Letter from 2009 Board Chair Tony Coelho
At the very beginning of AAPD, I was asked to become one of the organization’s founders. I agreed because I wanted to not just let the individuals and organizations that came together to support the Americans with Disabilities Act rest on their laurels. I knew that passing the law was a big step – but by no means the only step in our community’s fight for equality. I knew we’d have to have a crossdisability organization aggressively working on not only implementing the law but on organizing the community to be a force for change.
I realized it would take a major mobilization effort to keep that going. AAPD was that effort. It was AAPD’s cofounder and first President and CEO Paul Hearne’s idea, and we rallied behind it.
As board chair of AAPD, I have certain goals for the organization to make sure we’re able to continue organizing the disability community to be a powerful voice for change – politically, economically, and socially.
I want to help move AAPD down a financial path where we can grow to have a sound financial base. If we have a solid fiscal foundation, we can do ten times more than we are already doing.
In the next few years, I’d also like to see AAPD get more involved in the legal and judicial arena. I want to see us help young people with disabilities get interested in law school, and, in turn, I’d like to see law schools more interested and engaged in attracting law students with disabilities to their schools. I also want to see more law firms interested in attracting law students with disabilities to their firms. I’d like to see an increase in the number of lawyers with disabilities practicing in the federal court system. Having people with disabilities involved in the legal system as lawyers and judges is important to AAPD and to the disability community as a whole because people with disabilities would be bringing a real understanding of disability issues to their interpretation of federal laws.
Another goal is to continue engaging young people with disabilities to become active members of the disability community. It’s up to us to organize young people with disabilities to be a very vocal, effective grassroots force to help change the way people perceive those of us with disabilities.
Today, our problem isn’t as much legal as much as it is attitudinal. We can change that by empowering the next generation of leaders in the disability community.
Many of our programs, including our internship programs and leadership awards and our Disability Mentoring Day program, are already helping achieve these goals. Our other programs, like our Disability Vote Project, Technology Initiative, Employment programs and Interfaith Initiative, help organize our community and create accessibility for people with disabilities to live and fully participate in our communities.
We thank our sponsors for their support, which allows us to continue doing our programmatic work, which, in turn, helps us achieve our organizational goals and my goals as board chair.
And thank you to our members, board of directors, donors, volunteers, advocates and staff of AAPD for helping us work to achieve the successes highlighted in this annual report, and for helping us reach the goals we’ve set going forward.
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