

Bernadette Franks-Ongoy
Executive Director

Bernie manages and oversees the day-to-day activities of Disability Rights Montana. She sets the tone and ensures that our mission of Equality, Liberty, and Justice for All and advocating for equal rights protection for Montanans with disabilities is being accomplished through the work of the staff.

Bernie says it is very rewarding knowing that our work directly makes a difference in the lives of people with disabilities.  Every person is entitled to the same legal and civil rights, freedoms, and protections. Disability Rights Montana is actively accomplishing that for people with disabilities. She enjoys going out and doing outreach -- talking to people about rights protection and giving them information that supports their desire to live with liberty and self-determination.

Bernie believes people with disabilities need timely, accurate information and quality advocacy and legal representations.  She makes sure that happens through our organization.

Bernie was raised by a mom with a disability and a dad who did not realize he was a feminist! She lived in an accessible house before the ADA was made into a law. After all, she says, her mom needed access to all the kids' room with her wheelchair.

In her rare spare moments, Bernie is an avid cyclist.

She grew up in the sugar plantation town of Waialua, Hawaii. She graduated from Chaminade University with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Criminal Justice and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology. She graduated from the University of San Diego School of Law in 1983. Her past legal experience includes: Law Clerk for the First Judicial Circuit Court in Hawaii, Founding Executive Director of the Hawaii Bar Foundation, Deputy Corporation Counsel for the City and County of Honolulu, and the Attorney and Director of Programs for the Protection and Advocacy system in Hawaii. Bernie is licensed to practice law in Hawaii and with the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Bernie has served as president of the National Disability Rights Network.