The Viscardi Center, a renowned non-profit organization that educates, employs, and empowers people with disabilities, announced six recipients of the 2022 Henry Viscardi Achievement Awards. The Awards were first bestowed in 2013 to honor the vision and legacy of the Center’s founder, Dr. Henry Viscardi, Jr., a leading disability advocate who himself wore prosthetic legs. Dr. Viscardi served as an advisor to eight presidents, from Franklin D. Roosevelt to Jimmy Carter, and implemented revolutionary employment and education programs for children and adults with disabilities beginning in 1952.
Each year, the Awards recognize advocates, role models, and visionaries in the global disability community who, like Dr. Viscardi, are changing societal views, drastically improving opportunities, and enhancing the quality of life for persons with disabilities. Recipients have come from a variety of distinguished backgrounds, such as entertainment, sports, technology, and non-profit. Drawing nominations from around the globe, this year’s winners represent Pakistan, South Africa, and the United States.
“The Viscardi Center epitomizes the very best of America’s culture and values by reaching out through its Henry Viscardi Achievement Awards to bring like-minded people together in a common cause as our diplomats do each and every day here and abroad,” said Sherwood (Woody) D. Goldberg, Esq., Chair of the Awards Selection Committee, Retired U.S. Army Colonel, and Emeritus Civilian Aide to the U.S. Secretary of the Army. “Such is the use of our nation’s special asset, to be open and share our expertise through our “soft power” via “cultural diplomacy” to focus light on such a most meaningful activity as by enhancing the lives of the disabled.”
The 2022 Henry Viscardi Achievement Award recipients are:
- Shaheena Ali, Disabled Welfare Association, Pakistan
- Dr. Alex H. Cohen, Accessible Pharmacy Services for the Blind, U.S.
- John Cronin, John’s Crazy Socks, U.S.
- Susan Henderson, Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, U.S.
- Emily Ladau, Author/Disability Rights Activist, U.S.
- Nkosinathi Freddy Ndlovu, Presidential Working Group on Disability, South Africa
About the Recipients:
Shaheena Ali is President, of the Women’s Wing at the Disabled Welfare Association and has played a key role in the mobilization of women with disabilities in Pakistan. Before joining Disabled Welfare Association (DWA) these women were home-confined, but through her efforts they are registered in an Independent Living program that provides peer counseling, socialization, and health activities. She also manages Disability Advocacy, Gender mainstreaming, and the Awareness Program of DWA, while organizing the organization’s capacity building program. Her media campaign creates disability awareness among the masses, while empowering and mainstreaming people with disabilities, particularly women.
Dr. Alex H. Cohen
Alex Cohen is a native Philadelphian, husband, and father of two boys. He was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa while pursuing his B.S. in Hotel Administration from the University of Nevada Las Vegas. As his vision continued to deteriorate, Alex decided to pursue cane training and a new career just two years after his first son was born. Alex completed his master’s degree and began the doctoral marketing program at Drexel University. While pursuing his PhD, Alex gained distinction and notoriety as Drexel’s first and only blind PhD student. Alex’s dissertation focused on accessibility failures in the marketplace and behaviors from disabled consumers experiencing those failures. He accepted a faculty position at West Chester University of Pennsylvania and recently achieved tenure and promotion to Associate Professor of Marketing. Professor Cohen’s research focuses on the marketplace experiences of people with disabilities and how these environments can be made more inclusive. Cohen and his business partners recognized the challenges of making existing healthcare models inclusive and accessible. They decided it was better to create their own marketplace which is how Accessible Pharmacy was developed. Accessible Pharmacy is a comprehensive healthcare service specializing in medication management for those living with blindness and low vision.
John Cronin is a 26-year-old entrepreneur who happens to have Down syndrome. Together with his father Mark, John created John’s Crazy Socks, a social enterprise with a mission to spread happiness. They have bootstrapped that business into the world’s largest sock store. John serves as the Chief Happiness Officer of John’s Crazy Socks. Every day, John shows what people with differing abilities can do – more than half his colleagues have a differing ability. John has spoken at conferences, businesses, colleges and universities across the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. His advocacy work has seen John has testify twice before the U.S Congress and speak at the United Nations. He has been named EY Entrepreneur of the Year. He became “sock buddies” with President George H. W. Bush. John is a Special Olympic athlete competing in soccer, track and field, basketball, and snowshoe. John’s Crazy Socks pledges five percent of its earnings to the Special Olympics and has donated over $100,000 to the Special Olympics. John is a graduate of Huntington High School and Wilson Tech. John is a member of the Board for the National Down Syndrome Society and the CEO Commission for Disability Employment.
Susan Henderson joined Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund (DREDF) in 1997, and became its executive director in 2008. In addition to her executive director responsibilities, she manages the children and family advocacy and international disability rights programs. At DREDF she expanded the family advocacy program to protect the rights of disabled children in the child welfare system and launched the Disability & Media Alliance Project (D-MAP) to change sensational, cloying and misinformed disability coverage that undermines the public policy and legal advances of the last 35 years, to coverage that raises public awareness and helps to end disability discrimination. In 2020, Governor Newsom appointed Ms. Henderson to the California State Rehabilitation Council. She also serves on California’s Disability and Aging Community Living Advisory Committee. Susan co-founded and co-leads the Ed Roberts Campus (ERC), a universally designed hub for disability organizing and services, and a world-renowned destination for access and inclusion. The ERC, an 82,000 square foot campus located above the Ashby BART in Berkeley, is the built embodiment of the vision of Susan and other founders. To bring the $45 million project from dream to reality, Susan spent 12 years planning and fundraising. She wrote budgets, completed applications and reports, responded to stakeholders, and coordinated with state, local, and federal agencies. The campus houses DREDF and many additional disability organizations, accessible conference rooms, and a central meeting space next to a sweeping circular ramp that is a frequent site for weddings, memorials, disability community events, and programming for disabled youth and young adults.
Emily Ladau is a passionate disability rights activist, writer, storyteller, and digital communications consultant whose career began at the age of 10, when she appeared on several episodes of Sesame Street to educate children about her life with a physical disability. Her writing has been published in outlets including The New York Times, CNN, Vice, and HuffPost and her first book, Demystifying Disability: What to Know, What to Say, and How to be an Ally, was published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House, in September 2021. Emily has spoken before numerous audiences, from the U.S. Department of Education to the United Nations. Central to all of Emily’s work is harnessing the power of storytelling to engage people in learning about disability.
Nkosinathi Freddy Ndlovu
Nkosinathi Ndlovu was born in Nelspruit, City of Mbombela, South Africa. He is a multiple Award-Winning humanitarian and disability rights activist. Born and bred in the era of apartheid, and introduced into the politics of liberation at an early age, he joined the African National Congress (ANC) in 1999. He is recognized nationally and internationally as a leader in the disability community. His work with governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and various other youth and disability organizations, has produced significant contributions, to the development of human rights legislation and policies benefiting marginalized communities, youth and persons with disabilities. Ndlovu has played a leadership role in strategies to promote inclusive education. Prior to joining the Presidency in 2014, as a member of the Presidential Working Group of Disability (PWGD), he founded and served as CEO of the South African Deaf Youth Development Organisation (SADYDO), with the objective of addressing unemployment, skills shortage and eradication of communication barrier amongst the Deaf and Hearing communities. When Ndlovu took leadership of the PWGD, he lobbied for the adoption of South African Sign Language as the 12th official language.
About The Viscardi Center
The Viscardi Center, a network of non-profit organizations based in Albertson, provides a lifespan of services that educate, employ, and empower people with disabilities. Its programs and services include Pre-K through High School education, school-to-work transition services, vocational training, career counseling and placement, digital accessibility services, entrepreneurship, and workforce diversification assistance to children, adolescents, and adults with disabilities and businesses. It was founded in 1952 by Dr. Henry Viscardi, Jr. who himself wore prosthetic legs, served as disability advisor to eight U.S. Presidents, from Franklin D. Roosevelt to Jimmy Carter, and became one of the world’s leading advocates for people with disabilities.