2022 National APSE Board Election Winner: Nicholas Love, Arizona

Photo of Nicholas love, and a quote from the profile.

2022 National APSE Board of Directors At-Large Election Winner!

Nicholas Love, Arizona

The area(s) that best represents your current position/experience:

Person with a Disability; Family Member of a Person with a Disability; Service Provider or Manager; Policy Work Advocate

Describe your history/nature of involvement/interest in promoting competitive integrated employment in your state. Additionally, explain why you are passionate about competitive, integrated employment for people with disabilities (no more than 500 words):

At my heart I am a social justice activist. I have dedicated my whole life (starting at a very young age) to speaking up for equality for all people. It is through this heart path that I found my career in fighting for people with disabilities.

I always believed that all people have worth and something to contribute to society. As I worked to promote this belief within the gender and sexual minorities communities, I fell into working within the behavioral health system. There I found the hidden discriminating, patronizing, and paternalistic behaviors in the system and the people who worked within it. I was disgusted; and a disability advocate was born. Since then my career has focused on assuring that all people with disabilities have the ability to live the life they choice.

There is a Native American belief that all people come to this Earth with a gift. If that gift is not shared the tribe is not whole. I apply this belief to my disability employment work. All people, no matter how “significant” the disability, have a gift. The purpose of us who work in the disability employment realm is to help find that gift and assist the person in sharing that gift – hopefully in a means that provides economic wellbeing, i.e. employment. If that gift is not shared then our society is lacking. So, competitive, integrated, employment for people with disabilities makes our society complete and a more enriched.

This approach is the center of all the disability work I have done over the last twenty plus years. This work has included a wide-range of jobs within the disability communities. No matter the job role, I continuous found myself fighting (against society but also the systems themselves) for people with disabilities to live as they choice. Usually what I found was that people did not have the financial means to live as they wanted. Employment became more than a question about “Do you want to work?” but more about “How do you want to live?”.

Becoming tried of the internal struggle of providing direct services for people with disabilities, I turned to working within and against the systems that were supposed to support the people with disabilities. Policy change and system transformation became my charge. I created numerous programs, projects, and pilots to promote employment as a means to independence. I assist in creating Arizona Employment First initiative. Then shared that philosophy throughout Arizona. The workforce development work I felt and shared throughout my life and career now had a community and framework. This led to my current position as Director of Community Inclusion at a global non-profit.

Employment is my passion. I have been told that going to one of my presentations is like going to “church”. I “preach” employment at every opportunity. It is simply who I am.

What relevance does/should APSE and its chapters/members have in national and state conversations regarding equity, diversity, and inclusion (no more than 350 words)?

If APSE is to carry out its mission “to facilitate the full inclusion of people with disabilities in the workplace and community”, we must address all aspects that are barriers to employment. That would include the all holistic facets of the human condition.

The disability community is the only “minority” population that encapsulates all aspects of society. Therefore, any engagement in serving people with disabilities must include a deep understanding of the intersectionality and interactively of this diverse community. But knowledge within a bubble does not truly address the complexity of the human nature of disability. Nor does awareness or even action on the part of people with disabilities fully recognize that we who serve people with disabilities also serve people of a variety of race, ethnicity, sexuality and gender identities and expressions, religions, spirituality, economic class, political status, etc. All of which could be a barrier or concern in regards to obtaining or maintaining employment. Hence, APSE, its chapters, and members must not only be part of state and national conversations that further full inclusion on people with disabilities, but we must also be part of the actions that support the equity of people with disabilities in all aspects that create their individual identities.

Due to our society’s current climate, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) is the current catch phrase of our times. But speaking about this is not enough. I believe that APSE must not only educate on and promote DEI of people with disabilities within APSE; but APSE must partner with and create allies to take a strong position on areas that impact the lives of people with disabilities. Joining together to speak up and act when necessary while not losing the focus of APSE – employment for people with disabilities.

What skills, knowledge or lived experience do you have that will contribute to strengthening and growing the financial health of APSE and promoting its mission to advance employment and self-sufficiency for all people with disabilities (no more than 350 words)?

I have worked directly within the disability world for over twenty years. I started my second career, as what some might call the bottom, as an overnight Behavioral Tech Trainee for people with a diagnosis of Severe Mental Illness. By day three I was a disability advocate. I have been a Case Manager, Employment Specialist, Peer (Paraprofessional) Trainer, Rehabilitation Specialist, and Work Incentive Counselor Manager – to name a few of my past job titles. But no matter the title name, I worked to promote independence and equity for people with disabilities. I see employment as the main means to accomplish this.

I have held several certifications addressing specific areas of concern for people with disabilities including substance use, financial education, family dynamics, sexual offense and/or incarceration history, conflict resolution, self-determination, and transition to adulthood to name just a fraction. I am a Certified Psychiatric Rehabilitation Practitioner and a Certified Community Work Incentive Counselor. I have a degree in Holistic Healthcare with a concentration in Mind Body Transformational Psychology. This colors a holistic approach all aspects of my work.

I have served and continue to serve on numerous boards and committees. I worked with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) to address diversity and inclusion on a national level. I assisted NAMI and Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association in creating their first LGBT committees. I have served on committees to promote benefit planning and Employment First philosophies and policies. I served as a Youth Leadership Board Elder. Word restriction prohibits my ability to highlight the last two decades of my work and commitment to promoting community inclusion for people with disabilities.

It is through my work as a disability advocate that I found the power to claim my identity as a person with a disability. I was born with multiple disabilities but would not state such for the first forty years of my life because of the stigma associated with disabilities. Through serving people with disabilities I was able to find another factor of identity. I can now proudly add I am a person with disabilities to the long list of self-identifying labels.


Nicholas Love has spoken nationally as an advocate for diversity and social justice for over a quarter of a century. He likes to combine knowledge and wit as part of his work and passion to change cultural perceptions. He views educating on employment issues for people who have disabilities as part of the fight for disability rights and social justice.

Nicholas has over two decades of experience of serving people with disabilities always with a focus on competitive integrated employment. In his career, he has created and managed several programs and projects that serve people with disabilities, including a behavioral health paraprofessional certification program, a state-wide WIPA (benefits) program, an Employment Network, and numerous demonstration projects to improve employment outcomes and economic wellbeing for people who have disabilities. He is employed as a Director of Community Inclusion at a global, disability-led, non-profit. There he works on national policies, system change, and provider transformation as a subject matter expert on Social Security and workforce development.

Nicholas has served and continues to serve on numerous national and state boards and committees related to promoting employment, financial self-sufficiency, and full societal inclusion of people who have disabilities, as well as other marginalized communities. He worked with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) to address diversity and inclusion on a national level. He also assisted NAMI and Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association in creating their first LGBT committees to address gender and sexual minorities within the behavioral health systems. Nicholas was part of the core team that developed and implemented Arizona’s Employment First.

Nicholas is constantly working on personal self-improvement, education, and growth. He has held several certifications throughout his career. He is a Certified Community Work Incentive Coordinator and a Certified Psychiatric Rehabilitation Practitioner with a degree in Holistic Healthcare with a concentration in Mind Body Transformational Psychology and spiritual studies.

In 2010, he was awarded the Martin Luther King: Living the Dream Award. In 2013, he was honored as one of the 100 Trans making a difference in America.

Nicholas includes being a person living with disabilities to his long, intersecting list of self-identities.

Nicholas is running as a member-at-large for the APSE Board to share his passion, experiences, and expertise to assure that all people have the rights and means to live as they choose; people who have disabilities can move out of poverty through employment; and that professionals have the knowledge, skills, and support to work successfully with the people they serve.

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