2002 Paul G. Hearne AAPD Leadership Award Winners
Albert Cheong is recognized nationally as being a strong advocate for minorities with disabilities and for bringing the voice of Chinese people with disabilities to legislators. He lost his sight at the age of 13 and in 1992, at the age of 25, with no knowledge of the English language, he moved to the United States. Because of both the language barrier and cultural differences, he encountered difficulty in assimilating into the American society and in finding a job, even in the Chinese community, because of the belief that if he could not see, then he could not work. Because of thi, Cheong was inspired to work to assist other Chinese-Americans with disabilities.
Since 1996, Cheong has been the Chinese Community Services Coordinator at the Independent Living Resource Center San Francisco (ILRC), having been hired with limited advocacy, public education and public policy experience. He directs ILRC’s Chinese Community outreach efforts and under his oversight, the program had an immediate and positive impact on the community.
In 1998, Cheong advocated to bring the voice of the Chinese people with disabilities to legislators at the National Council on Disability (NCD) hearing on minorities with disabilities in San Francisco. His efforts resulted in the largest consumer showing ever at an NCD public hearing. In 2000, he was invited to join a Steering Committee for a Wellness Guide for California, and a California Board of Directors for Protection & Advocacy. He is also currently on the National Technical Assistance Advisory Board of Asian outreach at Hawaii University.
Cheong is the first person in the U.S. to conduct workshops in Chinese on public benefits, employment rights, and U.S. citizenship for people with disabilities. And because of his efforts, the local Chinese language media wil cover disability issues for the first time. Cheong participates in a Chinese language radio show, as well as a newspaper column that is acknowledged as the most popular weekly column in the country’s largest Chinese language newspaper. Cheong's leadership goals include enabling Chinese people with disabilities to understand their rights to get an education, and to improve the quality of life for all people living with disabilities in the U.S. He plans to use his Paul G. Hearne AAPD Leadership Award to make an informational video in Chinese and English, delivering a message to the world that Chinese people with disabilities have many abilities and, if provided the training and afforded the chance, can be strong community assets.
Claudia Gordon is the first Black deaf female attorney in the U.S. and has been an advocate for people with disabilities since high school. It was her desire to address societal barriers faced by people with disabilities that motivated her to pursue a legal education and career. Since graduating from law school and being admitted to the Maryland Bar, Gordon has conducted numerous empowerment and legal education outreach efforts and training sessions to communities and organizations in both the U.S. and St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.
“Being hailed as the first Black deaf female attorney in the U.S. has evidentially been an inspiration to members of this community, especially the youth, in setting high goals for themselves,” Gordon explains. Gordon worked for two years at the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) Law Center, where on behalf of persons experiencing discrimination on the basis of deafness, she provided legal advocacy through direct legal representation in civil cases, technical assistance, training and outreach.
Gordon is the current Vice-President of the National Black Deaf Advocates Association (NBDA) and has been a member since 1989. She has also provided advocacy leadership at the National Association of the Deaf Law Center, the Civil Practice Clinic at the Washington College of Law, Washington, DC Public Defender Service-Mental Health Division, the Black Law Students Association, the National Black Deaf Advocates Association, and the Consumer Action Network.
Additionally, Gordon has chaired a number of disability-oriented committees, participated in a number of advisory groups on disability and cultural diversity-related issues, and presented at a wide array of disability conferences and meetings. Her writings on disability policy have appeared in various organizational newsletters. Currently, she is an independent consultant to the National Council on Disability (NCD). Gordon wishes to continue to advocate for the rights and quality of life of individuals with disabilities, on both a national and grassroots level, as well as to establish a direct service foundation for the deaf in Washington, DC, in order to provide a variety of services to the underserved and unserved segments of the city’s deaf community.
Carrie D. Griffin
Carrie Griffin is the creator of Women Without Barriers: a mentoring program for high school-aged girls with disabilities that not only established one-on-one connections, but also a larger community complete with workshops on topics ranging from sexuality to careers, and advocacy to independent living.
The recipient of scholarships from the Truman and ELA Foundations for her commitment to public service and disability rights, Carrie attended Harvard Law School, where she became involved in the employment rights of people with disabilities. She was convinced that the largest psychological, economic, socio-cultural, and personal barriers of the women she met resulted in their own disenfranchisement from gainful employment opportunities. As she conveys, “I was motivated to preserve my interest, yet become skilled in legal approaches, and combine both in order to enable people with disabilities to access employment opportunities of their choosing.”
After graduating from Harvard Law School, Carrie worked as a research assistant to Professor Sam Bagenstos, a Supreme Court advocate for the Echazabal case. She has served as an editor to the author of a plaintiff-side guide to disability rights litigation, and spent a summer as an Honors Intern in the Department of Justice’s Disability Rights Section. Currently, she is serving a clerkship with Judge Neal Kravitz of the District of Columbia Superior Court.
Carrie has also created an online organization of lawyers and law students with disabilities (Disabled Lawyering Alliance) to provide mentoring, networking and job opportunities. In less than one year, it has generated several hundred e-mail discussions, the exchange of job leads, and the building of lasting relationships. She now proposes to expand this Alliance to include other professions, as a way of expanding employment opportunities for people with disabilities.
Carrie’s ultimate goal is to create a national organization committed to the professional development of people with disabilities.
Peter Cody Hunt
Peter Hunt has been interested in working on disability-related issues since acquiring his disability in college. His focus is primarily on disability research and policy at the academic institution and federal government level. Hunt belives that while the ADA has significantly improved the quality of life of people with disabilities, the impact of the disability rights movement and the ADA legislation have not yet reached or benefited the minority communities in this country and that cultural and social stigma against people with disabilities still pose significant barriers.
Hunt's interest in working at the grassroots level developed when he moved to Pittsburgh to pursue graduate studies. He noticed a large Asian community with disabilities that appeared to be isolated and disenfranchised. With a personal commitment to educating the Asian community about disability issues, Hunt served as a volunteer at the Three Rivers Center for Independent Living (TRCIL), first as an outreach liaison for the local Asian community and later as a Board member.
Shortly thereafter, Hunt and a fellow TRCIL Board member mobilized the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation and Life’s Work (Vocational Rehabilitation Center) to develop programs culturally appropriate to serve Asians with disabilities. Hunt is also a network member for the Center on disability Studies at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. He recently authored a monograph, Providing Rehabilitation Services to Vietnamese with Disabilities: Information for U.S. Providers, as part of the Center for International Rehabilitation Research Information and Exchange monograph series to educate U.S. rehabilitation service providers to better serve people with disabilities born in foreign countries.
For the coming year, Hunt strives to work with his Paul G. Hearne AAPD Leadership Award mentor, William Chrisner III, CRC/CRA, President and Executive Director of TRCIL, to develop a model program to serve Asians with disabilities in small and rural communities. He plans to complete his doctoral studies in rehabilitation science and technology in 2003 and will seek a position in a national disability organization after he completes the program.
Sarah Louise Triano
Sarah Louise Triano has dedicated her life to promoting a culture that teaches new values and beliefs, acknowledges the dignity and worth of all people, and to mentoring children with disabilities in order to ensure they do not grow up feeling ashamed of their disabilities. “We must take back the definition of disability and proclaim that shame will no longer be the basis for out identity,” she explains.
Triano's advocacy began in 1992 when, at the age of 17, when she participated in the nation’s first Youth Leadership Forum for High School Students with Disabilities in California. Subsequent to that, she went on to assist in the replication of this model youth leadership forum throughout the U.S.
She received her Bachelor of Arts degreee in History of Public Policy from the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB), graduating valedictorian, summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa. After graduation, Triano assisted the National Council on Disability (NCD) in the creation of the National Youth Leadership Development Conference in Washington, DC. In 2001, Triano co-founded the National Disabled Students Union.
Currently, Triano is the Director of the nation’s first locally-based leadership and organizing training program for disabled youth, Y.I.E.L.D. the Power to the Youth, at Access Living in Chicago, IL. She has published articles and given speeches that directly attack existing definitions of disability in the dominant culture and has attempted to awaken the consciousness of disabled people. These include an NCD report, Lift Every Voice: Modernizing Disability Policies and Programs to Serve a Diverse Natiol, and Coming Home to Disabled Country, which was distributed in 2001 through the Justice For All (JFA) national e-mail network.
Triano believes that the “cultural homicide” that Dr. Martin Luther King considered to be one of the most serious barriers for black people in American society continues 35 years later, and is particularly apparent among people with disabilities. In the coming year, and with inspiration from Justin Dart’s work across the country in 1989 and 1990, Triano plans to do a National Disability Pride Tour. She will visit several states and conduct two-day disability-pride forums in local communities that will be designed to unite people with disabilities by focusing the establishment of disability pride as a common cause. Triano articulates her goals as follows: 1) to teach people with disabilities lacking access to a university about disability history in order to bring disability history to the people; 2) to develop a sense of dignity and worth among people with disabilities nationally trhough disability consciousness-raising groups; and 3) to mobilize and organize fragmented groups of people with disabilities at the local level and strengthen their collective capacity to bring about social change through targeted political education.
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