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Announcing the 2018 AAPD Paul G. Hearne Emerging Leader Award

by | Jan 5, 2018 | Press Release

For Immediate Release
January 5, 2018

Contact: Zach Baldwin

AAPD is proud to recognize Lydia Brown and Emily Ladau as the recipients of the 2018 AAPD Paul G. Hearne Emerging Leader Award.

Through the AAPD Paul G. Hearne Emerging Leader Award, 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 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.


Lydia Brown

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, represents AAPD as a member of the National Disability Leadership Alliance’s task force on racism in disability advocacy, serves as stakeholder representative to the Massachusetts One Care Implementation Council overseeing health care for Medicaid/Medicare dually-eligible individuals, and serves as a 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. Their writing on disability, neurodiversity, queerness, race, and violence has been published in numerous scholarly and community books, anthologies, and websites. 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. They are a Public Interest Law Scholar at Northeastern University School of Law, and they occasionally blog at Autistic Hoya. Lydia is also a past participant in AAPD’s Summer Internship Program, through which they interned at the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia.

With the 2018 AAPD Paul G. Hearne Emerging Leader 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

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).

With the 2018 AAPD Paul G. Hearne Emerging Leader 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.


AAPD founder, Paul G. Hearne, was 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.

“As a result of Paul’s passion, AAPD is helping to cultivate the next generation of leaders,” said Helena Berger, AAPD’s President and CEO. “Lydia and Emily are shining examples of Paul’s vision; we are so honored to present them with this year’s award.”

The recipients of the 2018 AAPD Paul G. Hearne Emerging Leader Award will be honored at the 2018 AAPD Leadership Awards Gala in Washington, DC on March 13, 2018. You can learn more about this year’s award recipients on the AAPD website. Please join us in congratulating Lydia and Emily on their extraordinary accomplishments.


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The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) is a convener, connector, and catalyst for change, increasing the political and economic power of people with disabilities. As a national cross-disability rights organization, AAPD advocates for full civil rights for the over 56 million Americans with disabilities by promoting equal opportunity, economic power, independent living, and political participation.