2003 Paul G. Hearne AAPD Leadership Award Winners
Cheri Blauwet, M.D.
Cheri Blauwet was born and raised on a farm near the small town of Larchwood, Iowa. She sustained a spinal cord injury in a farming accident as a child but was immediately encouraged to be active, involved, and to see disability as simply another way of living rather than as an impairment. Upon entering high school, her track coach encouraged her to join the track team when he learned that Iowa held sanctioned wheelchair events at the state finals. By her sophomore year she had set records at the state level and began competing nationally. In the fall of 1998 Blauwet began her academic and racing career at The University of Arizona. She became the captain of the wheelchair track and road racing team and continued to realize her athletic potential. In 2000, she became a name on the international scene, bringing home 1 silver and 3 bronze medals from the 2000 Paralympic Games in Sydney, Australia. Since then, she has achieved resounding success on the international elite racing circuit. Some of her outstanding finishes include:
- Winner, 2003 and 2004 New York City Marathon
- Winner, 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2008 Los Angeles Marathon
- Winner, 2004 and 2005 Boston Marathon
- Gold Medal, 2004 Athens Paralympic Games: 800 meters
- Bronze Medals, 2004 Athens Paralympic Games: 5000 meters and Marathon
As a result of these wins, she was nominated for the 2003 Women’s Sports Foundation Sportswoman of the Year, in addition to two consecutive nominations for the ESPY (2004, 2005) award in the category Best Athlete with a Disability. Blauwet was also a nominee for the 2005 Laureus World Sport Award within the category “World Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability.”
Ultimately, Clauwet sees sports as one platform through which she can promote disability rights and empowerment at an international level. She has worked on the International Paralympic Committee, promoting international sporting opportunities and a mechanism for international development, and with Rehabilitation International, a large multilateral disability rights member organization with both governmental and non-governmental representatives. She is a published author on the topic of The Paralympic Movement: Promoting Health and Human Rights through Sport. Currently, Blauwet is a resident in Internal Medicine at the Brigham and Women's Hospital. Her ultimate goal is to pursue the specialty of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and to promote the health and social empowerment of people with a disability, particularly in low-resource settings.
Alison A. Hillman de Velásquez
Alison A. Hillman de Velásquez is the program officer of the Disability Rights Initiative at the Open Society Institute (OSI). Hillman manages a global grant making and advocacy program focused on promoting the ratification and implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Prior to joining OSI, Hillman de Velásquez was director of the Americas Programs at Mental Disability Rights International where she advocated for the rights of persons with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities (persons diagnosed with mental illness), monitoring conditions and treatment in psychiatric institutions, orphanages, social care homes and forensic penal units. In collaboration with attorneys from the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL), she presented the first petition in the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) challenging on-going abuses in a psychiatric institution. She is the primary author of Ruined Lives: Segregation in Argentina's Psychiatric Asylums (2007) and Human Rights & Mental Health in Peru (2004). Hillman de Velásquez has received awards at international disability film festivals in Canada (2005) and Italy (2007) for her documentary depicting abuses in a psychiatric institution. In 2003, she received the Paul G. Hearne AAPD Leadership Award as an emerging leader in the disability field. She sits on the Board of Directors of the American Association of People with Disabilities and is chair of the Board of Directors of Ensaaf.
Hillman de Velásquez holds a law degree with a focus in international human rights law from the Washington College of Law, American University. She received her BA in government with a concentration in U.S.-Latin American relations from Cornell University.
Kevin Long learned, first-hand, of the hopes and possibilities that came with learning sign-language. Even though Long is not deaf, his dyslexia stifled his learning. The first encounter with sign opened doors for Long: the vivid images and symbols that signing provides made perfect sense. With sign, Long understood that learning could be fun.
It was not until he went to Kenya, where he saw how deaf Kenyan children were outcasted, that Long was inspired to create his business: Global Deaf Connection (GDC). GDC trains teachers in sign, who then train other teachers in sign, in order to allow deaf children the opportunity to learn at the same rate other students would.
Long aspires to unlock the dreams of every deaf child and help them to see the limitless possibilities that they can achieve in their lives.
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