Henry Viscardi Achievement Awards Presented by The Viscardi Center

The Viscardi Center, a pioneering institution committed to educating, employing, and empowering people with disabilities, is thrilled to announce the recipients of the international 2023 Henry Viscardi Achievement Awards. These prestigious awards honor individuals with disabilities who have demonstrated extraordinary dedication to improving the lives of people with disabilities and have made significant contributions to their communities.

Since inception in 2013 in honor of its founder, Dr. Henry Viscardi, Jr., The Viscardi Center has recognized over 100 individuals from around the world for their outstanding work. The Henry Viscardi Achievement Awards (HVAA) have become a symbol of accomplishment celebrating those who go above and beyond to create a more inclusive and accessible world for all.

The 2023 Henry Viscardi Achievement Awards are being presented to:

    • Afshan Afridi, Collective Alliance for the Rights of Young Girls with Disabilities, Pakistan
    • Alex Elegudin, Advocates for Children, U.S.
    • Constantine “Gus” Zografopoulos, Z Life, U.S.
    • Jesus Hernandez-Galan, Fundación ONCE, Spain
    • Mindy Henderson, Muscular Dystrophy Association, U.S.
    • Peter Thomas, Powers Law Firm, U.S.

“The Viscardi Center beams with pride over the individual and collective impact of the 2023 HVAA honorees on access and opportunity for people with disabilities! The transformative work of these leaders is a remarkable embodiment of the core values of Viscardi’s mission – education, employment, empowerment, and equity for people with disabilities,” expressed Dr. Chris Rosa, President & CEO, The Viscardi Center. “Furthermore, the international impact of their advocacy is a tremendous affirmation of the global character of the disability rights movement.”

About the Recipients:

Afshan Afridi
Afshan Afridi is a trailblazing advocate for people with disabilities, particularly women, in Pakistan. Overcoming societal barriers, she earned a degree in microbiology and embarked on a mission to integrate individuals with disabilities into society. Afshan played a pivotal role in Pakistan’s disability movement, collaborating with the Election Commission to ensure political participation for people with disabilities. She has conducted awareness sessions in educational institutions to foster inclusive environments and empowered entrepreneurs with disabilities by securing funding for startups and facilitated economic empowerment through strategic collaborations. Hailing from the Tribal area Dara Adam Khel, her impactful work spans rural, semi-rural, and urban regions, aiming to eradicate the triple discrimination faced by women with disabilities.

Alex Elegudin
Alex Elegudin is an accomplished accessibility professional and advocate championing the rights of the disability community. After sustaining a C6 spinal cord injury that resulted in quadriplegia, Alex overcame immense challenges to graduate from Hofstra University Law School. His personal journey inspired a shift from legal practice to disability advocacy. He is the co-founder of Wheeling Forward. Alex has held pivotal leadership roles, such as the Accessibility Program Manager at the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission and Accessibility Chief at MTA New York City Transit, where he advanced transportation accessibility. At Columbia University, he served as the Assistant Director for Campus Accessibility, ensuring inclusivity for students with disabilities. Currently, Alex is the Project Director for the Postsecondary Readiness Project at Advocates for Children of NY, focusing on improving transition planning for students with disabilities in New York City public schools.

Constantine “Gus” Zografopoulos
Constantine Zografopoulos is the executive director of the Z Life Organization, a nonprofit based in Illinois. He is a bilateral amputee, an advocate in the disability community, and has been a businessman in the food service industry for forty years. Constantine is a public speaker for community organizations, corporations, and associations worldwide. He is dedicated to making a difference in people’s lives and spreading his motto of “Just Say Hi!”. Constantine assisted in the Chicago accessible lakefront beach project. He serves on the United Airlines Travel Advisory Board and holds several additional volunteer leadership positions. Constantine was the 2023 Grand Marshal of the Chicago Disability Pride Parade and a Torchbearer for the Athens 2004 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Jesus Hernandez-Galan
Dr. Jesus Hernandez-Galan is a pioneering force in the field of Universal Accessibility. Since 2003, he has spearheaded Fundación ONCE’s Universal Accessibility & Innovation, leading groundbreaking projects across Spain and Europe. Under his guidance, Fundación ONCE has facilitated hundreds of collaboration agreements, sponsored accessible transport vehicles, and initiated numerous projects enhancing personal autonomy. He played a pivotal role in the formation of Accessible EU, a center endorsed by the European Commission, aiming to harmonize accessibility policies in the European Union. His commitment lies in making society inclusive, ensuring accessible environments, products, and services. He emphasizes the crucial link between accessibility and employment, education, and tourism. With a global perspective, he advocates for user-centric technology, pushing boundaries in robotics, medicine, and everyday tasks, ultimately enhancing the quality of life for people with disabilities. His expertise and dedication underscore his mission: to create a world where accessibility is not just a concept but a tangible reality, bridging the gap for people with disabilities and fostering an inclusive society.

Mindy Henderson
Mindy is a powerful leader in disability rights, with specific interests in employment, accessible air travel, universal design, and inclusive style. A popular motivational speaker, Mindy’s mission is to show up as an example of positivity, hope, bravery, and possibilities, and speaks about navigating adversity, and creating a truly inclusive world. Mindy’s book, “The Truth About Things That Suck,” is for anyone who wants a new perspective on adversity when times get tough. As the Editor-In-Chief of the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s Quest Media adaptive lifestyle platform, Mindy’s mission is to empower the neuromuscular disease community – and the broader community of individuals with disabilities – to live their lives to their fullest potential. She was named a 2022 “Woman of Influence” by Success Magazine, is a guest contributor of “Morning Motivations” on CBS Austin’s “We Are Austin” lifestyle morning show and was recently named an “Austin Woman to Watch” by Austin Woman Magazine.

Peter Thomas
Peter Thomas is a distinguished legal professional and Managing Partner at Powers (Powers Pyles Sutter & Verville, PC), a prominent law and lobbying firm in Washington, DC, specializing in healthcare, education, and tribal law. He has made significant contributions to influential organizations such as the President’s Advisory Commission on Consumer Protection and Quality in the Health Care Industry and the National Advisory Board for the National Center for Medical Rehabilitation Research (NCMRR) at NIH. Peter’s commitment to advancing disability rights is evident through his involvement with organizations and his role as Co-Chair of the Health Task Force of the Consortium for Constituents with Disabilities (CCD). He is also a published author, co-authoring “The Americans with Disabilities Act: A Guidebook for Management and People with Disabilities.”

For more information about the Henry Viscardi Achievement Awards and to learn about our past recipients, please visit www.viscardicenter.org/hvaa-past-recipients/

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.