Langevin Among First to Receive International Disabilities Award

Mar 4, 2013 Issues: Disabilities

Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI) is one of the recipients, announced today, of a new award that recognizes leaders in the disabilities community around the world. The Henry Viscardi Achievement Awards, created by the Viscardi Center, are designed to identify and honor people living with disabilities for their work and influence on the global disability community of more than one billion people.

The Selection Committee was co-chaired by former U.S. Sen. Robert Dole, Academy Award-winning actress Marlee Matlin and U.N. Representative Luis Gallegos.

Langevin is the first person with quadriplegia to serve in Congress. He founded and continues to co-chair the Bipartisan Disabilities Caucus and has been a leader in the fight for stem cell research funding and strengthening amendments to the Americans with Disabilities Act. In recent months, Langevin, who was injured as a teenager in an accidental discharge of a firearm, has been an outspoken advocate for families affected by gun violence.

Dr. Henry Viscardi, Jr. was one of the world’s leading advocates for people with disabilities and advised eight presidents, including Franklin D. Roosevelt. Today marks the 80th anniversary of President Roosevelt's first inauguration. You can read more about the award in the below press release from the Viscardi Center that lists the nine winners.

“I’m humbled to be recognized in such extraordinary company and with an honor named for Dr. Viscardi, who, long before the Americans with Disabilities Act, epitomized the tremendous contributions people with disabilities can make to better our society when given the opportunity,” said Langevin. “After the accident that left me paralyzed, I was so fortunate to receive an outpouring of support from a loving family and caring community that inspired me to pursue my role in public service. I hope that the founding of these Awards will help raise awareness of the improvements that can be made in America and around the world so all people with a disability will have the same chance as I did to realize their potential.”


For Immediate Release:
Contact: Paul Larrabee
518.491.7577 (Cell)

Committee chaired by Sen. Robert Dole, actress Marlee Matlin and Ambassador Luis Gallegos honor notable figures on 80th Anniversary of FDR inaugural.

Albertson, NY - The Viscardi Center today announced the recipients of a new international Award designed to identify and honor people living with disabilities for their work and influence on the global disability community of more than one billion people.

The Henry Viscardi Achievement Awards bear the name and honors the vision of Dr. Henry Viscardi, Jr., who was one of the world’s leading advocates for people with disabilities.

The announcement coincides with the 80th anniversary of the inauguration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who as a member of the disability community was among the most influential figures of the 20th century. President Roosevelt was one of eight presidents whom Dr. Viscardi advised during his lifetime. Dr. Viscardi wore prosthetic legs and died in 2004 at the age of 91.

“I am proud to join The Viscardi Center and my fellow committee members in announcing this outstanding group of Henry Viscardi Achievement Award recipients,” said former U.S. Sen. Robert Dole, Selection Committee co-chair. “All of them are champions for people with disabilities around the world. In turn, their work, and the stories of their lives, are important and set the bar high for the next generation of innovators, activists and leaders.”

The Awards drew nominations from seven nations and cities throughout the U.S. In addition to Senator Dole, the Selection Committee was co-chaired by Academy Award-winning actress Marlee Matlin and U.N Representative Luis Gallegos.

The recipients are:

  • Laurie Ahern, President, Disability Rights International, Washington, D.C.
  • Rosangela Berman Bieler, Senior Advisor on Children with Disabilities, UNICEF, New York City
  • Tony Coelho, former U.S. Rep. from California, primary sponsor of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990
  • Lex Frieden, Professor, The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston School of Biomedical Informatics; Director of the Independent Living Research Utilization program at TIRR Memorial Hermann
  • Yoav Kraiem, Chairman, National Council for Community Relations – Mental Health, Israel
  • U.S. Rep. James R. Langevin, Rhode Island’s 2nd Congressional District
  • Kathleen Martinez, Assistant Secretary, , U.S. Department of Labor, Washington, D.C.
  • Patrick D. Rummerfield, Community Liaison, International Center for Spinal Cord Injury, Kennedy-Krieger Institute, Chesterfield, MO.
  • Michael Ashley Stein, Ph.D., Executive Director, Harvard Law School Project on Disability

Read biographies here:

In addition to honoring today’s leaders and mentors for the next generation, John D. Kemp, president and CEO of Long Island-based The Viscardi Center, instituted the Awards program as a way of honoring Dr. Viscardi’s legacy and raising awareness around the issues that continue to impact people with disabilities throughout the world.

“We congratulate the nine recipients and offer our praise to them for their lifetime of work. Their dedication and accomplishments represent the vision and commitment of Dr. Viscardi and the 61-year mission of The Viscardi Center,” Kemp said. “The recipients’ collective efforts have truly transformed the world’s thinking about people with disabilities. Each of them is an example of the change that can come about when you combine ambition and dedication when facing personal and societal challenges.”

Kemp also extended special thanks to the prestigious members of the Selection Committee, including: RohiniAnand, Senior Vice President and Global Chief Diversity Officer, Sodexo; Cari Dominguez, Former Chair, U. S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission; Col. Sherwood D. Goldberg, Esq. (Ret.), Senior Advisor for Asian Affairs, Center for Naval Analysis; Hiro Itoh, President & CEO, Abilities of Japan; Axel Leblois, president & CEO, The Global Initiative for Inclusive ICTS (G3ict); Inmaculada Placencia Porrero, Deputy Head of Unit, Integration of People with Disabilities European Commission; James Sinocchi, Director, Workforce Communications, IBM; and Nina Viscardi, daughter of Dr. Henry Viscardi.

The Viscardi Center provides Pre-K through High School education, school-to-work transition services, vocational training, career counseling and placement, assistive technology and workforce diversification assistance to children, adolescents, and adults with disabilities and businesses. A global leader, it employs more than 300 professionals, including experts in education, human resources and technology. Learn more at