The Viscardi Center today announced the recipients of a new international award designed to identify and honor people living with disabilities for their work and influence on the global disability community of more than one billion people.
The Henry Viscardi Achievement Awards bear the name and honors the vision of Dr. Henry Viscardi, Jr., who was one of the world’s leading advocates for people with disabilities. The Viscardi Center in Albertson on Long Island is 60 years old. It began as a service to employ people with disabilties and eventually grew to have a school and an international presence
John Kemp is President and CEO of the Viscardi Center. He explains that the awards announcement coincides with the 80th anniversary of the inauguration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who as a member of the disability community was among the most influential figures of the 20th century and whose legacy is celebrated in Hyde Park. Kemp says that in addition to honoring today’s leaders and mentors for the next generation, The Viscardi Center instituted the awards program as a way of honoring Dr. Viscardi’s legacy and raising awareness around the issues that continue to impact people with disabilities throughout the world.
One of the nine Viscardi Achievement Award recipients, Lex Frieden, is Professor of Biomedical Informatics and Rehabilitation at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston. He met Dr. Viscardi in the 1970s and was impressed with Viscardi's attitude about advocacy. "He was a peaceful man but he also understood right from wrong, and he too appreciated the fact that we needed to do more in this country to provide equal opportunity for people with disabilities."
John Kemp notes that President Roosevelt was one of eight presidents whom Dr. Viscardi advised during his lifetime. Dr. Viscardi wore prosthetic legs. He died in 2004 at the age of 91. Kemp says today, people with disabilities are leading longer lives: he warns baby boomers approaching their golden years that 1 in 2 people over age 65 have a disability.
Award Winner Laurie Ahern is president of Disability Rights International in Washington, D.C. She overcame a psychosocial disability to become a successful journalist. She says "I'm very grateful to be honored... disability rights are human rights... and that's what we fight for."
Medallion presentations to Viscardi award recipients will be made over the next several weeks in various cities around the country.