The Viscardi Center recognizes international leaders with disabilities at Awards ceremony
The Viscardi Center, an Albertson-based non-profit organization providing a lifespan of services that educate, employ, and empower people with disabilities, today announced nine recipients of the 2017 Henry Viscardi Achievement Awards at a special ceremony held at the Mutual of America building 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 cohort are an accomplished and diverse group representing Bangladesh, India, Israel, Pakistan, South Africa, and the United States. Recipients come from a variety of distinguished backgrounds, including academia, healthcare, sports, government, technology, non-profit, and corporate sectors.
“Tonight, we recognize nine individuals from around the globe who we believe not only motivate all of us to reach higher, but who are today’s leaders, mentors, and role models for their peers and our next generations,” said John D. Kemp, President and CEO of The Viscardi Center. “These individuals have been catalysts for change and are making a positive impact on how people with disabilities view themselves and the world.”
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 2017 Selection Committee was co-chaired for the fifth 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.
The 2017 Award Recipients
Vashkar Bhattacharjee, Access to Information (a2i) Program, Bangladesh’s Prime Minister’s Office/Young Power in Social Action (YPSA)/GAATES Board of Directors, Bangladesh
Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu, Ministry of Social Development, South Africa
Justin Constantine, The Constantine Group, New York, NY
Col. Gregory D. Gadson, U.S Army Veteran/Patriot Strategies, Alexandria, VA
Matt King, Facebook, Menlo Park, CA
Dr. Satendra Singh, University College of Medical Sciences, Delhi, India
Yuval Wagner, Access Israel, Israel
Thomas J. Wlodkowski, Comcast, Philadelphia, PA
Asim Zafar, Saaya Association/Community Based Inclusive Development Network, Pakistan
About the Recipients
Vashkar Bhattacharjee is the National Consultant for Accessibility in the Access to Information Programme of the Prime Minister’s Office in Bangladesh. He is dedicated to innovating digital accessibility for people with disabilities. Born with a visual disability, he currently strives to make accessible ICT a priority at the University of Chittagong, one of the largest and most prominent universities in Bangladesh. Vashkar also serves as Program Manager at Young Power in Social Action, where he spearheaded the development of Bangladesh’s first Accessible Dictionary.
Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu is an accomplished activist, motivational speaker, and policy analyst and developer whose contributions have impacted women, the disability community, and those affected by HIV/AIDS for decades. A member of Parliament since 1999, she is currently the South African Deputy Minister in the Department of Social Development. Visually impaired, Hendrietta is one of only three Cabinet Members with disabilities in the South African Government.
Justin Constantine is a retired U.S. Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel, former attorney, and author. While deployed in Iraq as a Civil Affairs Team Leader attached to an infantry battalion in 2006, he was shot in the head by a sniper during routine combat patrol. Thanks to the bravery of his fellow Marines and a courageous Navy Corpsman, he survived against all odds. After retiring from the Marine Corps, Justin became devoted to helping others as an inspirational speaker and veteran advocate. He recently completed his first book, My Battlefield, Your Office, which applies military leadership skills to the private sector. Justin spends much of his time focused on veteran employment and educating others about PTSD, TBI and mental health, while dispelling the myths about these conditions.
Col. Gregory D. Gadson
Retired Col. Gadson’s life is a portrait of courage in the face of adversity. A 25-year career Army Officer and a graduate of West Point Military Academy, Col. Gadson’s service culminated as the Garrison Commander of Fort Belvoir, where he oversaw more than 50,000 military personnel. He served in every major conflict of the past two decades. His greatest challenge came in Iraq in 2007, when he lost both his legs and severely injured his right arm due to a roadside bomb. Today, Col. Gadson continues to serve his nation as an entrepreneur and managing partner of Patriot Strategies, a government services company. He also encourages wounded warriors, veterans, and those with disabilities as a motivational speaker.
Matt King was born legally blind and lost his remaining vision while studying electrical engineering and music at the University of Notre Dame. Relying only on screen reading software to use a computer, he was both amazed by its potential and frustrated with its limitations, sparking a passion to make the world more accessible with better technology. Matt began his career at IBM as an electrical engineer and soon transitioned to software development. In 1998, this led to his first accessibility job – designing and implementing accessibility programs for the IBM CIO. In 2015, Matt accepted a position in accessibility engineering at Facebook, further accelerating his efforts to develop ways of engineering products so their experiences are as enjoyable and fruitful for people with disabilities as anyone else.
Dr. Satendra Singh
Dr. Singh is best described as a healer, a teacher, a disability rights crusader, and an advocate for disability employment in the medical and health care industries. Acquiring a physical disability as an infant, due to polio, Dr. Singh went on to become a medical doctor and a professor at the University College of Medical Sciences in Delhi, India. A firm believer in diversity and inclusion, he fought discrimination to bring policy reforms that unlocked 1,674 faculty posts for doctors with disabilities. His tireless work also helped raise the bar for web accessibility standards in hospitals under the Government of Delhi. Outside of the health care industry, Dr. Singh played an integral role in making India’s 2014 General Elections in Delhi accessible to people with disabilities.
Lieutenant-Colonel Yuval Wagner became a quadriplegic at the age of 22 after sustaining injuries in a helicopter crash in 1987 while serving in the Israeli Air Force. Following a long rehabilitation, Yuval returned to the Air Force, completed his degree in Business Management, started a family, and set out to better the lives of people with disabilities. He established Access Israel in 1999 as the first and only non-profit in his country dedicated to improving the quality of life of people with disabilities. For 18 years, Access Israel has focused on making Israel a country in which people with disabilities are integrated into society with dignity, equal rights, and maximum independence. It has dramatically improved the accessibility for hundreds of thousands of people in Israel.
Thomas J. Wlodkowski
Thomas Wlodkowski has been a leading pioneer in accessible technology for over 25 years. As a person with a visual impairment, he has served as a champion for people with disabilities, working to improve usability of mainstream Internet, mobile, broadcast and cable television technology. Under his leadership, Comcast launched Voice Guidance on Xfinity X1, the industry’s first talking guide that provides people who are blind or visually impaired with independent access to the set-top box user interface, including: TV listings, the ability to manage their DVR, access On Demand, and adjust settings. The groundbreaking feature also sparked the award-winning Emily’s Oz marketing campaign—a spot some of you may have seen on TV.
Asim Zafar began using a wheelchair after contracting polio at three years of age, and has built a storied career on motivating others with disabilities in Pakistan – including women and children – to fulfill their highest potential and achieve the greatest level of independence possible. In 2009, he launched and became the CEO of Saaya Association of Persons with Disabilities; a platform that enhances independence and promotes access to health care, education, and sports for people with disabilities. A lifelong athlete, Asim’s achievements extend into the world of competitive sports. He took home two gold medals for his country at the 2003-2004 Nagoya City Handi-Marathon Wheelchair Race in Japan.
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.