Statuette of a man on a pedestal holding a pair of crutches, against a dark background.

Statuette of Dr. Henry Viscardi Jr. to be awarded to the 2024 Henry Viscardi Achievement Awards recipients.

The Viscardi Center, a visionary organization committed to educating, employing, and empowering people with disabilities, proudly announced the recipients of the international 2024 Henry Viscardi Achievement Awards at its annual Celebrity Night fundraiser on May 16. The Awards recognize individuals with disabilities who have demonstrated significant accomplishments and dedication to enhancing the lives of people with disabilities and the overall disability community. Part of the evening’s program, the prestigious Awards were presented to several of this year’s recipients by Dr. Chris Rosa, President & CEO of The Viscardi Center, and 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.

Since inception in 2013, in honor of The Viscardi Center’s founder, Dr. Henry Viscardi, Jr., the Awards have been bestowed to over 100 leaders, mentors, and advocates with disabilities from around the world. The Henry Viscardi Achievement Awards are a symbol of achievement celebrating those who go above and beyond to create a more inclusive and accessible world for all.

The 2024 Henry Viscardi Achievement Awards recipients are:

  • Kirk Adams, PhD, Innovative Impact, LLC, U.S.
  • Joyce Bender, Bender Consulting Services, U.S.
  • Brooke Ellison, American Academic and Disability Advocate, U.S.
  • Shakeel Khan, Disabled Welfare Association, Pakistan
  • Andraéa LaVant, LaVant Consulting, Inc., U.S.
  • Barbara (Bobbi) Linn, Bronx Independent Living Services, U.S.
  • Jose R. Ramos, Wounded Warrior Project, U.S.
  • Irene Villa González, Irene Villa Foundation, Spain

Brooke Ellison’s Award was posthumously presented to her family at the event, as she passed suddenly on February 4, 2024.

About the Recipients:

Kirk Adams, PhD
Managing Director, Innovative Impact, LLC, U.S.
Dr. Kirk Adams is a professional speaker and the founder of Innovative Impact, focusing on groundbreaking, high-impact projects that accelerate the inclusion of people with disabilities in the workforce and supercharges a company’s bottom line. Dr. Adams earned his PhD in leadership and change. He is known as a master connector of key decision-makers in government, corporate America, the nonprofit sector, and disability advocates guiding them to create collaborative solutions that have a real impact in increasing the employment of people with disabilities. He was also the President and CEO of The Lighthouse for the Blind in Seattle, as well as the American Foundation for the Blind.

Joyce Bender
Founder, President & CEO, Bender Consulting Services, Inc., U.S.
As a woman living with epilepsy, and hard of hearing, Joyce Bender has dedicated her life to a crusade for youth and adults to gain the dream of competitive employment. To support this work, she founded Bender Consulting Services, where she serves as CEO, and the Bender Leadership Academy where she serves as Board Chair. Joyce was a disability employment expert for the U.S. State Department in Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, Panama, Kazakhstan, Tunisia, Libya, and Nigeria. She serves as the Chair of the Epilepsy Association of Western and Central PA, the Vice-Chair of the American Association of People with Disabilities, and as a Trustee for The Bazelon Center on Mental Health Law, World Institute on Disability (WID), Homeless Children’s Education Fund, Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera (CLO), and Disability Rights of PA. She has hosted the radio show, “Disability Matters with Joyce Bender,” on for over twenty years.

Brooke Ellison
American Academic and Disability Advocate, U.S.
Brooke Ellison was an accomplished disability advocate and the first person with quadriplegia to graduate from Harvard University. At age 11, Ellison became paralyzed after being hit by a car while walking to school on her first day of junior high. She graduated Harvard with honors and received a B.S. in cognitive neuroscience and later earned a master’s degree in public policy at the University, followed by a doctorate in sociology from Stony Brook University (SBU). Brooke was an associate professor in SBU’s School of Health Professions and a research assistant professor in SBU’s Renaissance School of Medicine. She also served as director of Education and Ethics of the SBU Stem Cell Facility and cofounded the SBU VENTure Think Tank that worked to develop policy and technological solutions for people on ventilators. Her efforts reached far and wide and she received numerous honors and authored two books.

Shakeel Khan
General Secretary, Disabled Welfare Association, Pakistan
Shakeel Khan is a beacon of hope and empowerment for persons with disabilities in Pakistan. Despite contracting polio during childhood, Shakeel’s indomitable spirit led him to become a dedicated advocate for people with disabilities’ rights and empowerment. Through tireless efforts, Shakeel has worked with government officials and stakeholders to create inclusive development initiatives, breaking down barriers and fostering a more equitable society. His passion extends to promoting sports for individuals with disabilities, recognizing the importance of physical activity in their lives. Shakeel’s message of leading a joyful and dignified life resonates widely, inspiring countless individuals to persevere and achieve greatness despite challenges. His relentless determination and unwavering commitment make him a true role model, leaving a lasting impact on society.

Andraéa LaVant
President & Chief Inclusion Consultant, LaVant Consulting, Inc., U.S.
Andraéa LaVant is a nationally and internationally sought-after disability inclusion expert. Leading an award-nominated disabled, black-queer woman-led social impact-strategy and communications firm, she is dedicated to shaping the way the world reaches, views, and values disabled people. Andraéa specializes in cutting-edge corporate development and content marketing for brands and nonprofits, helping them confidently engage with disability issues. As a global disability justice advocate, her company served as the impact producer for Netflix’s Oscar-nominated film, Crip Camp, executive produced by President Barack and Mrs. Michelle Obama. In 2021, she became the first visibly disabled black woman to appear on the Oscars Red Carpet. Given her marginalized identities, Andraéa champions intersectionality and is committed to working toward a future where ALL people, particularly disabled people of color, are seen and valued in culture and society at-large.

Barbara (Bobbi) Linn
President, Board of Directors, Bronx Independent Living Services, U.S.
Born with Cerebral Palsy and having a significant speech disability, Bobbi Linn fought to go to public school. As a teen she attended Crip Camp (Camp Jened) where she met Judy Heumann and other young activists, leading to the formation of Disabled in Action year later where she learned to protest, blocking traffic in midtown Manhattan. She received her BA and MA from New York University and became the first Advocacy Counselor at the Center for Independence of the Disabled in New York (CIDNY). In 1982, CIDNY wrote a successful grant for an Independent Living project in the Bronx. Bobbi became the founding Executive Director of Bronx Independent Living Services (BILS) when the program spun off from CIDNY. During her tenure, she was active in launching the New York State Independent Living Council as an independent entity. She retired in 2003, but continued her involvement with BILS as a Board member and now serves as President of the Board.

Jose R. Ramos
Vice President for Government and Community Relations, Wounded Warrior Project, U.S.
Born in Mexico and growing up in El Paso, Texas, Jose joined the Navy in 2000 to become a Hospital Corpsman attached to a Marine Sniper team. During his third combat tour, he was severely injured by a rocket attack, losing his left arm among other wounds. Despite his injuries, Jose went on to compete around the globe and for the US Paratriathlon Team, was appointed by President George W. Bush as one of the seven commissioners on the President’s Commission on Care for America’s Returning Wounded Warriors and has dedicated nearly two decades to advocating for severely injured veterans and people with disabilities through diverse nonprofit entities and the federal government. Jose currently resides in Great Falls, VA with his wife Jodie and their sons Donovan and Luke, spending his free time coaching youth sports.

Irene Villa González
Author, Journalist, Activist, Saber que se Puede S.L., Spain
Since 1991 when Irene and her mother were victims of a brutal terrorist bombing, resulting in the loss of her legs and several fingers, she has focused on helping others to overcome their barriers. Writer, speaker, and promoter of values among young people, and media journalist, Irene cooperates with several organizations that promote and defend freedom, peace, and the rights of disadvantaged people. She is the author of five books and since 2007 has been a member of Fundación Tambien’s Adaptive Alpine Ski team, winning many medals. Irene has received numerous important awards and honors, including the Children of Europe prize, presented to her personally by Lady Di (London, 1992); the Silver Microphone for her book To Know You Can (2005); and the Golden Antenna (2012). She was nominated for the Prince of Asturias Concordia Prize and the Victory Award (Washington). Irene created the Irene Villa Foundation to support disabled people and help them fulfill their dreams. The focus of the Foundation is labor integration for people with any kind of disability, and adaptive sports.

Read more about the Henry Viscardi Achievement Awards and 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.