AAPD Paul G. Hearne Leadership Awards

Through the AAPD Paul G. Hearne Leadership Awards, the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) recognizes outstanding emerging leaders with disabilities who exemplify leadership, advocacy, and dedication to the broader cross-disability community. Two individuals will each receive $2,500 in recognition of their outstanding contributions and $7,500 to further a new or existing initiative that increases the political and economic power of people with disabilities. The recipients of the AAPD Paul G. Hearne Leadership Awards are honored among national disability leaders each year at the AAPD Leadership Awards Gala in Washington, DC.


Paul G. Hearne: A Legacy of Leadership

The award is named in honor of Paul G. Hearne, an advocate and visionary leader with a lifelong disability who achieved success as a nonprofit executive, foundation president, federal agency director, and mentor to countless people with disabilities. A passionate advocate for increased employment of people with disabilities, Paul opened doors for thousands through his leadership of Just One Break, an employment agency for people with disabilities in New York City, and The Dole Foundation for Employment of People with Disabilities in Washington, DC.

Until his passing in 1998, Paul was driven by two burning passions: 1) to create a national association to give people with disabilities more consumer power and a stronger public voice, and 2) to cultivate potential leaders to carry on the disability rights movement. Paul achieved his first goal during his lifetime with the 1995 creation of AAPD, now recognized as a powerful force for organizing the disability community to be catalysts for change while also cultivating the next generation of leaders. The AAPD Paul G. Hearne Leadership Awards were established in 1999, not only as a way to honor his lifetime of leadership and advocacy, but to help realize Paul’s second goal by finding and supporting emerging leaders with disabilities. AAPD Paul G. Hearne Leadership Award recipients are his living legacy.


2018 AAPD Paul G. Hearne Leadership Award Recipients


Lydia X. Z. Brown

[Photo: Lydia Brown, a young East Asian person wearing navy blue suit and retro-patterned necktie, smiling after their talk for the Colorado Trust's Health Equity Learning Series. Photo by Rachel Mondragon, February 2017, Denver, Colorado.]

Lydia Brown, recipient of a 2018 AAPD Paul G. Hearne Leadership Award.

Lydia X. Z. Brown is an advocate, organizer, and writer whose work has largely focused on violence against multiply-marginalized disabled people, especially institutionalization, incarceration, and policing. They have worked to advance transformative change through organizing in the streets, writing legislation, conducting anti-ableism workshops, testifying at regulatory and policy hearings, and disrupting institutional complacency everywhere from the academy to state agencies and the nonprofit-industrial complex. At present, Lydia serves as founding board member of the Alliance for Citizen-Directed Services, a member of the National Disability Leadership Alliance’s task force on racism in disability advocacy, stakeholder representative to the Massachusetts One Care Implementation Council overseeing health care for Medicaid/Medicare dually-eligible individuals, and board member of the Autism Women’s Network. In collaboration with E. Ashkenazy and Morénike Giwa-Onaiwu, Lydia is the lead editor and visionary behind All the Weight of Our Dreams, the first-ever anthology of writings and artwork by autistic people of color, published by the Autism Women’s Network in June 2017. Most recently, Lydia has designed and teaches a course on critical disability theory, public policy, and intersectional social movements as a Visiting Lecturer at Tufts University’s Experimental College, beginning in Fall 2016.

Lydia is a past Holley Law Fellow at the National LGBTQ Task Force, where they focused on reproductive justice and disability rights policy issues, and past Patricia Morrissey Disability Policy Fellow at the Institute for Educational Leadership, where they focused on employment opportunities for people with significant disabilities. Lydia also worked for the Autistic Self Advocacy Network for several years as part of the national public policy team, where Lydia worked on various issues relating to criminal justice and disability, healthcare disparities and service delivery models, and research and employment disparities. From 2015-2017, Lydia also served as Chairperson of the Massachusetts Developmental Disabilities Council, and from 2014-2016, as Co-President of TASH New England. In 2014, Lydia also co-founded the Washington Metro Disabled Students Collective, an all-grassroots, cross-disability organization committed to intersectional peer education, support, and political organizing.

Lydia has been honored by the White House, the Washington Peace Center, the National Council on Independent Living, the Disability Policy Consortium of Massachusetts, and the National Association for Law Placement/Public Service Jobs Directory. In 2015, Pacific Standard named Lydia a Top 30 Thinker under 30, and Mic named Lydia to its inaugural list of 50 impactful leaders, cultural influencers, and breakthrough innovators. Their work has been featured in various places, including Addressing Ableism: Philosophical Meditations via Disability Studies; Religion, Disability, and Interpersonal Violence; Barriers & Belonging: Personal Narratives of Disability; The Asian American Literary Review; Feminist Perspectives on Orange is the New Black; Criptiques; Torture in Healthcare Settings; QDA: A Queer Disability Anthology; Films for the Feminist Classroom; Tikkun; Disability Intersections; Black Girl Dangerous; hardboiled magazine; POOR Magazine; The Washington Post; Sojourners; and The Establishment. Lydia is now a Public Interest Law Scholar at Northeastern University School of Law, and occasionally blogs at Autistic Hoya.

With the 2018 AAPD Paul G. Hearne Leadership Award, Lydia plans to establish a community/peer empowerment fund in partnership with the Autism Women’s Network to award micro-grants to autistic people of color seeking support for education, professional development, art, health and safety, and community organizing.


Emily Ladau

Photo of Emily Ladau smiling. She is wearing glasses and a red sweater with white polka dots.

Emily Ladau, recipient of a 2018 AAPD Paul G. Hearne Leadership Award.

Emily Ladau is a passionate disability rights activist, writer, speaker, and digital communications consultant whose career began at the age of 10, when she appeared on several episodes of Sesame Street to educate children about her life with a physical disability. A native of Long Island, New York, Emily graduated with a B.A. in English from Adelphi University in 2013. In 2017, she was named as one of Adelphi’s 10 Under 10 Young Alumni, which recognizes alumni who have achieved exceptional career and personal accomplishments before even celebrating their 10-year Adelphi reunion. She is dedicated to harnessing the powers of communication and social media as tools for people of all abilities to become informed and engaged about disability and social justice issues.

Emily works with Concepts, Inc., supporting key U.S. Department of Labor Office of Disability Employment Policy initiatives. She is also the Editor in Chief of the Rooted in Rights Blog, a platform focused on amplifying authentic stories and perspectives on disability rights issues. Additionally, she runs a business through which she both manages and provides consultation services regarding online presence and communications for disability-related organizations. Her writing has been published on websites including The New York Times, SELF, Salon, Vice, and Huffington Post, and much of her work can be found on her website, Words I Wheel By. Emily serves as the first Youth-at-Large Member of the National Council on Independent Living board. She was also a former intern in AAPD’s 2013 Summer Internship Program, through which she interned at the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD).

All of Emily’s activism is driven by her firm belief that if we want the world to be accessible to people with all types of disabilities, we must make ideas and concepts surrounding disability accessible to the world. Follow her on Twitter at @emily_ladau.

With the 2018 AAPD Paul G. Hearne Leadership Award, Emily plans to establish a Disabled Writers Fellowship through Rooted in Rights to provide mentorship opportunities for emerging writers with disabilities that will empower them to hone their writing skills and contribute their work to the disability rights movement.


Previous AAPD Paul G. Hearne Award Recipients



AAPD Paul G. Hearne Leadership Awards Application Process

The 2018 application has closed.


Application Guidelines and Procedures

Candidates for the AAPD Paul G. Hearne Leadership Award must submit all required documentation through the online application. Candidates must complete and submit:

  • The application information section
  • Three (3) essay questions
  • Two (2) letters of support (one (1) letter of commitment from the mentor who is prepared to work with the applicant in pursuing their leadership goals, and one (1) letter of professional recommendation)
  • A copy of their current resume.

It is recommended that you complete the essay questions in a separate word processing program and then copy and paste them into the online form so that it can be submitted in one sitting.

Incomplete or late submissions will not be considered. We will not be able to consider any materials in excess of the stated requirements. Any U.S. resident who self-identifies as an individual with any type of disability is invited to apply. AAPD encourages emerging leaders with disabilities of any age to apply.


Conflicts of Interest

Please note that to avoid conflicts of interest, applications will not be accepted if the mentor or supportive colleague is a member of the AAPD Board of Directors or is an AAPD staff member (or a relative of any of these individuals). View a list of AAPD Board and Staff.


Selection Process

An AAPD internal review team will evaluate all eligible applications. The review team will identify the finalists who will be interviewed via phone or video conference (or another accessible formats). The finalists will be recommended to the AAPD Paul G. Hearne Leadership Awards Selection Committee, who will select the two awardees.


Awardee Requirements

Recipients of the 2018 AAPD Hearne Award must meet the following obligations:

  • Attend the 2018 AAPD Leadership Awards Gala in Washington, DC on March 13, 2018 (travel and lodging accommodations will be provided as necessary);
  • Submit periodic reports on the status of your project or initiative;
  • Submit a final report detailing the outcomes of your project or initiative, including an accounting of all expenditures;
  • Present your work to the 2018 AAPD Summer Internship Program class;
  • Actively promote the AAPD Paul G. Hearne Leadership Awards program as well as other AAPD programs (Disability Equality Index, Disability Mentoring Day, Summer Internship Program, REV UP Campaign, and NBCUniversal Tony Coelho Media Scholarship) to help grow the strength and outreach of AAPD nationally; and
  • Contribute to AAPD’s social media and other communication channels to amplify and elevate your work and the work of AAPD.


Contact Information

If you have any questions please contact AAPD at programs@aapd.com or at (202) 521-4316.


The 2018 application has closed.

Our Sponsors