Denise Renee Avant graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 1980 with a B.A. in political science, and in 1983 with a J.D. She was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 1984. Almost two decades later, Denise earned an M.A. in journalism from Roosevelt University.
Denise worked for the Will County Legal Assistance Program, Inc. for two years, and then worked in the appellate and post-conviction units of the Office of the Cook County Public Defender for 30 years.
Currently, Denise is the Affiliate President of the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois, and serves on the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), as well as on the National Association of Blind Lawyers, a division of the NFB.
Before being appointed as Chair of the ABA Commission on Disability Rights, Denise served three years as a Commissioner. She also was appointed to the ABA’s Center on Racial and Ethnic Diversity and the Commission on Youth At Risk, both for two-year terms. Denise serves as a Member at Large/Disability to the ABA’s nominating committee for the House of Delegates, the policy-making body of the ABA.
Denise also participated in the Implicit Bias video series sponsored by the ABA. Additionally, the Government and Public Sectors Lawyers Division presented her with the Nelson Award at the ABA Annual Meeting in August 2018.
Denise was raised in and resides in Chicago. She enjoys reading, exercising, running, and cross-country skiing, and is a longtime member and a deaconess at Christian Tabernacle Church on the south side of Chicago.