Recipients of the 2016 Henry Viscardi Achievement Awards Announced

December 2, 2016

The Viscardi Center has recognized ten individuals with disabilities who are making significant domestic and international contributions to the disability community.

Albertson, NY—December 1, 2016—The Viscardi Center, a network of non-profit organizations providing a lifespan of services that educate, employ, and empower people with disabilities, today announced the ten recipients of the 2016 Henry Viscardi Achievement Awards at a special reception in New York City.

First bestowed in 2013, the awards honor exemplary leaders in the disability community who, through the example of their professional accomplishments and advocacy efforts, are reshaping societal perceptions and making significant changes in the quality of life of people with disabilities.

Drawing nominations from cities throughout the U.S. and countries around the world, this year’s honorees are an accomplished and diverse group, hailing from the United States, Colombia, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, Pakistan, and Japan, and with distinguished backgrounds in academia, healthcare, sports, government, non-profit, and corporate sectors.

“Today we celebrate ten men and women who are spearheading measurable change,” said John D. Kemp, President and CEO at The Viscardi Center. “These talented and dedicated individuals have touched countless lives around the world, and are proof that with passion and perseverance, anything can be accomplished. They motivate all of us to reach higher.”

The Henry Viscardi Achievements Awards were established to commemorate the vision of the Center’s founder, Dr. Henry Viscardi, Jr., who himself wore prosthetic legs. As a premier disability advocate, he served as an advisor to eight presidents, from Franklin D. Roosevelt to Jimmy Carter, and implemented groundbreaking employment and education programs for people with disabilities.

The 2016 Selection Committee was co-chaired for the fourth consecutive year by Robert Dole, former U.S. Senator, along with Sherwood “Woody” Goldberg, Esq., retired U.S. Army Colonel and current Senior Advisor for Asian Affairs at the Center for Naval Analysis.

“Each awardee is serving as a powerful force for change, having demonstrated a vision and commitment to improving the quality of life of people with disabilities,” Goldberg said. “They are helping to lead societal transformation and higher expectations of the disability communities that they serve.”

The 2016 Award Recipients

  • 1.

    Saima Aslam, National Forum of Women with Disabilities, Pakistan

  • 2.

    Senarath Attanayake, Uva Provincial Council, Columbo, Sri Lanka

  • 3.

    Peggy Chenoweth, Author/Advocate/Blogger, Gainesville, Virginia

  • 4.

    PJ Edington, IBM Government & Regulatory Affairs Executive, Washington, D.C.

  • 5.

    Hiroyasu Itoh, Chairman, Japan Abilities, Tokyo, Japan

  • 6.

    Jim Mayer, U.S. Army/Vietnam Veteran (ret.), Walter Reed Hospital, Washington, DC

  • 7.

    Dave McGill, VP, Reimbursement & Compliance, Ossur, Centerport, NY

  • 8.

    Curtis Pride, former Major League Baseball player, MLB’s Ambassador for Disability Inclusion, New York City

  • 9.

    Juan Pablo Salazar Salamanca, President, National Council on Disability and Presidential Advisor, Bogotá, Columbia

  • 10.

    Dr. Louise Sinden-Carroll, International Federation of Hard of Hearing People, Auckland, New Zealand

About the Recipients

Saima Aslam

As a woman with Muscular Dystrophy in Pakistan, Saima Aslam has surpassed countless barriers to become a leading advocate and role model for women and girls with disabilities nationally and internationally. After earning a B.Sc in Mathematics A+B and Statistics from the Government Post-Graduate College for Women in Rawalpindi, she went on to become a National Coordinator at the National Forum of Women with Disabilities in Pakistan. In this role, she spreads awareness about the importance of assisted and independent living techniques for women, and has counseled more than 5,000 people with disabilities and their families.

She was awarded a Gold Medal from the Government of Pakistan in recognition of her tireless efforts to empower women and break down stigmas facing the disability community. Looking to the future, she hopes to introduce Personal Care Attendant Services (PCAS) to those with severe physical disabilities who are unable to leave their homes—that way, more people have the chance to live productive and active lives.

Senarath Attanayake

Senarath Attanayake was the first wheelchair user in Sri Lanka to be called to the Bar as an attorney and one of few to attend a Sri Lankan University. Without receiving special consideration or accommodation for his disability, he became an elected member of the Uva Provincial Council as the Minister of Agriculture, Land, Forestry, Irrigation and Livestock, where he has served for over 17 years—making him one of the longest serving elected politicians with a disability in the world. In recognition for his achievements, he was appointed as an advisor on political participation of people with disabilities by the Disabled Peoples’ International (DPI), a cross-disability organization with assemblies in 154 countries.

Before his current term on the Council ends in 2018, Senarath aims to achieve “universal accessibility” in his electorate, Moneragala—a poverty-stricken region in Sri Lanka. On an international level, his goal is to encourage people with disabilities to engage in politics and help shape policy in their local communities.

Peggy Chenoweth

Peggy Chenoweth has fought for the rights of people with disabilities her entire career. She created amputeemommy.com, a blog devoted to discussing real-life issues affecting people with limb loss, which today has a monthly readership of nearly 500,000. This year, she received a Bloggie Award in recognition of the attention her blog drew to a Medicare policy proposal in 2015 that could have restricted vital prosthetic care.

She is also a consultant for the Amputee Coalition, where she manages the organization’s social media platforms. Under her leadership, the Amputee Coalition won a Social Media APEX Award for Best Facebook Page for a Disability Nonprofit in 2014. She served as consultant for Grey’s Anatomy in connection with the storyline about an above-knee amputee, and been interviewed by HuffPost Live, CNN, The Wall Street Journal, and USA Today. Before Peggy lost her own leg in an accident, she was named Virginia Special Educator of the Year in 2004 for her work with visually impaired students.

PJ Edington

PJ Edington is a senior Government and Regulatory Affairs Executive for IBM and a life-long advocate for human and women’s rights. For the last 14 years, she has worked to advance accessible ICT globally and has corporate responsibility for IBM’s worldwide accessibility and standards strategy. Working closely with the IBM Ability organization, her professional goal has been to make accessible technology a top priority for businesses. PJ was awarded IBM’s Governmental Programs top Achievement Award for her accomplishments.

PJ began her career in Washington as Senior Associate at the Center for Women Policy Studies, where she helped change police practice and laws on domestic violence and child sexual assault. She managed several political coalition efforts for Fortune 500 companies to provide advocacy at the federal and state level, managed a national policy campaign on women’s legal rights, and raised money for women to enter the political dialogue and run for office at the state and federal level. Prior to joining IBM, she was the Executive Director of a trade association representing the technology industry on health and safety issues.

Hiroyasu Itoh

For over 50 years, Professor Hiroyasu Itoh has been the driving force behind the “Abilities Movement” in Japan, which promotes independent living and workplace inclusion for people with disabilities. Deeply inspired by Dr. Henry Viscardi, Jr.’s work in the United States, Mr. Itoh, who became paralyzed in his lower limbs after contracting polio as a one-year-old, founded the Japan Abilities Association and Abilities Care-net, Inc. in 1966. Today, Abilities Care-net, Inc. has a diverse staff of 1,000 employees, more than 35 sales offices, and operates 30 rehabilitation and assisted living facilities in Japan.

He launched the National Network of Japanese with Disabilities Act, which sought to secure basic human rights for the Japanese disability community in 2001. Ten years later, Mr. Itoh was appointed Vice Chairman of the Subcommittee on Anti-discrimination. Under his leadership, the Subcommittee was instrumental in influencing the passing of Japan’s Anti-Discrimination Law for People with Disabilities, which unanimously passed in both the House of Representatives and House of Councilors. It became law in April 2016.

Jim Mayer

Jim Mayer has a long history of service to and advocacy for America’s military service members, veterans, and their families. A former U.S. Army infantryman, a Vietnam vet, and a double below-the-knee amputee, he began his career at the Department of Veteran Affairs and just retired this year as Outreach Coordinator at the Wounded Warrior Project, where he dedicated time to visiting and assisting wounded, injured, and ill warriors and their families at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC). Jim also created and directed a national WWP program to train wounded warriors, spouses, and caregivers to be certified Peer Mentors for more recently injured service members.

He remains active in volunteer work, serving as co-host of the weekly Aleethia Foundation free dinners for patients and families of WRNMMC; a member of the Executive Committee and Board of Directors of Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind and America’s VetDogs; and President of the VA Alumni Association, an organization of retired employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). In 2004, his volunteer work at Walter Reed was cited by Garry Trudeau in the comic strip Doonesbury as Jim, the “Milkshake Man.” His awards include: Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation Courageous Spirit Award; Secretary of Defense Medal for Outstanding Public Service; and ABC World News Tonight’s Person of the Week, among others.

David McGill

David McGill is the President of the National Association for the Advancement of Orthotics and Prosthetics (NAAOP). He led NAAOP’s 2015 effort to raise awareness about proposed changes to Medicare policy that would have adversely affected all amputees; ultimately resulting in Medicare’s decision to refrain from implementing the proposed changes. David also spearheaded a 2015 effort that forced New York State to reverse a “one prosthesis per life” restriction used by private insurance companies to prevent amputees from receiving medically necessary prosthetic care.

He is currently VP of Reimbursement & Compliance at Össur Americas. A regular author and lecturer regarding reimbursement issues, he has obtained two of only four reimbursement codes granted by Medicare over the last decade for lower extremity prosthetics—creating access to microprocessor-controlled ankle-foot systems and powered prosthetic knees for all amputees in the U.S. An above-knee amputee himself, David has been interviewed by Psychology Today magazine, The Christian Science Monitor, CNN, BBC Radio and The Wall Street Journal regarding prosthetic issues.

Curtis Pride

Curtis Pride is a former MLB outfielder, who became the first deaf player in the majors since 1945. Starting his career with the New York Mets, he signed with the Montreal Expos in 1993, and later played for the Detroit Tigers, Atlanta Braves, and the Boston Red Sox. Over the course of his eleven year career in the major leagues, he batted .250 with 20 home runs and 82 RBI in 421 major league games. Today, he is the head baseball coach at Gallaudet University. 

In 2010, President Obama appointed Curtis to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition. The Council is a committee of volunteer citizens who advise the President about opportunities to develop accessible, affordable and sustainable physical activity, fitness, sports and nutrition programs for all Americans. He was named MLB’s Ambassador for Inclusion in 2015.

Juan Pablo Salazar Salamanca

Disability rights activist Juan Pablo Salazar Salamanca designed and implemented the global campaign "Lend Your Leg” to spread awareness about limb loss from landmines, an ongoing problem in his home country of Columbia. The campaign encourages people to roll up their pant legs or shirt sleeves in a gesture of solidarity for landmine victims, and has reached millions in more than 70 countries worldwide. He is credited as the founder for Columbia’s first wheelchair rugby team, and served as president of the Columbian Paralympic Committee. 

In 2007, Juan Pablo received an honorable mention from the U.S. Senate in recognition of his work on improving the lives of people with disabilities through the Arcangeles Foundation. Today, he is president of the National Council on Disability (CND), an institutional consultant of the National Disability Public Policy in Colombia, and the Advisor on Disability Issues of the Presidency of Colombia.

Dr. Louise Sinden-Carroll

Dr. Louise Sinden-Carroll is an accomplished advocate dedicated to improving the quality of life for people with disabilities. She is the Chief Executive of The National Foundation for the Deaf (NFD) in New Zealand, and works voluntarily as the General Secretary of the International Federation of Hard of Hearing People (IFHOH) and as a Trustee of the Human Rights for All Trust in New Zealand (HRFA).

Born with a genetic collagen disorder and developing hearing loss in her 30s, Dr. Sinden-Carroll has facilitated Human Rights the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) workshops and discussion groups for people with hearing loss for organizations spanning 26 countries. Over the last four years, has led a collaboration of deaf and hard of hearing communities to address insufficient broadcast media captioning in New Zealand. This year she earned her PhD, having completed a public policy thesis considering the New Zealand government response to prisoners with hearing loss in New Zealand prisons.

About The Viscardi Center:

Founded by Dr. Henry Viscardi, Jr., who served as disability advisor to eight U.S. Presidents and became one of the world’s leading advocates, The Viscardi Center educates, employs and empowers people with disabilities. It provides Kindergarten through High School education (up to age 21), school-to-work youth transition services, vocational training, career counseling and employment placement, assistive technology, and adapted driver education to children, adolescents and adults with a wide variety of disabilities. The Center also assists businesses in diversifying their workforces, as well as developing and advancing disability inclusive cultures in their workplaces. Learn more at viscardicenter.org