Our Team

Carlean Ponder

Director of the Justice Center

Carlean Ponder brings to our community a wealth of experience and expertise, as an attorney and civil rights advocate. Her most recent role as the Director of Disability Rights and Housing for The Arc of the United States, highlights her exceptional ability to navigate the intricate landscape of federal public policy. In this capacity, she dedicated herself to championing the rights of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, advocating for civil rights, criminal justice reform, housing equity, voting rights, and the protection of ADA and Olmstead provisions.


Previously, she was a senior advisor to the U.S. Social Security Administration, where she skillfully assessed disability cases and federal regulations, authored impactful orders, and mentored new attorneys. As a grassroots leader, Carlean co- founded a local coalition aimed at fostering transparency and accountability within state and local policing practices in Maryland. She emphasized the connection between disability rights and racial justice due to the criminal legal system’s disproportionate impact on disabled people of color. 


As the Autism Society of America pioneers the establishment of the Center on Autism Advocacy, Empowerment, and Justice, Carlean’s exceptional qualifications uniquely position her to lead the charge in addressing these injustices and inequities while championing the rights of those affected.


Carlean holds a Juris Doctorate from the University of Illinois and Bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan.