Patrick Parkes, 33
Absolutely Accessible Kent business development coordinator
Disability Advocates of Kent County
Patrick Parkes has a big goal in his current project — to make Grand Rapids a city renowned for its accessibility and inclusivity.
Parkes, who has cerebral palsy, said his biggest influence in life was finding an educational home at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, from where he earned two degrees and is working on a third, a Master of Business Administration. Parkes said the university has a “storied history” of equipping and empowering future professionals with disabilities, a message that taught him his disability was “a powerful identity and simply a natural part of human diversity.”
Wherever he goes, Parkes either works in or volunteers in spaces that help change the landscape for individuals with disabilities. His current role at Disability Advocates of Kent County is no different. Since last year, he has worked on the Absolutely Accessible Kent project to educate public and private sector entities on the business case for accessibility and universal design.
Parkes also is a commissioner for the East Grand Rapids Parks and Recreation Commission and has been board vice president and an athlete representative for USA Boccia since 2018, a position he took up while an athlete for the organization. He competed for the U.S. National Team in the wheelchair sport of boccia at the 2019 Americas Regional Championships in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
A former resident of Kansas City, Kansas, Parkes was named to the Class of 2017 Rising Stars by The Independent: Kansas City’s Journal of Society as a public policy expert and nonprofit volunteer.