Press Releases


(June 17, 2022, Atlanta, Ga.) – The Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities (GCDD) welcomes two new members to serve on its council: Five-time Olympic Medalist Elana Meyers Taylor and National Deaf Advocate Sharia Denise Stripling.

“We are extremely excited to welcome the new members to the Council.  Their passion and tenacity have driven them to success in their respective pursuits. We anticipate that those traits, as well as their platforms, will make them powerful advocates for Georgians with disabilities,” said Nicholaus Perry, GCDD’s Council Chairman.

Taylor is a four-time World Champion, eight-time World Championships medalist, four-time Winter Olympian and five-time Olympic medalist (2010, 2014, 2018, 2022) and 2015 and 2022 World Cup Champion in bobsled.  She is the most decorated African American Winter Olympian and women’s bobsledder in history.  Taylor attended George Washington University on a softball scholarship and went on to play professionally for the Mid-Michigan Ice. In the summer of 2007, she went to Lake Placid, N.Y., home of the US National Bobsled Team and she never left. In April 2014, she became Elana Meyers Taylor, marrying fellow bobsled athlete Nic Taylor and in 2020, Elana and Nic welcomed their beautiful baby boy, Nico, into the world. Elana served a six-year term as an athlete director on the USA Bobsled and Skeleton Board of Directors and is currently a mentor for Classroom Champions. Recently, George Washington University honored her with an honorary doctorate degree. Elana has served as the President of the Women’s Sports Foundation, as a member of the Athlete Advisory Panel and has traveled the country sharing her passion for sports and equality for girls. She has recently focused her efforts on disability inclusion as her son Nico was born with Down Syndrome and a hearing impairment.

“As a parent of a child with a developmental disability, I am looking forward to continuing to advocate for him and other children and adults like him.  Until we are able to fully appreciate and celebrate the entire spectrum of neurodiversity, we have much work to do, and I look forward to doing the work.  I’m honored to receive this appointment as a council member and look forward to working with the other members,” said Taylor.

Stripling, born and raised in Fort Valley, Georgia lost hearing at age four. Growing up she developed a passion for dance and pageantry after reading a book by Heather Whitestone, the first deaf ballerina and Miss America 1995. Stripling became the first deaf graduate from Valdosta State University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance and Theater in 2014. During her matriculation at Valdosta State University, she became the first deaf woman to win the title of Alpha phi Alpha: Mu Omicron Miss Black and Gold 2013 and held the title Miss Deaf Georgia 2013-2015. Since graduating from college, Stripling continues to advocate for the deaf community, works as a dance instructor, performs, and completes in competitions such as the Ms. Black Georgia International Ambassador competition. She is using her platform “Breaking Barriers” to help deaf youth and currently works at Apexx, an after-school program, as a Dance instructor and American Sign Language coach. She is engaged to the love of her life, Jorel Steven James, is a National Black Deaf Advocate, and is excited about working with GCDD to use her experience to help make an impact in Georgia.

“I am very excited about serving on GCDD’s council because it is my passion to work with people with disabilities and deaf people like me,” said Stripling. “I believe that it will have an impact all over Georgia and change will happen.”

GCDD Council Members are committed to advancing public policy and systems change that help the lives of individuals with intellectual developmental disabilities in Georgia. Taylor and Stripling begin serving on GCDD’s council July 2022. For more information, visit

About the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities: The Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities (GCDD) is the State's leader in advancing public policy on behalf of persons with developmental disabilities. Its mission is to bring about social and policy changes that promote opportunities for the wide spectrum of diverse people/persons with developmental disabilities and their families to live, learn, work, play, and worship in their communities. For more information, visit at