Bringing my insightful perspective as I navigate life’s challenges.


Portrait of Geri Mariano, inspirational DEI speaker
Geri as a baby

My Story

I was born October, 1967 with Diastrophic Dysplasia (Dwarfism), a hereditary condition affecting bones and cartilage. Abandoned by birth parents at the hospital, social workers placed me with a family in March 1969 after my picture in the local newspaper garnered several applications.

My new family instilled in me the will to succeed. I attended public schools and went on to earn a Bachelor’s in American Studies from Smith College in 1989. In 2007, I received my Master’s in Therapeutic Recreation from Lehman College.

I have always felt that talking with young students and introducing them to people with differences dispels stigmas. Over the past 20 years, I have expanded my presentations to a variety of audiences.

My life experiences have undoubtedly shaped the person I am today. Though I have received acceptance and encouragement, I have also been subjected to the behaviors others exhibit when they are uncomfortable with differences. And while I have benefited from inclusion, I have also suffered the pain of being dismissed, excluded, and discriminated against.

Because of all this, I am uniquely qualified to address bias, equity, and inclusion in all aspects of society.

I currently serve on:

  • Westchester County’s Advisory Council for People with Disabilities.
  • New York State Assembly Member Chris Burdick’s Advisory Council for Employment for People with Disabilities.

Spirit of Independence Award

Westchester Disabled on the Move

2022 Women of Distinction Award

NY State Assemblyman Chris Burdick

In the embrace of my mom.

Not being able to jump didn’t stop me from playing.

With my dad at my college graduation.

Glammed up for my high school reunion.

Water skiing? Yup!

Marley, my furry home health worker.

Mets player chats with Geri


Geri provided a straightforward, real-world perspective on what it is like to live with physical challenges to the after-school program children at our elementary schools. I believe the experience of meeting and talking with Geri is one that will have a lasting impact on these children. It will stay with them and hopefully influence the way they interact with all people so that they understand that every person deserves to be treated with respect.

Honorable Thomas M. Roach
City of White Plains, NY

It was a pleasure meeting you and hearing your inspirational story. Your courage and strength resonated with us all, especially the seniors who haven’t stopped talking about your message of accepting differences, courage and perseverance. It is my hope that we can have you back so that all of Valhalla Middle/High School can hear your message.

Kevin C. McLeod
Assistant Principal
Valhalla Middle/High School

This was a superb lecture. You were very impressive. You managed to talk about such difficult and painful experiences in a way that is so helpful for listeners, and you were very credible and likable. I hope that more audiences will be opened up to you – people need to hear you.

Omri Ben-Shahar
Leo Herzel Professor of Law and Director
Coase-Sandor Institute for Law and Economics at University of Chicago

Geri’s presentation was a critical lesson in the importance of developing patient advocacy skills. If we wanted to be the excellent healthcare providers that we dreamed of being, we would need to be patient-focused rather than case-focused, and we would need to see patients as human beings and provide care with that in mind. I bring that approach to my work as a critical care nurse today, and I know that my peers were also similarly deeply inspired by Geri.

Vanessa Oris
Critical Care Registered Nurse
Columbia University Irving Medical Center

Geri Mariano virtually visited grades K-7 at our Congregational School during JDAIM (Jewish Disabilities Awareness Acceptance and Inclusion Month). Her ability to keep learner’s attentions during the sessions and inspire dialogue at home was notably special. Geri personalized her presentation, quickly connected with our learners and was able to share the important message of acceptance.

Jessie C. Lavintman
Assistant Director
Park Avenue Synagogue Congregational School

It was an absolute pleasure to hear Geri share her motivating story. Geri connected with the audience and demonstrated that we all have abilities and, a place in the community. She taught everyone the value of relationships, and how with the right supports our futures are bright. She is a woman who is a true inspiration to everyone living with a disability. Her compassion, warmth, patience and humor serve her well in sharing her unyielding conviction to educate others.

Nicole Buckley
Pennsylvania-State Director
St. John's Community Services-PA

Many teachers struggle with how best to develop a classroom of caring and compassionate students who are accepting of individual differences. Ms. Mariano allowed the children to see that, in many ways, she is just like the rest of us. Any school system with a disability awareness program will highly benefit from her program.

Nancy Sidman
Kindergarten Teacher
Spring Street School, West Bridgewater, MA

Geri spoke at my daughter’s school for our annual Sensitivity day. Her compassion, relatability and humor helped her to get through to the kids. She uses personal narrative and pictures to help the children to understand her journey and her messages of empathy, perseverance and courage helped the children to really understand the difference in us and to be there for others in need. She helps kids understand how to respond when they encounter someone with disabilities and used humor throughout. I cannot recommend Geri more. We have already signed her up for next year!!

Christie Mckenzie
Sensitivity Day Chair
Tashua Elementary School PTA

But by far the most moving experience we had was listening to Geri Mariano, an inspirational speaker and inclusion consultant, on “Finding and Using Your Voice.” …hers was a powerful voice at a conference dedicated to helping women find and use theirs.

Review of the Westchester Women's Summit
Black Voices Blog